Category Archives: Tandeming

Say My (Bike’s) Name: On Naming Your Bike

The Co-Motion Java, aka ?

The Co-Motion Java, aka ?

Do your bikes have names? If so, how did you name them? Did you give them a name you would give a person, like Betty or Howard or something?

Or is the name you gave your bike akin to something you might bestow on a pet, like Pumpkin or Spot or Patches? Did your bike speak to you somehow and tell you its name, or did it come to you in a dream?

I don’t name my bikes. Even when I was small and had a bike that had been named “Gypsy” by the manufacturer, I called it “my purple bike.” Nowadays I refer to my bikes by whatever make and model they are, like Rivendell Romulus and Surly Long Haul Trucker– LHT if I’m in a hurry.

I love my bikes and all that they do for me. I will even congratulate or thank them sometimes if a ride has gone particularly well. But naming them? Nope, I never have.

So what do you do if you don’t name bikes but you co-own a tandem with someone who does?

Felkerino, my partner in all things tandeming, isn’t much of a bike-namer either, but when it comes to our tandems he is sure that they are trying to tell him that they have a name.

Granted, the “lead sled” could not fit our Cannondale mountain tandem any better than it does. It’s perfect, and even I happily call it the lead sled.

Our previous Co-Motion Speedster was a burnt orange color, and Felkerino thought initially that it might have another title besides Speedster. “Autumn Leaf?” he said to me one day. “What? No way,” I answered. The Speedster never did offer up a name that stuck, and calling it the Speedster worked for me.

We have had our Co-Motion Java tandem since the beginning of the year, and Felkerino is pretty certain that it has a name. Initially, I could hear him murmuring something like “Shooting Star,” but that name has not picked up any traction.

If you read his most recent post, you will notice that he let slip that he’s been referring to the Java as the “Big Cat.” I think he’s waiting for some confirmation that Big Cat is, in fact, the “right” name. But I don’t know. I like to refer to it as the “Burly Beast,” but beyond that I simply refer to it as the our Co-Motion, the tandem, or the Java.

I never realized how not into naming things I was until our tandems came along. What’s to be done in a scenario where one says name the bike and the other says are you kidding?

It’s been funny to watch unfold. Big Cat. Burly Beast. Fluffy. Co-Motion Java. The tandem.

Tomato. To-mah-to. In the grand scheme of things, at least we know what the other is referencing.

So do you name your bike? I’m dying to know. And how… how did the bike get its name?

Seeing Changes

Co-Motion Java tandem

Instead of riding brevets and doing a 1000K or a 1200K this year, Felkerino and I focused on a weeklong Colorado bike tour, which included two days of riding around Boulder and a seven-day loop rich with hills and mountains. (Felkerino is writing a post of our routes and the gear we took over at The Daily Randonneur, so please stand by for that!)

As we were climbing Loveland Pass, Felkerino asked, “Do you think this tour will change you as a rider?”

After giving it some thought I responded that I did not view our tour this way. Rather, our riding in Colorado highlighted how we have changed both as riders and as a team.

Felkerino and I rode our first tour together in 2005, an eight-day jaunt from Rockville, Maryland, to Niagara Falls. Over the course of our trip, we averaged 97 miles a day. We carried four Ortlieb panniers on our old Cannondale tandem, and we toured on 700×28 mm tires. While perhaps not known for its mountains, that tour took us through the gnarly territory of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and the Finger Lakes area around New York.

What I’m telling you is this. On that first tour in 2005, we:

  • rode more miles than our dispositions could keep up with;
  • carried too much crap; and
  • chose tires that were what we would now consider way too narrow.

Co-Motion on Trail Ridge Road

Over the years, we have honed our system. For this tour, we completed 597 miles in seven days, an average daily mileage of 85. That seemed to be about perfect. We did not have to get up insanely early, and we could pause to take photos and stop to check out little towns along the way.

We ditched the four panniers, opting for a Carradice Camper on the rear of the bike and an Acorn Mini-Rando bag on the front. In order to glide over gravel sections and any rough pavement, we used Clement 700×35 “Adventure Tires.”

The changes I saw and felt on this tour were not just about gear choices and daily distances, though. I also observed increases in Felkerino’s and my mental and physical strength over years of riding together.

Until this year, a tour like this would have been unfathomable and I cannot imagine loving it the way that I did.

Randonneuring, because of its contrast to pure touring, is excellent bike tour prep. It makes 100 miles seem normal– on the short side, even. The brevets over the past years helped me understand and appreciate what it is to be completely in the here and now, as opposed to feeling the need to keep pushing ahead to the next control or the overnight. I hardly ever feel like I’m exactly in the place I’m supposed to be and yet, I existed in that state for seven straight days.

Kebler Pass

Kebler Pass

Ironically, we still began our tour with the Trail Ridge 200 RUSA Permanent and not a true tour day. We spent the day on the clock collecting signatures as we went, but it was alright and actually helped instill some good discipline into that as well as future days.

It also made every day that followed a little easier since Trail Ridge Road set the bar for our long steady climbs. It was the most difficult pass of our tour, due to its elevation, the time we spent scooting along the ridge, as well as the traffic we encountered going up.

In the past, if we had started out touring with a 134-mile day that included going up Trail Ridge Road, I would have been sluggish for the coming days as a result of the big effort. Instead, my body was well-conditioned and totally up to the task (except for the being afraid of falling over the mountain part). AND I thought if we could get up Trail Ridge Road, we could climb anything.

Our route invigorated me, and I awoke each day eager to see where the day’s ride would take us. Every day’s terrain was different. The day between Kremmling and Glenwood Springs was unshaded arid beauty throughout. McClure was a gentle up in between stunning rock formations. Kebler Pass shaded us with its plentiful aspen trees. The gentle switchbacks on the quiet road leading us over Cottonwood Pass took us up to incredible views. Yes, we tired along the way, but never did I wonder how I would make it through the day.

Loveland Pass

Loveland Pass

Felkerino showed how he has developed with routing, and we also received the expert and generous assistance of Colorado randonneurs John Lee Ellis and Tim Foon Feldman, who helped us create a perfect summer bike tour. We could not have kept going at the pace we were, but for seven days, it was bliss.

“Do you think this tour will change you as a rider?” Of course, every tour changes me in some way, but really, this tour showed me how much change we have already been through.

Final Day: Oh My God Road and a Rainstorm

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We were loathe for our scenic week in Colorado to be at an end, so when we met a cyclist at the top of Loveland Pass who recommended we route back via Oh My God Road rather than suburban roads we were intrigued and routed our 72-mile return from Georgetown to Boulder accordingly.

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We trended downhill from Georgetown to Idaho Springs. After an undrinkable espresso at the local coffee shop that then required an emergency run to a Starbucks (gasp!) near the I-70 interchange, we began our climb.

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Oh My God Road is technically Virginia Canyon Road, a road that rises from 7,500 feet to an elevation of 9,300 feet over about five miles.

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The road is gravel with steep dropoffs and no guardrails, with the exception of a short section near the top, which is also paved.

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This climb felt like an ascension into the past. We could see I-70 far below us while ahead of us were tangible reminders of Colorado’s gold rush.

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Traffic was sparse, which helped my confidence and concentration.

After creeping our tired legs to the summit we ripped into Central City/Black Hawk. Black Hawk is the town that banned cyclists from its streets, until the Colorado Supreme Court overturned that decision this year.

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Black Hawk and Central City originally cropped up as mining towns, but after the gold rush petered out, they revitalized themselves as gambling/casino towns.

I thought it was interesting to see how these old towns had been formed into the side of a hill, but Felkerino was not as impressed. We had a quick drink at Ye Olde Convenience Store and climbed away from town. From here on out we stayed on pavement.

The climb over to Nederland and Boulder Canyon was slow going, but I tried to enjoy it knowing these were the last of the uphill miles of our Colorado tour.

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Clouds started to roll over us in earnest as we neared the end of the day’s climbing miles and Felkerino and I realized that our tour would most certainly include rain. Good thing we didn’t carry those rain jackets around the state all week for nothing!

We jacketed up and prepared to ride into the raindrops. Lightning and thunder initially waylaid our progress and we found an awning under which to shelter.

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The sky looked like it was clearing so we ventured out again only to be met with a serious downpour. We stopped again and hung out at the Stage Stop in Rollinsville, which appeared to be a popular motorcycle hangout.

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We decided to eat lunch and wait out the storm. Gradually the rain let up and we left Rollinsville to begin our descent into Boulder.

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The rains had washed rock and soil into the road at various spots so we had to exercise extra care on the already wet road surface.

Even though the day remained cloudy, Boulder Canyon was still a gorgeous swooping descent with imposing rock formations on either side of us. Water rushed quickly through the canyon, adding visual and auditory drama.

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Down down down into Boulder we went and bee-lined our way to the coffee shop– partly to make up for the morning’s disappointing start coffee-wise, but mainly to toast a special week together on the bike.

Thanks for riding along with us.

Fremont and Loveland Passes: From 58 Miles Per Hour to Carnivorous Flies

Rain falls steadily in Georgetown, Colorado, as I write. It feels lovely to be clean and dry in a hotel room after a sweaty warm day of 71 miles out in the sun.

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After a tasty coffee in Leadville, Felkerino and I warmed up the legs with a steady climb up Fremont Pass, which tops out at 11,300 feet.

It was a gentle climb out of Leadville, where elevation is already over 10,000 feet.

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And the downhill? Holy s@%#! It’s a straight rollout from the initial drop into Frisco and the lack of winds meant Felkerino and I were in for a great descent. The Co-Motion held between 53 and 54 mph before it quickened to 58 miles per hour.

No, that is NOT a typo. 58! The Co-Motion Java felt SO SOLID on the rapid descent. Way to ride, Java. We’re keeping you!

I feel like my tour posts are stuffed with numbers about daily mileage and pass elevation. These kind of heights are novel to me, though, and I still am in awe over all the stuff Felkerino and I have clambered over this week.

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East Coast climbs tend to be shorter and gnarlier. The tough grades of the east are a good strength training ground for riding in Colorado, we discovered this week.

The time to complete a climb out in Colorado has forced a mental shift. A 12-mile pass may take us two hours or more, while descents can rack up mileage in a hurry. Felkerino and I just roll with it all. We’re on vacation. We’ve got nowhere we have to be.

After our descent off of Fremont Pass, we reached Frisco via a cool bike path where Specialized was doing a photo shoot. They did not notice us so we are still undiscovered cycling models.

We ate lunch in Frisco, and ground our way into the midday heat and around some lake through the outskirts of Keystone.

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After Keystone the road abruptly shot straight up, announcing the ascent to Loveland Pass.

What a mean beast, at least in the initial three or four miles. We crept along at just over 5 mph. Our pace was ideal for the horrid biting flies that call Loveland Pass home. They ate so much of me. They’re probably having a canning party right now with all the flesh they got out of me today. I gave them enough sustenance to last a lifetime.

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Gradually the pass leveled out into 6 mph switchbacks and a few miles later we reached the Continental Divide at just under 12,000 feet. Bye bye flies! You’ll never catch me now!

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Felkerino and I spent a few celebratory moments at the Loveland Pass summit. We’ve been so fortunate with weather, our health, and the bike this trip. We’ve enjoyed excellent support and encouragement from our friends. Also, with the exception of the occasional “eggs vs. espresso” debate, we’ve been pretty in sync with one another this trip.

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We descended rapidly off the mountain and onto one of the fastest and most forested bike paths I’ve ever ridden. This was no urban mixed use path. I can’t quite define these cycling-specific paths Colorado has made to keep cyclists off major roads. Cycling byways, maybe?

After 71 miles of riding, two passes, 58 mph max speed, and about one thousand bug bites later, we quietly arrived in Georgetown– little bike riders doing big fun things together.

One more day.

100 Miles: Cottonwood Pass to Leadville

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Yesterday’s ride was an excellent reminder that not all centuries are created equal.

It was also the first day where I settled into “tour mode,” where I did not worry about the miles or how often we stopped. I was just in the present moment.

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Our scenic and peaceful ride started in Crested Butte and wove us over Cottonwood Pass at 12,100 feet. Cottonwood Pass was a sublime winding climb on gravel.

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Wildflowers flanked much of the roadside. Few cars passed us and those who did gave us plenty of room.

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I loved how we could see all of the gentle switchbacks ahead. I tried to strategically plan my bathroom breaks so they coincided with good photo moments.

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, the mosquitoes did not allow us to linger long in any one place.

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After cresting Cottonwood Pass, we descended to about 8,000 feet through Buena Vista, a cute town with a good bike shop and an excellent coffee shop.

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We left Buena Vista to ascend 2,000 feet over a nicely spaced 30 miles to Leadville, Colorado, which sits at over 10,000 feet. Leadville residents must have lungs of steel.

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So it was not a flat day, okay? Felkerino and I are doing pretty well with the altitude now but rapid descents with a big elevation drop and twisty turns consistently make me gaggy. I am prone to motion sickness so this is not surprising; it just cuts into the awesome factor ever so slightly.

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The climb to Leadville was surprisingly easier than I expected. A helpful tailwind on a gentle grade over a smooth road made for good pedaling.

Felkerino and I pushed our way into town and soon after our arrival, I felt pretty bad. Felkerino thought it was a bonk so he ordered me to drink a Sprite, which brought me back to some semblance of my former self. One vegetarian lasagne and a baked potato later, I was ready for another day of riding. What a relief!

Kebler Pass: 10,000 Feet High with Neil Diamond

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I loved listening to Neil Diamond when I was little. My parents owned Tap Root Manuscript, which I was pretty certain was a kid’s album.

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In early elementary school my musical tastes changed and that Neil Diamond album began to collect dust.

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This morning I had the chance to make up for decades of not giving this 70′s crooner the attention he deserved, as the diner where we ate breakfast this morning was all Neil Diamond, all the time.

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And, because his songs are so catchy, they stayed with me throughout our fifty-mile ride from Paonia to Crested Butte, Colorado.

Fifty miles may not sound like a long day, but forty of them were the ascent over the 10,000-foot Kebler Pass. On a tandem. Going between 6-8 mph for much of the morning.

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That means plenty of time for silent singing of all the Neil Diamond songs I’ve ever heard. And you know, he had a fairly prolific singing career.

I tried to fill my Kebler Pass soundtrack with other artists, bur Neil was having none of it, always bringing me back to him with the Cracklin’ Rosie chorus.

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Good thing it was such a sunny day in the mountains with ideal temps and the sweetest of tailwinds on the climb.

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Good thing the roads were quiet and the views from all sides never ceased to amaze.

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Good thing the noble Aspen trees offered shade along the way and kept a watchful eye on me.

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Without them, I might have gone mad after hearing “I’m a Believer” pop into my mind at the summit.

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Good thing the descent shot us down into Crested Butte like a rocket ship. We went so fast that Neil Diamond could not keep up with us and my mind was free and clear of everything but the exhilaration of the present moment.

This Bike Fueled by Eggs and Espresso: McClure Pass

I’m glad I wrote those sentimental notes about how wonderful tandeming with my partner can be, as I had to remind myself of them this morning.

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I woke up famished with only the thought of scrambled eggs and breakfast in my mind. Felkerino, on the other hand, awakened to an equally powerful urge for espresso.

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Both of these were available, but located in distinct locations in Glenwood Springs, a few blocks apart. Because Felkerino does the steering on our bike I was at a real disadvantage, and I had a hard time accepting any delay for my scrambled eggs.

Ultimately we worked through this bike tour-induced conflict, eggs were eaten, espresso consumed, and no one shouted or cried. Yay bike touring!

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The remainder of the day, that is, our 75-mile ride from Glenwood Springs to Paonia over McClure Pass, was bright and peaceful.

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After a brief stop in the cute town of Carbondale for more of the ever-important espresso, we climbed steadily for around 25 miles until cresting McClure Pass at over 8,700 feet.

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With the exception of the final three miles which had a significant yet manageable pitch, the ascent was a gentle grade. Although we rode on what I would call a “big” two-lane road, it was fairly free of car traffic.

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Our descent into Paonia was rocking. The tandem hit 50 miles per hour and soon thereafter we stopped so that my stomach could decide whether lunch should stay or go inside of me. I don’t know whether my nausea was due to altitude or motion sickness from the rapid descent. Fortunately it passed.

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En route to town we passed through coal country and over a couple sets of really wretched unrideable train tracks. Rim crushers, as our friend Mike would say.

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Paonia is an appealing little town with a main street that sustains a variety of businesses. It looks to be a place where the local food movement is also thriving.

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After a rough start over eggs versus espresso, it was another picture perfect day.

When the Ride is the Destination: Following the Colorado River

At its core, today’s ride was a 90-mile tour of several roads flanking the Colorado River in the hills between Kremmling and Glenwood Springs.

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Our ride consisted of paved and gravel stretches that Felkerino routed for us based on tour planning consultation with local randonneurs John Lee and Foon.

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I almost feel it wrong to call some of the unpaved sections gravel, as they were in such smooth and pristine condition.

The terrain was more challenging than I expected, given that we sidled along near the river most of the day. There were lots of short grinding climbs in the first 60 miles, and the last 30 gave way to kinder faster rollers.

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From start to finish our route was rife with beauty. Temps were hot (reaching mid-90s), but the sun and low humidity made for glorious riding.

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As we rode along, vehicles hauling a variety of outdoor gear occasionally passed us– dirt bikes and ATVs, boats, and lots of kayaks. People were taking advantage of Sunday to fill the day with outdoor adventure.

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As they passed I realized that for Felkerino and me, every pedal stroke on the road was our destination, our adventure.

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Yes, these roads were taking us from A to B, but we chose A and B because we wanted to see all that lay between them. Each turn revealed an expansive and majestic landscape, full of views of the flowing Colorado River and the arid beauty around it .

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Today’s ride filled me with gratitude, as riding often does. I am so grateful that this earth holds such beauty and that I am fortunate to be able to see even the smallest bits of it with my partner on our bicycle.

Trail Ridge Road on Tandem

There’s nothing that kicks off a bike tour better than riding the highest continuous paved road in the United States.

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Felkerino and I spent yesterday riding our Co-Motion Java tandem on the Trail Ridge 200K, a 134-mile RUSA permanent that starts in Louisville, Colorado, and takes the rider to Estes Park, up Trail Ridge Road, down the mountain, to Grand Lake, Granby, Hot Sulphur Springs, through a canyon that has a name I don’t recall Byers Canyon, and over to Kremmling.

We had a good ride, the highlight (and lowlight) for me being Trail Ridge Road which ascends to a height of 12,200 feet.

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The road was beautiful, winding us up and up and up, and eventually giving us incredible views to look back at what we had climbed.

However, the intense climbing amid fairly constant car traffic on a road with a tiny shoulder overlooking what seemed like a long long long way down if we fell freaked me out in places. I would call it vertigo, and at times I found myself flung over to the left side of the stoker bars like a cat stuck in a tree clinging to a tree branch while it awaits rescue. So dignified.
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We breathlessly made our way to what seemed like an interminable summit and stopped to warm up and drink a pop. While there we received many kind comments from visitors who had seen us on the climb and I can’t tell you how much that meant and helped me feel better about my low moments on this preposterously high road.

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Felkerino and I rolled our way down the mountain and glided our bike over gentle rollers to Kremmling in perfect late afternoon long shadow sun, with stories of Trail Ridge Road pouring out. I have never ridden anything like it. Unforgettable, daunting, vertigo-inducing, exhilarating, inspiring. We did it. I can’t believe we did it.

All the King’s Horses, and All the King’s Men: Co-Motion Reassembly

I’m happy to report our tandem reassembly did not end like the tale of Humpty Dumpty.

It took some time, but our tandem arrived safely in Boulder, Colorado, and is now a big bike again.

It helped that we are staying with cycling friends who have a spacious back porch to spread out the coupler cases and tandem bits.

They also loaned us a workstand and full size tire pump, which also facilitated the rebuild process.

The following sequence of photos give a sense of what it’s like to put the Co-Motion Java together again.

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Boxed up and on the bus. Always wear your helmet, even (especially?) on the bus.

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In transit.

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In pieces.

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Rear triangle.

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Middle section next.

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Head tube and fork.

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Add tubes and tires, and proceed to inflate.

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Take photo, apply filter.

Looking good: time for a shakedown ride.