Dialing in our New Co-Motion Java Tandem

Earlier this year, Felkerino’s and my new tandem arrived from Co-Motion. Some of you may remember that  a crack developed in the stoker seat tube of our previous tandem, a Co-Motion Speedster, which required either a mend or a replacement frame.

We ultimately chose to replace the frame and, rather than another Co-Motion Speedster tandem, Felkerino and I decided on a Co-Motion Java, which is their 29-er frame.

Co-Motion Java on Whites Ferry

Co-Motion worked out an arrangement with us for the new bike which was primarily financed by the sale of my 1996 Nissan Altima.

That’s right. I sold my car to buy a tandem. Righteous bicycle purchasing!

Co-Motion describes the Java as an “ultra-rugged” bike, and its tubing is beefier than the Speedster with clearance for larger tires. When I first laid eyes on the bike, its ultra-ruggedness intimidated me.

The crazy clearance on the front fork reminded me of the jaws of an alligator. The tubing had me wondering what type of riding Felkerino had in store for us.

Co-Motion Tandem at Sugarloaf

Since that time, we’ve (alright, Felkerino has) been meticulously building the bike up and dialing it in to suit the kind of riding we plan to do– primarily randonneuring, touring, and dirt road riding.

The past three weekends we’ve taken the bike out for longer training rides on hilly terrain (106, 92, and 93-miles, respectively) not just to shake down the bike, but also to build our base fitness and prepare for the upcoming spring bicycling events we hope to do. And because tandeming is fun. Most days.

There’s a lot that goes into dialing in a bike. First, the fit. Saddle height, setback, and handlebars must be tweaked just so.

Fenders must be installed. At least, if you’re Felkerino or me, that is something you must do.

Pink fenders on the Co-Motion? No

These pink fenders got the thumbs down from the captain, as Felkerino insisted on metal fenders that were not pink.

Operation Rattle Battle 2013 with the Co-Motion

Persistent fender rattles have to be fixed or no one will want to ride with us and I will eventually lose my mind.

Custom mudflap and a fender solution!
Custom mudflap and a dual bolt rattly fender solution

The fender rattle battle waged on and on in the Dining Room Bike Shop until Felkerino finally drilled a hole for two bolts on the stay, as you can see in the photo above. Rattle battle over!

After you add fenders, you also want to be sure to affix any custom leather mudflaps your friends have made for you. Thanks, Alec.

The ideal front bag should be installed to coordinate aesthetically with the bike and, more importantly (I suppose), to allow the captain to easily access all the essentials he wants at the ready.

Gilles Berthoud
Gilles Berthoud

He says Gilles Berthoud.

Sackville = like
Sackville = like

I say the Berthoud is too little for our burly new bike. How about this Sackville?

Other miscellaneous wrenching must occur at various points during a tandem ride.

Wrenching the Co-Motion

Ideally, said wrenching will occur in a sunny spot.

The initial hesitancy I felt about the Java’s rugged look has dissipated and when I ride it, aside from still being impressed by the size of the top tube, I don’t detect a particularly slower feel from it. If anything, the Java is a lively ride and DEFINITELY far more responsive than the dear old Lead Sled we used during the interim.

I still miss our Speedster, as it was a beautiful bike that was also the first tandem to fit me perfectly. However, I am pleased with how the Co-Motion Java is shaping up, and have no reason to doubt that the Java’s fit will be any different, as it was also custom-sized for Felkerino and me. I’ll report back more fully after we’ve put some brevet miles on it.

Co-Motion tandem

In the meantime, I’m going to check on Felkerino to see if he has changed out the front bag again.


  1. The two of you were smiling when I saw you riding along Mt. Ephraim road, so the new bike must be a fun ride! Huzzah!

    I would go with the pink fenders, frankly: color is a good thing!


  2. This is so interesting — where do you ride that you can knock out 100 miles — road? — and do you cover more ground faster because there are two of you working the “motor”? My hubs is a pilot, not a cyclist. I’ve argued the whole Wright brother thing with him, but it’s a no go, so alas, I will cycle solo. The fuel costs are definitely less than av gas!


    • We might cover ground a little faster on a tandem, as my husband is faster than I am on a single bike. Essentially, a tandem makes you faster on downhills and slower on uphills.

      We ride from various places, including home in D.C. out to Sugarloaf area and back, DC to Whites Ferry and back via roads, in addition to remote starts like Warrenton, VA, or Frederick, MD.


  3. It’s interesting that you’re (I think) planning on using a 29er as a brevet bike. What sort of tires will that take? Will you be switching between “road” and “mountain” tires, depending on how much gravel you expect on a ride? (Are these Felkerino questions?)


    • Yes, we are going to use it as our primary brevet bike. I don’t know the maximum tire width on them, but for brevets we will use 32s as we have in brevet seasons past. We found that the Speedster was not quite as versatile as we wanted, NOR as stiff as we preferred for climbing. The Java is much less noodly on climbs, which we like.

      Back to tires… We will possibly switch to larger tires if we plan on doing any dirt road riding or extensive touring on dirt roads. I don’t know the maximum size tires that will fit the bike… for that one, I will have to speak with my tandem consultant, Felkerino.


    • We do use the coupler cases (two of them), and we also have another suitcase we use when we travel with it. We have put the front fork and handlebars and things like the fenders and our other cycling stuff in the third suitcase, which is one of the large Samsonite suitcases that fits a Bike Friday.


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