Thursday, May 29, 2014

How to connect the spring inside an Ultegra Di2 9070 rear derailleur?

Cleaning our new tandem the other day, I noticed that the rear derailleur mechanism had a spring loose!

Amazingly the gears were shifting fine without it, but still, this doesn't look right?

This doesn't look right.

On closer inspection, I could see a "spare peg" (a cross head screw) in the mech, visible just behind the loose end of the spring here:

With a bit of careful pliering, I was able to hook the spring to said peg. This looks more natural when operating:

But the question I still have is, did I get that right? Answers on a postcard please! (or the comment box below will also work)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Our new Paketa, and the many decisions of tandem buying

Last weekend we collected our new Paketa tandem, as we mentioned over on Facebook. While flying back from Colorado I jotted down some of the thinking we'd been going over in the prior months that led to this new addition to the Tandem Thing stable.

The original requirement on getting a new tandem was a fairly simple single item: it must have couplers. We already have two fantastic machines in Dobbin and Katina, which cover a wide range of needs from adventure touring through to fast randonneuring respectively, but for various reasons (primarily: we never anticipated living in USA) neither came equipped with couplers to dismantle for travel. While we'd taken steel framed Dobbin on a number of flights, checked into the aircraft hold whole, we'd always found it a harrowing experience, and never dared contemplate doing this with our carbon tubed Beyond. In London we had plenty of Europe within a day's drive or train journey; even Paris-Brest-Paris was a day and a night's cycle from our door. But the USA is big. Really big. While the locals don't flinch at the thought of 20 hour drives, we're not in that mindset yet. And besides we'd also like to do some more brevet rides overseas at some point, so having a faster rando bike we could fly with in a more serene state of mind was our goal.

Jay, our RAAM team crew chief, first pointed us in the direction of Paketa, and two of our co-teams already owning Paketa tandems, it was an obvious choice to investigate further. The first thing we found on contacting them was how open and responsive they were to our somewhat unusual requests. As we already had 2 extremely enjoyable and highly reliable rides, we decided to take some balanced risks with this one and see what we could achieve embracing the latest tandem technology and designs -- quite appropriately, given Paketa build frames exclusively from Magnesium tubing. First up was switching to a Gates Carbon drive belt for the sync "chain". Paketa have developed a innovative adapter to allow the belt to run on the right-hand side of the frame. This decreases weight and improves power transfer through the the drive wheel: less frame flex, and less torque across the rear bottom bracket. Having already become used to the "direct drive" (albeit with a traditional chain) on our Thorn, Dobbin, this was a natural choice for us to go for.

Next is the groupset proper: we'd had an inkling towards electronic shifting after reading numerous reports on the interwebs about how well it can work on a tandem. Then on the gold-rush 1200km last year, I had found numerous stretches of road where I wanted to stay on the aerobars, and a couple where I really wanted to stay up on the tops, but in neither place could I shift gear and so ended up pushing some horribly inappropriate gear by default. Electronic shifting with Shimano Di2 opens the possibility of multiple control positions, and so this sealed the deal in my mind. Only snag was that the most popular tandem Di2 groupset is the Dura-Ace 7970 series, as it has various adaptations available to expand to the widest range of gears possible, however that is not compatible with the readily available extension shifters as it pre-dates the newer Shimano "e-tube" standard for interconnecting components. So decision time: keep with the older (obsolete) technology, or buy into the new and compromise on gear range. As our theme on this tandem was embracing the new tech, there was only one choice: go with e-tube and hope we're strong enough for the gearing options available!
With the newest Ultergra rear mech, we can get a low gear of 33x32 which is looking good enough so far for all but the silly steepest climbs. Also a risk will be the 50x11 top gear will have us spinning out too readily and become a limiting factor on improving our overall moving average. At least by buying into the newest tech, we have the best chance of being able to make incremental upgrades as new options become available. The long rumored XTR Di2 groupset would make a world of difference for our setup: if any Shimano reps are reading and would like a test-team for the XTR rear derailleur, we'd love to help you out!

The third theme for our new bike turned out to be weight-reduction. We'd never thought too long on this before: certainly in touring and a large part in rando we just accepted the sum of the weight of the stuff we felt we needed on the road was the weight we were destined to carry. Weight saving implied cutting back on food or clothes, and (especially in English weather) we were reluctant to cut corners on either those.

Buying a Magnesium tandem, while simultaneously working hard to loose kgs from your own body weight, puts you in a much sharper mind for finding weight savings though. The single best number for predicting a cyclist's potential is look at their power:weight ratio, and so it's obvious why cyclists obsess so much on this point, even if your primary goal is not all-out hill climbing.
Getting a "coupled" travel tandem is generally contraindicated for weight-weeny wins, as (depending on specifications) the couplers add over a pound of extra metal, so we knew we were setting out from an awkward starting point. However Paketa have previous made a sub-25 pound travel tandem so this gave us hope we could make a competitive build.

[At this point I must apologize for the repeated use of pounds. While I'm resisting the pressure to go-native on units of measurement, bike weights do just seem easier to compare in pounds now. I'm sorry. I still use grams for individual components, so there's hope yet.]

Lighter weight wheels, seat-posts, and the electronic shifting all help keep the grams off. And in particular for short (sub century) ride days, we even splurged out on a pair of "S-Works Toupe" saddles: 115 grams of weight reduction joy. At this point we've stuck with more weighty but tried-and-tested aluminium handlebars, XTR pedals, and a big (200mm) rear disc brake. For those we have some weight reduction plans or alternative configurations in the works, so our current all up weight of 27 pounds maybe one we can push downwards, if needed. (I had predicted 26.5 pounds prior to the build by taking the sum of component weights, so was pretty pleased not to be way off mark with that).
And a great benefit is the bike successfully dismantles to pack into a single bike-case, with total weight under 50 pounds (recorded 47lbs on Denver International checkin scales) which meant $zero excess charges on our maiden flight with her. Original goal of "hassle free checkin" achieved!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

TandemThings to Race Across America in June 2015

Riding for Love Sweat & Gears, and Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

As we’ve previously mentioned on the blog, this year we are trying to get faster. We are pleased to announce our reasons behind this: TandemThings will be riding Race Across America (RAAM) in 2015!

Back at the start of the 2014 (on New Year’s Eve, to be exact) we were contacted by Andy and Kami White, who were working with some friends to put together a team for riding the Race Across America next year (2015) as a 4 tandem team, and amazingly they were keen for us to join their team.
We knew that to do this would be 18 months of hard training and commitment, and so we needed to spend some time considering our response. It would undoubtedly be the biggest cycling challenge we have ever taken on, but the more we thought about it the more we realised that it was an opportunity that we couldn’t walk away from.
RAAM 2014 is just over a month away, and anticipation is building. And having been quietly working towards our 2015 ambition, and so very soon it will be just 365 days to go until our own transcontinental adventure!

Race across America

For those that aren’t familiar, the basic format has changed little since the first race in 1982, or 1992 when team categories were introduced.
Riders have to cover the 3000+ miles from Oceanside, California to Annapolis, Maryland, within a 9 day limit (or 12 for solo riders). Category winners are generally around 6.5 days, meaning riders must average 21 mph non-stop, 24 hours per day, crossing on average 500 miles and 2 states per day, in order to challenge for a podium position. Read more about it on the RAAM fact sheet.
Unlike the self-supported randonneur riding we are more familiar with, this is fully supported with  a crew and following vehicles on hand at all times, and in the team categories only one bike is on the road at a time, typically arranged with one pair of bikes taking in turns for 30min pulls for 6 hours at a time, while the remaining riders get food and some sleep.

Love Sweat and Gears, and Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

We’re really fortunate that our team that is under the stewardship of the well established Love, Sweat & Gears non-profit organization; who have successfully fielded teams in RAAM for 3 prior years.
Besides finishing with a great time, the LS&G Tandem 2015 team (as we are known) will be riding to raise money for Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, a charity several of the are close to, especially our team founder and crew chief, Jay.
The minimum budget to enter a team into RAAM is very considerable, and to have the best chance of a record time costs even more. So aside from training the next 14 months is going to require a lot of work in securing sponsors and general fundraising to allow us to meet our targets.

What’s next?

So for team TandemThing, right now we’re working hard on our summer goal of riding two 1200km brevets, putting a good time on each, before we start to shift our focus to getting faster over 30min efforts. We feel very confident we’ll have the endurance to do our share of the 3000 miles, but the real test for us will be doing so at a speed that does our part for the team. We have plenty of time to improve, but it’s going to be a very long and hard process to get there.

We’ll keep our usual collection of ride-reports and blogging here, but for anyone who wants to know more regularly updates on RAAM specific aspects, we’ll be aiming to put them on our Facebook page. And as ever, our ride updates can be followed on Twitter or Strava!

Expect to hear more from us soon about our fundraising activities! If you’re already inspired to help get us on our way, our donation page along with biographies of all our team, is now live on the LS&G website:

As well as each other’s, we’ll need the support of our friends and family to get through the months of training and to onto the start line, let alone through the days and nights to reach the finish. So we’re really deeply grateful that Stefan - a longtime colleague and friend - has volunteered to be on our crew.

Read more about the full LS&G 2015 line up, as it is announced, here.

Wish us luck, and see you on the road!

Joth & Emma