Vanishing Point

A site about climbing, bikes, and peculiar travels


A tandem of my own

Posted by Eric T. on August 10, 2010 at 5:25 PM Comments comments (2)

Building a tandem is a great little adventure in making stuff. I've been telling my friends I want to build one up for months now, and I finally went for it. No one was excited about it, and I was worried I'd have to ride it around alone, but when they saw the finished product, everyone was excited. Haha!

Making a tandem at home poses several interesting problems:

-Finding two frames that are both shitty enough to chop up and weld but also sort of nice because you don't want it to suck, but also are the right size and fit together when you match them up.

-Getting the drivetrain right. Setting up a synch chain, tensioning it, and making sure it doesn't interfere with the main drive chain.

-Setting up handlebars for the stoker without paying for one of the expensive tandem stoker handlebar stems.

-Cabling it up without paying for extra-long $10 tandem cables.

-Finding someone who's ok with touching your butt to grab the handlebars in back and also won't wiggle around while you figure out how to drive the thing.

After all is said and done, it's a friggin blast to ride around town with someone else. Can't beat it for showing couchsurfers around town. At first I just wanted to ride around town on it, but now I think I'd like to set it up nicely and do a little bit of touring with someone. It's a really fun bike to have.

Everything's functional except the synch chain, which rides on 52 toothers. Since it's so damn big I can't fit a ghost ring in there, and plus the main drive chain rubs on it when I try to shift to higher gears in the back. It doesn't throw the chain unless you go over a particularly shaky bump. I'm working on finding some smaller rings.

I used Sheldon Brown's (who's page inspired this thing in the first place) toptube-seatclamp-stem contraption for the stoker's handlebars. Works great until I find a 1" threadless stem.

Let the cutting begin!

This is the front donor frame. I hacked off most of the stays, and sanded her down for welding.

The only modification to the rear frame was hacking the headtube in half. This would fit onto the seattube of the front frame. Luckily, they were both similar-era Schwinns and the headtube and seattube angles were the same.

A few messy welds later, and it's starting to look like something!

This is the frame flipped over and a new tube welded in between the bottom brackets. That's it! the frame is done.

Built up and ready to ride. You can see the synch chain on the 52s on the drive side of the bike. Could

Clamps,. shorts, and bourbon

Posted by Eric T. on May 21, 2010 at 11:26 PM Comments comments (0)

We epoxied the other half of the rudder to the frame. What this entails is covering the fiberglass board with epoxy putty and squishing it to the rudder as hard as you can. In our case, there were a fair number of clamps involved.

For the past couple of days now we've been shaping the rudder. Carving the shape we want out of the hunk of fiberglass that now hangs from our boat. Scott made deadly cloud of fiberglass dust like I've never seen. The surrounding work area literally got a shade lighter.

Clamps, much?

If that paper suit looks comfortable in any way, allow me to dispell your assumptions. Imagine getting out of the car in the morning to a wall of humidity that instantly feels like a steaming hot wet blanket covering your whole body. The simplest of motions becomes excruciatingly difficult. Now prepare to climb into a suit that will cover every part of your body and trap what heat had any hope of escaping and holding it against you. As you zip the suit up, you feel sweat begin to drip down your back as you willingly seal the only showing skin from feeling air. Now you begin to grind, filling the air with fiberglass dust that will destroy your lungs if the seal is broken anywhere in the mask or suit. Sweat drips down your nose, but you can't wipe it off, and looking at your fingers covered in fiberglass, realize that you wouldn't want to touch anything with that hand.

Welcome to hell.

I'm writing with Evan Williams, which allows me a certain dramatic liberty, I hope you appreciate it.

Anyway, I also ran out of clean shorts to wear, so I made a pair of pants I brought with me into knickers. My mom has a sewing machine, and when you live out of a duffel bag sometimes you have to get creative. I like them!

How the hell do you end a blog post like this?


Finally ready to leave

Posted by Eric T. on October 22, 2009 at 1:01 AM Comments comments (0)

Gah! We finally finished everything we needed to do on the tandem. After the build on Monday, we still needed a new rear wheel, and Noah wanted to chop the frozen seat post in the front and set up something taller so he could actually fit on the front of the bike. We also needed to add bottle cages, racks and everything that makes it an actual touring bike.



The seatpost for the captain(front rider) is frozen in the seat tube, so we hacked off the top of it, and made a clamp out of an old seat cluster from another road bike. It also makes the rear handlebars more adjustable, the top tube from the donor bike being the same size as the handlebar clamp. We were rather proud of this little fix, I think it works better than either of us would have guessed.



We ride out in the morning. I'll try and update as soon as possible, but from my previous attempts at doing such, I can't promise much. The weather's been a grey gloom the past 2 days, so hopefully the sun comes out tomorrow.

A tandem is born

Posted by Eric T. on October 20, 2009 at 3:06 PM Comments comments (0)

Last Thursday, my friend Noah called me up and left a message saying he's going to ride a tandem bike to California next week, and that he wants me to go. Noah is the guy I went on my first bike tour with, and we haven't ridden together since, so in addition to wanting to escape Fort Collins, I also wanted to tour with him again.

I wasn't sure what to do until Saturday, when I realized beyond a shred of a doubt I have to go, at least for part of it. So with a shaky plan, I drove down to Durango on Sunday. I stopped by Noah's house when I got into town, and we talked about the trip. Eventually we got around to the tandem itself, and he showed me what we were working with.

Even though I knew it was just a frame, seeing it and it's 25 year old components made it suddenly very real that we had to build a tandem from the ground up in a day. So we parted ways and dedicated the entire next day to building the bike.

Yesterday we built it.

The frame as it began. A 70's or 80's handbuilt Oulette.

I used car parts degreaser to scrub off 25 years of layered grime.

Cleaning, cleaning, cleaning.

The lovely fork. Note the wine cork in the crown and the braze-on on the left blade for drum brakes.

Got the drivetrain on.

A wheel and some handlebars, this is when the sun started going down.

Finally looking like a bike! Look at those two Brooks' on there.

With one brake hooked up, she's ready for the test ride!

We took our first test ride in the dark. It really did take us all day. We realized that neither of us have ridden a tandem with someone else before, so that was a learning experience. I also got to work on some things I've never seen before like needle bearings in the headset, which made it a little easier to adjust. Drum brakes, although I still don't know how those are. And a tandem drive train which is pretty cool. We didn't need to adjust the eccentric BB, it was already in the perfect spot.

So today we have a couple other things to work on, like cabling everything up, attachin racks, packing, websites, EVERYTHING. We also have to rebuild the rear wheel, as we discovered that the old one's rim is tearing apart at the spoke holes. Since we're trying to leave tomorrow, it should be an interesting day.