Showing all posts tagged rhine-by-tandem:

Rhine Cycle Route - Navigation

Been a bit undecided how to approach this aspect of the trip, not been able to decide whether to just take a map of Europe, head for Arnhem, find The Rhine and then try to follow it, or something a bit more more detailed!

Been in touch with a few folks and as usual I'm now planning to overcomplicate things, but I hope it will pay off. I've ordered a couple of the Esterbauer Rhine Cycle Route guides, the whole route is covered in three guides but we aren't riding the section in Switzerland, we plan to leave that for some other time.

These guides are not currently available in English but the main attraction of them for me are the 1:75,000 maps with the route marked which are very clear. The disadvantage of this approach is that the books, being waterproofed, are damned heavy which is less than ideal. So, the plan is to scan the maps and put 3 maps onto an A4 sheet and then print them out so I'll have a series of sections and I can then just throw away the maps as I go.

Here is the cover of one of the guides:

The other thing about these guides is that they give you access to GPS tracks of the route which may come in handy and are certainly going to be worth looking at, you can see the little GPS logo in the top right hand corner of the cover next to the waterproof logo. Inside the book is a code which you enter into the esterbauer website and this allows you to download the files as a .zip archive, could be very useful.

Here is a sample of what the mapping is like in the books, I think they are excellent:

I reckon planning these trips is as much fun as actually riding them!

Rhine Cycle Route By Tandem - Saddle Breaking

The saga of the Brooks saddle goes on. Readers of this blog will know that I have had to return two Brooks B-17 Imperial saddles so far because the leather upper on the saddles has not been fitted straight on the frame, photographs have previously been published. Anyway, to cut a long story short, after much deliberation I returned the 2nd saddle and this morning took delivery of the 3rd saddle.

I opened the box with great anticipation and optimism but was once again sorely disappointed. As you can see from the photograph below the leather at the saddle nose on this saddle is also not straight and in use this will almost certainly lead to premature sagging of the leather on one side of the saddle. I have now contacted Wiggle again and they have checked their stock and found that all the Brooks saddles of this model they currently hold are the same which I find absolutely astonishing.

The latest position is that I have now told Wiggle that I do still want the saddle, when a straight saddle can be sourced, and I will wait and see what happens. Fortunately I ordered the saddle in plenty of time!

Touring Tandem Gearing - Initial Trials

On 6 April I wrote a post about my plan to upgrade the gearing arrangements as well as several other things on the tandem prior to the Rhine Cycle Route trip we are planning and the work was excellently performed by JD Tandems a few weeks ago. The new gearing set up is made up of a rear cassette with 11-34 sprockets coupled with 26-36-48 chainrings on the front, this arrangement allowed us to retain our 48-11 top gear but gave us a much lower 26-34 bottom gear.

The weather recently has been terrible and because of other commitments it has not been possible to get out on the tandem to give this new setup a good trial run. However, yesterday and the day before Lorena and I were able to get out, we did about 25 miles on Sunday and 40 miles yesterday in mixed riding conditions.

Even though the tandem over the last couple of days has not been fully laden it has become immediately apparent that this change of gears has been hugely beneficial, it rides like a new bike. For the vast majority of the time when rolling along we are using the 36 chainring and normally riding in one of the middle sprockets on the cassette which is ideal, giving a nice straight chain line for much of our riding. The major reason for the change was of course to help us cope with hills when fully laden with camping gear and even at this early stage things are looking very encouraging.

We found in our rides that we never actually needed to engage the 26 tooth chainring but of course we did experiment with it. We were amazed to find that using the lowest gear on a gradient of 4-5% it was possible for me to stop pedalling completely and just let my legs turn over and Lorena on her own was able to keep us moving forward, this simply wasn't possible at all with our previous gearing set up. Now, even on a fairly steep climb, if we engaged our lowest gear we were both able to apply very light pressure to the pedals whilst pedalling with a high cadence and we were still making steady and very comfortable progress up the slope.

Things will of course be very different when the tandem is fully laden with 25 to 30 kg of a combination of general luggage and camping gear but based on our recent experiments I'm confident that we will be able to cope with most inclines using this new gearing set up, even fully laden. The bottom line is of course that hill climbing on a tandem fully laden for touring and camping is never going to be easy but if something is really too steep the option always exists to simply hop off and walk, as you can see two solo cyclists doing with their fully laden touring bikes in this section of video.

So, 10 out of 10 for JD Tandems for their excellent advice and workmanship. I believe that for this trip this gearing setup is spot on as we are not planning to go into the high mountains. It was also encouraging that when climbing in our bottom gear the tandem remained easy to balance and control, I suspect that if we drop the gearing any further this may well not be the case and we would also have to sacrifice our gearing at the top end which I would like to avoid if possible. It is perhaps worth just mentioning that yesterday on the flat with a tailwind Lorena and I were able to push along at up to 30 miles an hour without spinning out in our 48-11 combination, we really don't need any gearing higher than that!

Rhine Cycle Route By Tandem - Saddle Breaking

Well, the latest in the saga with the Brooks Imperial Saddle is that Wiggle have replaced the faulty item which is good, the bad news is that the replacement saddle was also faulty, which is bad.

The suggestion from Wiggle customer services is that they may have a faulty batch and to their great credit they have asked me to return the saddle and they will then check the latest replacement personally before sending it out.

So, the latest saddle is now all packaged up and ready to be sent off to Wiggle, I'll keep you posted but in the meantime if you buy a Brooks Saddle make sure it's straight, they are NOT meant to be wonky!

Here's the photo of the replacement I was sent, a distinct droop of the hide on the right.

Rhine Cycle Route By Tandem - Saddle Breaking

Used the B17 Imperial for the third time today and the left hand side of the saddle continues to sag further. On the bright side I have received a positive response from Brooks to my FaceBook posting which I really can't argue with, what they have said is this:

"Handmade saddles are prone to something we like to call (ahem) "human error". therefore each saddle carries a two-year guarantee against defects in materials or manufacture. we can only offer our sincere apologies for your inconvenience and a replacement. please return this to your place of purchase or visit the "Brooks Forever" section of our website."

The problem now is that having checked the Wiggle website both the ladies and gents B17 Imperial saddles are out of stock so I have replied as follows to Brooks, we shall see how things develop:

"Hi Brooks England, you can't really say fairer than that, thank you for your response. I actually got in touch with Wiggle today who I bought the saddles from and I'm planning to return both of them because they are both asymmetrical, the hope is that they will be replaced but the ladies saddle was I believe the last one they had in stock when I ordered. Damn, I just checked their website and it looks as if both the gents and ladies B17 Imperial saddles are now out of stock on the website which is hugely depressing. Can you help with this so that I can get prompt replacements? I would have thought in the circumstances you could send me straight (factory checked) replacements directly and I could simply return my saddles to Wiggle for a refund?"

Rhine Cycle Route By Tandem - Saddle Breaking

Today I rode on the VeloTron for the second time with the Brooks B17 Imperial saddle fitted and though the saddle was not wildly uncomfortable I am becoming increasingly convinced that the saddle is faulty. As you could see from the previous picture posted on Saturday 7th April 2012 the leather upper appears to have been fitted asymmetrically and looking at the saddle after today's ride it now appears to be "sagging" on the left hand side which is the side where the saddle leather has been fitted lower when viewed from the front.

The result of just over 2 hours of total use of the saddle, when viewed from behind as in the photograph below, is that the left hand side of the saddle is deforming downwards in relation to the right. I guess one possible explanation might be that my backside is wonky but to be honest if that was the case I think other saddles would have shown some sign of this over the years! The other reason I do not feel that this is the explanation is the fact that the leather upper at the saddle nose is so off being straight which surely cannot be how it is supposed to be.

I've also included a photo of the nose of Lorena's saddle which you can see also exhibits asymmetry of manufacture though it is less marked than on my own. I've not yet heard from Brooks but it has been the Easter weekend, I hope to have something to report on this in the next few days.

My saddle, viewed from the rear, note how after only 2 hours of use the saddle is deforming downwards on the left side.

Lorena's saddle, note asymmetry of the leather at the saddle nose.

Rhine Cycle Route By Tandem - Saddle Breaking

Right, I've taken delivery of the new Brooks B17 Imperial saddles and I've installed mine on the VeloTron to start the breaking-in process before the Rhine Cycle Route ride, I used the saddle for the first time tonight for 70 minutes.

I was a bit surprised to find that unlike any other saddle I have ever used I found this one most comfortable with the saddle nose raised very slightly. I'd read mixed stories about these saddles with opinions ranging from folks raving about their comfort to people thinking they were only one step down from sitting on log splitter!

Initially with the saddle perfectly level when sitting up in a usual "touring" posture I felt very strongly that I was sliding forwards off the saddle and there was more weight on my arms than I am used to. With the nose tilted up slightly this "sliding forward" sensation stopped and things were much better.

In the past I have found that saddles tend to press on my sciatic nerve near the ischial tuberosity and during my first use of the Brooks B17 Imperial that wasn't problem at all. The saddle feels firm as I'd expected, being unpadded, but I would go so far as to say on the first ride that I found it relatively comfortable. Based on today's short indoor session (which tend to be more uncomfortable than outdoor riding) I am very encouraged by things, even before the saddle is broken in at all. I can already see on the saddle a couple of very slight depressions where my weight is being applied so that is encouraging.

However, one serious concern I have is with the overall geometry and "symmetry", or lack thereof, of the saddle. Looking at it directly from the front (see below) this brand new saddle appears to me to be out of "true". Lorena's saddle is the same though it is slightly less marked. I am concerned that this will get worse over time and in fact the upper part of the saddle to the LHS of the cutout already looks slightly lower than the RHS after a single use, the saddle upper just appears generally lower on the LHS. I'm going to contact Brooks about this and I'll report back when they have looked at the photograph.

Rhine Cycle Route By Tandem - Upgrade Plan

I've been giving some thought to the details of the tandem equipment and with that in mind I'd been considering a number of upgrades. To clarify my thinking, which is not always clear, I rang John at JD Tandems in Gargrave who was his usual extremely knowledgeable and helpful self.

The main issue on my mind was gearing, both for this trip and for the future. Currently the cassette fitted is an 11-32 running with a triple chain set with 28-38-48 chainrings. It transpires that significantly lower gearing can be achieved whilst retaining good shifting by fitting the following combination, cassette 11-34, chainrings 26-36-48.

Making this change will leave us with no loss at the top end of the gearing but with significantly improved bottom gearing which on a loaded touring tandem is sure to be a good thing!

The current gearing setup is:

The proposed gearing setup is:

In addition to the above we plan to replace the front rack with a Tubus rack as the existing one is not as secure as I would like. JD Tandems are also going to put together a small spares pack to take with us on this and other trips which should avoid any problems of en route repairs, at least if I can find a bike shop I'll have the required bits with me even if I can't fix it!

The above will be topped off with an Ortlieb Bar Bag for easy access to the essentials during the ride. Planning is in full swing!

Rhine Cycle Route By Tandem - Seating Plan

After much deliberation we have decided to bite the bullet before this trip and try to break in a couple of Brooks saddles which we will use for the ride. These saddles seem to be a "love or hate" item but on balance, after a breaking in period, the general impression is that they become very comfortable, rather like a pair of leather shoes.

The saddles have now been ordered, the B17 Imperial for me and the B17S Imperial for Lorena which is a ladies model and slightly wider. When they arrive I'm going to install them on the VeloTron so that they will have very regular use and hopefully become nice and comfortable before we set off on our trip.

If the worst comes to the worst and this doesn't work out I'll just install the existing perches and put the Brooks saddles down to experience, I'll report back!

Here is the saddle I've ordered:

Rhine Cycle Route By Tandem - Passages Booked

Ok, that's it. we've taken the plunge, I've just booked a one way journey on the North Sea ferry with DFDS Seaways for two people and one tandem from Newcastle (North Shields) to Amsterdam. I've also booked a one way ticket on the European Bike Express from Beaune in France back to the North East some weeks later. The period in between these journeys will I am sure be packed with excitement and I hope at least few sunny days! I'm excited, if a little apprehensive.