Right from the start: the Trek Precaliber

  Nice build for young riders at the shop: a Trek Precaliber with 24-inch mountain-bike wheels, direct-pull cantilevers, and seven cogs to shift among.

The cranks offer two pedal positions, which make it easy to accommodate growing riders. Bolt the pedals in first position for a short crank throw. Then, as the rider gets older, raise the seat and move the pedals to maintain proper fit.

That’s smart design. 

 Many parents shop for bikes their children can “grow into.” In the past, that meant a lot of beginners learned to ride on bikes way too big for them.

Not fun.

But no longer a problem. Not with adjustable-throw cranks and one of the more important mountain-bike innovations: the sloping top tube.

I also like the instructions printed on the handlebar stem cap: Ride. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.

Maybe the words are too simple for grownups overwhelmed by the complexity of work, relationships and all the other navigational challenges of adult life. 

But they’re pretty much all you need to get started.

And starting is what it’s all about.

Posted in Other bicycles | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Beer-view review. Flatlander mirror


IMG_7080This may be it: the best bike mirror I’ve used since the old Bell Biker days when I could easily clip a mirror to the helmet’s hard shell. That doesn’t mean the Flatlander mirror is the best solution for you, but it’s worth looking at if you’re dissatisfied with your current options.

  • No moving parts, so it doesn’t lose its setting between rides.
  • Helmet mounted, so it doesn’t weigh down one side of your glasses.
  • Mounts without double-sided tape, a source of much frustration with other helmet-mounted mirrors.
  • Rotates with your head, allowing you to scan a wider area of the road behind you, unlike handlebar-mounted mirrors.
  • High-quality mirror is large enough for a good view, small enough that it doesn’t create a forward blind spot, and held just the right distance from the eye, so you can quickly shift focus from the mirror to the road in front of you and back again.
  • No structural plastic. The mount is as rugged and simple as it gets: a bicycle wheel spoke. Plastic mounts are bulky and, well, plastic.

What caught my attention? The New Belgium Brewing bottle cap, of course. Looking for a different brand or no brand at all? Custom caps make it easy to get the look you want.

Drawbacks? Compared to other mirrors, it may take more time to set up the Flatlander, though if you have the time, it’s set it and forget it. And you need to be careful when attaching the mirror to avoid helmet damage, so adjust the mirror when it’s not connected to your helmet.

IMG_7056Illinoisan Mike Hauptman makes two versions of the Flatlander mirror: for helmet (in two widths) or sunglasses. I bought mine from the man himself during the 2015 Midwest Tandem Rally in Rockford, Illinois, though he sells most of his mirrors through Etsy.

Questions? Email Mike at mikehauptman@comcast.net.

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A quick stop to say only you can prevent Pumpkin Spice Latte

IMG_0880Pumpkins. I asked my tandem’s stoker to take a picture of a field of pumpkins.


Because we’re always riding through corn and soybean fields, even though we sometimes reverse our routes to ride through soybean and corn fields.

And yet pumpkins aren’t exactly rare in central Illinois.

Twenty-eight miles south of this Chillicothe pumpkin field, Libby’s Pumpkin processes more than 80 percent of the world’s canned pumpkin, according to the folks behind the Morton Pumpkin Festival.

I haven’t done a lot of research into this, but I believe the other 20 percent is label.

Or leftover soybean and corn fields.




Posted in Co-Motion tandem, Report from the road | Tagged | Leave a comment

Filling a hole with money. Or, two-buck luck

Well, there's your problem. What IS that? A nine-speed?

Well, there’s your problem. What IS that? A nine speed?

Here’s what to do when you have a blowout on the back tire of a Co-Motion tandem on West Pine Street between North 3rd and 2nd streets in Chillicothe, Illinois, at 10 a.m. on a Saturday.

I’d write Saturday, August 29, 2015, but I’m going to take a wild guess and assume you have not completed work on your time-travel machine. No problem, these instructions hold for any Saturday, and, who knows, you may be able to go back in time at some future date.

1) Identify the firecracker sound coming from the rear of the machine. Confirm the flat by sensing the rim squirm on the unsupported sidewalls of the tire as you come to a stop.

The second sound you hear almost immediately comes from your stoker; recall her making a similar sound in 2005 on the way back from the Midwest Tandem Rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan, when the Mazda Tribute’s side air bags blew for no good reason as you shut down the engine at a gas station just off I-80.

Almost forgot, you want to be going about seven miles per hour when the tire blows because you just pulled away from a delightful stop at Happy Thought Coffee on North 2nd Street, and now you’re slowing for the railroad crossing.

Pro tip #1: If you’re going to have a blowout, travel at a reasonable speed, not the 36 miles per hour you were doing on Blue Ridge Road an hour and a half before the tire registered its complaint.

Pro tip #2: It would be better if you had the blowout in your basement workshop, which is eight miles away, and even better, if you weren’t riding your Co-Motion tandem at the time, which you wouldn’t, because who would?

Cartoonist Richard Guindon once drew a man tossing cash at the flat tire of his car. The caption was "Liberal throwing money at a problem."

Cartoonist Richard Guindon once drew a man tossing cash at the flat tire of his car. The caption was “Liberal throwing money at a problem.”

2) Listen to your stoker explain that the problem is not the tube but the tube and tire. Be thankful she’s no longer making that sound.

3) Understand your reasoning for continuing to use an obviously bald, and now, obviously flat, tire 300 or 400 miles ago–that you didn’t feel you’d gotten enough miles out of it—is evidence of a misinformed frugality, willful ignorance of cause and effect, a more systemic thought process gone haywire or some causal combination. Don’t spend a lot of time on this; it doesn’t matter. It’s time to Take Action.

4) Turn the tandem upside down. Mourn the gravity of the injury to the tire. Remove the rear wheel.

5) Get grease on your hand from the chain. Ask your stoker for a Wet Ones Sensitive Skin Hand Wipe. Remove grease. (You’ve done this before.)

6) Remove tire and inner tube. Don’t bother inspecting the tube; you won’t be using it again. You’re kind of stuck with the tire, though. Confirm that the casing has a major cut and a minor one. You must take care of both injuries to continue your journey awheel.

Wondering what all the fuss is about disc brakes these days? Consider the advantage of retaining a brake even when the rim is unavailable as a braking surface.

Wondering what all the fuss is about disc brakes these days? Consider the advantage of retaining a brake even when the rim is unavailable as a braking surface.

7) Ask your stoker for money. (You’ve done this before, too. Oh, hell: you’ve done all of this before, but you weren’t riding a tandem; now there’s a witness.) Specifically, ask for two paper bills.

8) Retrieve your spare tube. Position the bills between the inner tube and the inside of the tire, covering both casing cuts.

9) Assemble tire, bills, tube and wheel. Inflate to 65 to 75 psi, not the usual 110 psi. Use the tire gauge that no one carries in situations like this, not even you.

10) Exhibit total confidence in the repair by reinstalling the Presta valve nut and cap. By the way, actual total confidence is not necessary, just its exhibition. How do you do it? Same way Jon Lovitz does it: “Acting!”

11) Install rear wheel assembly.

12) Walk tandem one-half block southwest to the True Value Hardware store at 307 West Walnut Street.

Pro tip #3: It’s always a good idea to break down a half block from either a bicycle shop or a hardware store. Plan your blowouts accordingly.

13) Ask stoker to buy electrical tape so you can cover the external wound and prevent the entrance of debris (or even derock). Thank her for reemerging from the store instead with the miracle product that is Gorilla Tape To-Go.

My crossing to bear.

My crossing to bear.

14) Wrap Gorilla Tape To-Go around tire. This is a good time to consider how lucky you were to spec a rear disc brake on the tandem 10 years ago. You may have a paper-thin tire, but you still have two brakes.

15) Police your brass. Nobody likes a litterer.

16) Ride eight miles home at moderate speed. Walk tandem across railroad tracks. Use brakes to moderate downhill speed. Roll into driveway. Inspect rear tire.

17) Write Gorilla Tape a letter. Use this one as a template, or refer to the original, if you’d like.

Edelstein, Ill
29th August
Mr. Gough Rilla
Cincinnati, Ohio

Dear Sir: –

While the bald rear tire of my tandem still holds air, I will tell you what a dandy duct-tape product you make. In the past, I used electrician’s tape to make emergency repairs to tires that shouldn’t have been repaired. Sometimes I even made it home. And while I will never again ride a tire that is so clearly suicidal, should I need to make such repairs in the future, they will be with your fine tape. I don’t know where you get your stickum, but it must be a magical place that no English sparrow can enter and survive.

Yours truly

Samuel “Cheated Failure Again” Joslin

Eight miles later, the tape is still in better condition than the original tread.

Eight miles later, the tape is still in better condition than the original tread.

Posted in Co-Motion tandem, Equipment, Report from the road | Tagged , , | 11 Comments

The things we carried: Door County 2015

IMG_0816What’s a cargo bike? It’s a bicycle that carries things not directly related to the support of rider or machine during the ride.

To determine whether you have a cargo bike, consider what you’re hauling around with you.

Bananas? If you’re eating them on the go, you may not be riding a cargo bike. Couch? Unless it has wheels, you’re riding a cargo bike. Common bicycle tools? Not a cargo bike. Park repair stand? Cargo bike.

Books from two businesses on Washington Island, Door County, Wisconsin, back to your bed and breakfast in Ephraim?

Cargo bike. It just looks like a tandem.

Let’s see what we pulled out of the handlebar bag—and why we put them in there in the first place.

IMG_0817Picked up this book at Fragrant Isle Lavender Farm. The author is quite the celebrity, though in true masters-of-awareness style, we’ve never heard of her. Instead, we judged the book by its cover and a judicious skimming of its contents. Did you know a healthy blackcurrant bush produces nine pounds of fruit?

IMG_0819Here’s the first of three books from Fair Isle Books, formerly Islandtime Books. Michael Perry writes cleanly about the world he moves through and the people he lives among. And this year the Wisconsin pig farmer came up with a novel. Buying this book breaks the rule one of us has about fiction: either the author must be dead or the work must be short. (The other of us has read every stinking Harry Potter book.)

IMG_0822Dervla Murphy’s book, Full Tilt, Ireland to India With a Bicycle, is the most important bicycle book we’ve never read, even though it’s been in our library for years. So we had to pick up On a Shoestring to Coorg. This book will remind us to read the other one—or the other way around.

IMG_0824One of the uses of literature is to keep us curious about the uses of literature. It’s possible that an Italian born in Cuba in 1923 may have come up with a use we hadn’t considered.

IMG_6727A Sister Bay business owner once said that the Door County peninsula was unique in that everyone there meant to be there, because no one was on the way to somewhere else. What a great observation. It really stuck with us.

The next year, his store closed.

He went somewhere else.

You can carry a lot of things on a bicycle with a rack, bag or basket, but you don’t need any of those things if your cargo is time. Here are a few of the years we’ve picked up, pondered and carried around with us while riding a tandem in Door County.

1848:  Wisconsin becomes a state, and because of the shape of the border, this is probably the first year someone says it looks like a mitten, kind of like Michigan looks like a mitten with a bad toupee. Door County is Wisconsin’s thumb.

1859:  Ephraim’s Moravian church is built. The church is later moved to the first hill we ride when leaving town in the morning, maybe because someone thought we should have something to look at as we’re gearing down. (Wisconsin folk moved a lot of buildings up hills or across frozen lakes more than a century ago. Imagine: “I like it; I just don’t like it there. Hitch up the horses.”)

IMG_67381906:  Wilson’s Restaurant is established. Today it’s where you get ice cream before you cross the road to watch the sun set over Eagle Harbor because the sun sets over the harbor, not where you get ice cream. And if you think that sounds ridiculous, you need to take a look at your own commute.

1941:  As world events heat up across both oceans, a giant coffee pot is installed on Washington Island. It wasn’t that long ago that the pot served as an information booth. Whatever, it’s still hot.

1989:  The Washington, one of a fleet of ferries that connects the north end of the Door County peninsula with Washington Island, is launched around the same time we first visit the area. Not in our honor, mind you: sheer coincidence.IMG_6705

2007:  Ellison Bay’s Pioneer Store reopens, replacing the original 136-year-old building leveled by a 2006 gas explosion. The road into town is anything but level. At the bottom of the hill we’re going 40 mph. Pure coast–no pedaling.

2014:  It’s happened again. We’ve arrived in Door County after Wimbledon has wrapped up. But we’re not tennis fans. So why are we disappointed that it’s not playing on the screen at the Bayside Tavern?

2015:  First time we have dinner outside the Cornerstone Pub in Bailey’s Harbor. Unrushed. Calm. Delightful. How has this not happened before?

Notes: 1) Yes, that was my thumb in some of the pictures. I like how it kept you guessing. 2) If you missed the first external link in the story, you missed the story behind the design of New Belgium Brewing’s couch bike. Here’s another chance to catch a slow ride.


Posted in Co-Motion tandem, Report from the road | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Released into the wild: Bicycle ride t-shirts from the 1990s


There’s been a lot of great food served on the No Baloney Ride over the years. No baloney, however. All photos by Lar Davis.

I’m told Marie Kondo, author of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” says the secret to organization is to get rid of anything that doesn’t bring you joy. This doesn’t explain where my fiber pills went or the prominence of a digital clock in my living room, but let’s assume it’s a workable strategy; it certainly is a popular one.

11036497_1016204981731370_3561995621100004912_n(Though I think skimming 4,271 Amazon customer reviews may save me from buying the book and running the risk of bringing something into my house that might b11223552_1016204628398072_5816998750959547940_ne, at best, joy-neutral, seeing as its acquisition would require the exchange of money for knowledge. And yes, I realize borrowing is an option.)

Anyway, while my friend Lar says he’s downsizing, not necessarily organizing, I’m amazed he surrendered 28 vintage bicycle-themed t-shirts to Peoria’s Salvation Army, even if they were too small to wear.

He did, however, take a few pictures before relinquishing his collection, stirring memories among those who failed to keep the same apparel as long.


Who can forget sleeping–yes, let’s call it sleeping–on a leaky air mattress at Eureka College?

11800513_1016204808398054_7676279494754887615_nThe Pedal-In name was an antique term in 1995, though you’ll note the sponsoring club had already replaced the “e” in Wheelmen with the current, gender-neutral apostrophe. By the way, have you registered for this year’s No Baloney Ride?

11800619_1016204905064711_7960506754341166592_nNo, not the Tour de Poulet of St. Louis fame, but chicken was involved and the cause remains righteous.

11826018_1016204681731400_6447942416110832096_nJust realized I might have modeled for the art at the top of this warm-weather Christmas tree. Did anyone else ride an ordinary around Bloomington-Normal?


If any ride deserved to survive on the strength of its graphics, it was PACRACC (Pantagraph Area Cyclists Ride Around Corn Country).


Twenty-five years ago, all the cool cats were wearing this. And now it’s gone. All of these great bicycle shirts–gone. Still, it could have been worse.

I could have written about the 122 running t-shirts that Lar gave away.

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Winslow takes it easy on Washington Island


Julie is a nurse.

She likes her Dahon Vitesse i7 folding bike because it’s easy to transport in the back of her car and easy to store. And because the gears are inside the hub, there’s no derailleur to get dirty and bent out of alignment.

Winslow seems happy just to be along for the ride.

We caught up with them at Nelsen’s Hall Bitter’s Pub & Restaurant on Washington Island. Pretty good salad bar and excellent soup.

Posted in Dahon, Other bicycles, People, Report from the road | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments