Thursday, December 30, 2010

Kodachrome Miles (Updated)

(Here is my updated tribute to Kodachrome (RIP 1935-2010), which originally appeared in Recumbent and Tandem Rider magazine in 2007)

Almost as soon as there was a bike, there was a camera.  Even as a teenager, as the miles traveled increased, the desire to record and return with something was as strong as the urge to ride itself.  I was going new places and seeing new sights that just had to be remembered and shared.  After the bike and the panniers, the next accessory was the handlebar bag to carry the camera.  The perfect bag was found mid-tour in `75, and was purchased on the spot.  I went through a handful of bikes and SLR cameras in the first 30 years, shooting thousands of slides along the way.  I finally switched to mostly prints after Tyler and Justin were born.  And then of course, along came digital photography to change everything.

In my riding BLT (before Linda and Tandems!), I was exploring Michigan on day trips, cross-state rides and solo tours.  One of my early riding mentors was Bob Harrington, a Michigan Department of Natural Resources photographer who had started in photography with the military in WW II.  Bob was a chain smoking retiree who could ride people a third his age into the ground, but mostly rode for fun and friends.  It was Bob and his wife Emily that introduced me to tandem touring.  He also shared at least two of his “secrets” of good pictures; take lots of them, and never bring home film.  I took this advice to heart, hence the thousands of slides.  The summer that Linda and I met, we did our first weekend tour together on a ride led by Bob and Em. Bob’s picture of Linda and I, relaxing in some grassy shade, is in our living room to this day.

A few years later Linda and I were married and preparing for our first tandem tour, a week riding across Missouri.  Even as we shaved ounces, my SLR and a spare lens were in the handlebar bag.  A half dozen rolls of film, and Kodak mailers were already stuffed in the panniers as we tried to find room for clothing, camping gear and food.  My goal was a roll a day, 36 slides, dropped off in the mail as soon as the roll was finished.  Most days I made it, but some days I missed due to weather, or the exertion of riding.  That first tour started in southeast Missouri, and the first three days were grueling rolling hills in road-softening heat.   We would go from spinning out the 108” top end to grinding a 24” granny in a hundred yards 5 or 6 times an hour.  Linda took one picture that captured all of this with the hills rolling on ahead of for miles, as I grimly held the tandem and prepared for the next stretch of road.

We rode six more week or longer tandem tours (and countless weekends) during the `80s.  Our trips included much of both Michigan peninsulas, the length of the Wabash River in Indiana to the Ohio River, the coast and deserts of southern California, New England, and the Canadian Rockies.  The roll of film a day became slide shows we shared with family, friends and bike clubs.  We would include landscapes, landmarks, and curiosities we found along the way. We told the story of our life on the road, from setting camp, to cooking, to eating, changing a tire or resting in the shade.  Along the way, finding a mail drop for each completed roll was part of the daily ritual.  Upon returning home, some of those finished slides would be waiting in our mailbox, and they would continue to arrive over the days that followed.  We never lost a roll in the mail, and had very few lost shots or disappointments, except from our Canadian trip. The contrast of snow and rock, Sun and shadow were outside my realm of experience at the time.

I took the majority of the pictures, but we soon learned that we had to hand the camera to Linda, or a passing stranger, to prove to people I was on the trip and we were together.  I also had a mini tripod, but we never had a flash until my last film SLR.  I used a pair of lenses (ultra-wide angle and medium telephoto) until Linda drew the line and demanded I purchase a single lens (a medium zoom) to leave room for warm clothes in the Rockies (a good call).  Sometimes Linda would take pictures while we rode, and we became adept at a rolling camera hand-off.   Many pictures were during quick stops, standing over the bike, and few times we even turned back, or I walked back for a special scene.  Linda was usually very patient, up until the extra effort of riding with both boys began to curtail the luxury of stopping for that “just-so” scenic landscape.

That perfect handlebar bag was from Eclipse (a brand now long gone) and it was the first and best of the suspended and tensioned bag designs.   Eclipse was among a handful of companies in the `70s that developed lightweight bike gear using backpacking technology. Prior to that, all that was available were leather and canvas touring gear from Europe and Great Britain.  The opening of the Eclipse bags faced the rider for easy access, and the hanging nylon “sling” protected the camera from vibration.  I am on my third Eclipse Pro bag now, found in like new condition at a 2006 swap meet.  With STI cable routings, handlebar bags are seldom used today, but they remain the best way to keep a camera at the ready and protected while riding.

As I mentioned, riding with kids changed the focus, and my roll a day shooting pace slowed. With 20-month old Tyler riding in a Burley trailer, we tandemed a week-long trip around Puget Sound.  That was the last major trip where I shot Kodachrome slide film.  From then on, it was print film for the boys’ scrapbooks and to economize.  With less touring, there were fewer scenic shots, and more emphasis on family pictures.  But this began to change with our first digital camera, a simple Canon Elph purchased 2003.

The Elph was the smallest camera I had used since my childhood Kodak Instamatic, and it left LOTS of room in the handlebar bag.  Film was no longer an issue, and memory cards and battery life were the only constraint.  Since I was primarily shooting family shots, and still bringing along the SLR for “serious” stuff, it began to get more and more use.  The moment of truth came at the start of our weeklong Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure (GOBA) tour in 2006.  My film SLR was packed and made the trip to Ohio, but it never left the van.  I didn’t quite shoot a “roll” a day, and it lacked the focal length I needed for a few scenic shots.  But we came home with over 100 pictures, and we had a TV slide show the evening we returned.

Early on, you had to have a PC to really do digital photography, but today any place you used to drop film can print your pictures or burn them to a CD/DVD.  I am a Mac user, and Apple’s iPhoto software remains one of the simplest ways of managing a digital photo collection, including creating slide shows for playback from DVD.   iPhoto also supports easy photo emailing and online print ordering.  Best of all, it provides a number of excellent back-up options, and having a back-up plan is the most critical issue in digital photography.  Please be sure to regularly burn CDs or DVDs of your pictures to insure you have back-ups.  If you don’t print it and don’t backup, your pictures could be gone forever in the blink of an eye.

My current camera is a Canon PowerShot S3 with a 10x optical zoom and digital viewfinder.  It looks like a small SLR, and has been a perfect compromise in feel, size and capability.  The camera, memory cards and batteries for over a 3,000 pictures take up less space than my old SLR by itself.  (For fast and light rides, I now have simple Nikon CoolPix that will fit in a jersey pocket or clip onto a CamelBak.)  It has been fun getting back into the swing of shooting lots of pictures.   And what about all those thousands of slides? With a recently acquired slide scanner, I am slowly converting those old trip shows into DVDs.  And with some image editing tools, I may even be able to fix up our Canadian Rockies slides that were so disappointing.

I am still that kid at heart, on a bike with a camera, looking for new places and sites that have to be remembered and shared.  It always been that urge to yell out “Hey!  Look at what we saw!  Look where we went!”  Over time the tools have changed, but the message remains the same: Once you see these pictures, you will want to ride too.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Twas a night near Christmas**

Twas a night near Christmas**
And all cross the net,
nary a Hobbesian was posting,
Most threads were at rest.

In jamas I was surfing,
Without  worry or care,
on a Mac free of virus
or zombie malware.

I went for my email.
When what should appear,
"A post from Bill at Santana",
Talking about some new gear.

New bits formed in carbon
for under the tree?
Or finally a disc
that's maintenance free?

Or of Scandium, or Nobium,
with Imron that glistens.
All delivered in prose,
That sets tempers sizzlen.

So why do he do it?
Raising such ire?
Fore the night is over,
T@H flames are a afire.

"Your tests are too demanding
and unrealistic,
I use brand X,
So I am going ballistic!"

"Tandems for masses,
Are way to generic,
It only takes training,
Quit striving for perfect!"

But type on he does,
Bill knows what he knows,
He's put thousands of tandems,
On six continents of roads.

He's not always perfect,
But more right than not.
He's survived a free market,
Where competition is hot.

The man is driven by passion,
To deliver a fine tandem,
with a real concern,
for the teams riding on them.

The night wore on,
The flames became embers.
"It's about riding!"
Someone finally remembers.

The days will grow longer,
Soon winter will end,
On rides, not typing,
Our spare time we'll spend.

And after the summer,
Let's not forget,
Twas a night near Christmas**
And all cross the net. . .

** or please insert holiday of choice

The best to all of you across the years and miles.

Jay Hardcastle
Carmel, IN USA

One tandem, 
three stokers
too many singles
all out-of-phase

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A not so much tandem update

November has come and gone, and my best laid plans for some new HOOTS work went by the wayside. Linda's father passed away in mid-November, and like so many of the tandem tweeners, we were caught between two generations of obligations.

Forest was a great husband, father, father-in-law, grandfather, great-grandfather, and to me, a friend as well.  Once we got initial introductions right, (Linda brought home a bicyclist, not biker), he, with his wife Beth,  became a great supporter of our riding adventures.  Here he is with Linda (near Poplar Bluff, Mo., in 1982), getting ready to drop us off for our first of many tandem tours.   

And once they realized our riding was not a pre-kids stage, after seeing the pictures of our 6-week old son riding in the trailer, they supported that too and cheered us on.  They were always concerned, but lived through the riding and other adventures we had with Tyler and Justin.  We are very thankful for that support, and Forest will be missed by all off us.

Needless to say, this means I don't yet have the date for the winter social, we don't have a new HOOTS domain, and the new welcome page isn't ready yet either.  But maybe just sharing this is enough.  

Keep it safe, 

Saturday, November 06, 2010

My Really, Really, Bad Tire Day (Year)

This is not a post about tandems per say.  Although tandems do have tires and cantilever brakes.  And I would have been on a tandem if my boys had not grown out of it.  (Litteraly, since they are both taller than I am.)  So I was on Hilly Hundred on my touring bike, an Assenmacher (vintage 1980), while my youngest son, Justin, was riding a much newer Giant Defy 3. (We had a a great time, BTW).

In any case, at about 44 miles into a 50 mile day (which would be a 57 mile day).  I had my first flat.  While descending at 30+ mph on a quarter mile long hill.  Thankfully, it was merely exciting, and nothing more.  Having ridden said bike for more thank 40,000 miles over the last 30 years, probably helped, along with the fact the hill was straight, and I could get stopped and to the side of the road without a lot of interference from other bikes.

I get off to the side of the road, pull my tools and spare out of the rack trunk,  lay the bike down, and pull the front wheel.  First, I begin looking for the thorn or cut that was sure to have caused the problem.  Nothing there.  So off comes the tire, I pull the pump, pressure the tube, and find the hole.  It lines up with the sidewall, and a small cut there.  An not just a cut, but groove about an 1/8" above the rim, All the way around the tire, down to the cord.   And a "D'oh" light bulb came on.

Throughout the day, I had been hearing a soft, intermittent buzzing sound.  I knew it was on the front of the bike, but I couldn't find the source.  It wasn't spare camera batteries, loose change or other camera gear in the handlebar bag.  It wasn't fender or rack hardware. (Like I said, it is a touring bike.) But I just didn't put it together that the gentile buzzing was the top edge of the front brake pad gently touching the tire sidewall just above the rim.  And each time I applied the brake, I cut away a little more sidewall and tire cord. So finally at 44 miles, enough cord was gone to let the tube through and cause a blow-out.

It all went back to a few days before Hilly, when I had the bike in a car with the front wheel off.  In hurry, I had just shoved the wheel back into place, without releasing the cantilever cable.  And my vintage Deore XT cantilever, 3-plane adjustable pad had twisted up and away from the rim to contact the sidewall.

Rushing, rookie or just dumb, I was fortunate I just had two flats and no crashes.  Did I mention the second flat?  Seems like the casing gave away a little more about 10 miles later, and I finally had to boot the tire with a folded $5 bill (no $1s in my wallet) to finish the last 5 miles.

So 2010 becomes my year of the tire.  I had already replaced tires on 4 (now 4.5)  of the 10 bikes in our household.  (Just chance that 4 had rolled up this year).  During the spring, a defective side wall on a new tire had resulted in a 3 flats over 2 days on our tandem (rear, of course).  In  any case I am back to carrying a spare folding on the tandem, along with 2 tubes, and patches.  Looking around the garage, only 2 bikes are up for for new tires next year.  Maybe I can upgrade some ancient cantilever brakes.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

My Anecdotal History of Tandem Braking

(Originally Posted on Tandem@Hobbes 5/28/2010)

This is based on 35 years of tandem riding experience and observation. 
First, keep in mind that a rear brake can slow a bike, but a front brake is what stops one.
In the the beginning, Cantilevers alone were inadequate (design, pad material and steel rims), so a third brake was added. (And there were some tire roll-out and blow-out stories on rim brakes alone.)
At first came some internal hub brakes (our first Gitane Interclub), then improved pads (Scott-Mathauser), Shimano had an early mechanical disc (originally on the Sting Ray and Orange Crate), Phil had a disc brake, and others.
Arai Drum "discovered" - became drum standard for the first "production" tandems of the early `80s.
Mountain bike boom, dramatically improved cantilevers, eventually leading to V-Brakes,
Which led the to the Third Brake no longer being "needed",
Which then led to new (anecdotal) tire blow-out stories due to overheating rims.
At the same time Performance tandem buyers speced improving side pulls on their 2nd and 3rd tandems.
At the same time Mountain bike market was driving more Disc Brake Improvement.
And Discs were being speced by weight conscious performance tandem buyers.
Probably some minor quibbles by some on the exact timeline, this is all IMHO, and YMMV.
The tandem braking paradox (or "Judicious" use) is this:
The faster you are willing to descend, the less likely you are to ever need a "drag" brake.  
For the faster descending team, aero braking, which increases at the square of velocity (overly simplified), takes care of all the potential energy that a slower descending team turns into heat with a drag brake. 
Now this works fine for the fast team until conditions (inclement weather, route, slower traffic, etc) place them in a situation where they need to rely on "drag" braking rather than aero braking, and they have no where to dump the potential energy (as heat) of their descent.  The laws of physics (even arm-chair physics) can be a harsh mistress.
(Other variable enter, of course.  Steeper, shorter descents in the midwest and eastern US, team weights on this forum from vary 230 to 450 lbs, rider skills, perceived risk and acceptance of risk. etc. etc.)
A follow-up comment resulted from the dialog that ensued.
Single to tandem braking comparison don't work, each has a unique braking dynamic. The single bike rider of the same weight will go into a header with the front braking force that can be applied on a tandem, due to the single bikes higher and more forward center of gravity. A descending tandem is capable of putting a much greater load on the brakes than is physically possible for a single. It isn't the total weight, but where the weight is located.
Just wanted it on file for future reference.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Smile Machine - A follow-up.

Early last spring a I submitted a story about our 1985 Santana Sovereign to Bicycle Garage Indy's (BGI) Your Bicycle, a web-to-post project I developed for BGI and hosted by Compendium Blogware.   Once a post has been up for a few months, it tends to slip from your mind.  So I was surprised to see a comment come in the other night from another mid-80's Sovereign owner.

From his comment, it sounds like the bike is still OEM - 27" wheels, non-index Sun Tour 6-Speed (18 speed triple!), having been in storage much of the time since purchase.  He also asked how the bike was for touring.  It was fun writing the reply:
Yes, we have ridden our Sovereign since we took delivery in 1985. It is currently in its third iteration, after being converted to 700c and Sun Tour Index after the first 10 years, and then converted to Shimano 7 speed in 2008 (you can follow that adventure here ). I updated the front stem and handlebars in 2009. I am looking for a replacement for the cranks and a possible change to 10 speed in the next year or two. 
Our Sovereign has over 28,000 miles on it. That includes over 3,000 touring miles (we had another 3,000 miles of tandem touring on prior tandems), another 2,000 miles with a Kid-back, and 2,000 miles pulling a Burley Trailer with a child. It also has 27 centuries, 1 RAIN and 1 STP. I am posting a lot of adventures and experiences in the coming months at
It has been a good bike and is almost part of the family.
We may have kept it too long for avid riders, but on the other hand, we made some career and family decision for our kids that let us stay avid riders.  All in all, it was a fair trade.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Think Tandem Going Live on NING, again

Since the Ning Network offered an extended enrollment plan, I have gone ahead and reactivated my Think Tandem network at their minimum level.  It will take 24 hours for it to post and update. I have a handful of members, and that lets me keep in touch with them while I build the rest of Think Tandem.  I can work on the plan to bring everything together - linked content here, comments, and hopefully other blog contributors, part of a nefarious plan. (Yes, Pinky . . .)

This also means I am now admin for two Ning networks, at two levels- Think Tandem (Mini), and Hoosiers Out on Tandem (Plus).  Maybe I can grow one to a Pro.  One good candidate for that is the Central Indiana Bicycle Association (, which had it's web site compromised this weekend.  A Pro account would have about 90% of the functionality they need, without apps or customization.

Not sure I will have another post or not before Hilly Hundred.  I will try to say hi get some tandem pictures while there.  I will be on a single, since this is Justin, our youngest, year to ride his single for the first time.  Don't worry, he is now 6'2", and not some tiny kid barely riding a straight.  Justin and tandem last together in 2008, and the 4 prior Hilly (at least 1 day).  Linda and I tandemed Hilly 3-4 time together in `80's as well.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Hi All

Not much tonight.  Setting testing for an RSS Feeder on

Thanks for your patience!

Friday, October 01, 2010

Building a network, one site at a time.

At it again, working on getting everything configured and up on running on both this blog, and my Think Tandem home page (  This includes getting all my long form content from Recumbent and Tandem Rider Magazine (my Tandem Lifestyle column and other reviews) updated and posted, along with all the background information from older iterations of Think Tandem.

You can also see that I blog for the Hoosiers Out on Tandems, the HOOTS, at , (with 160 tandem team members) an organization I also administer, and part of the Central Indiana Bicycle Association (  That also led to my being the webmaster for the 2010 Midwest Tandem Rally (

Of course (full disclosure) there are all the posts I write for Bicycle Garage Indy ( and BGI Fitness ( as the Marketing Manager.  And my wife Linda is also helping there with fitness related content.  You will find those all linked in the blogs I follow.

And then there is the Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Flickr and other stuff that gets managed.  I really have to diagram it all out to keep it scheduled.

On top of all this, it has been an interesting year for tandeming in our family.  Our sons Tyler and Justin have outgrown the stokid label now that they are both over 6 feet tall.  They will still ride, but have other interests they pursue in high school.   Linda was very focused on triathlons this year, and this required a refitting of our faithful Sovereign to her new riding style.  Bottom line, it will be my lowest tandem mileage year since 1980.  That encompasses over 40,000 tandem miles, and while not in the Rudy & Kay league, probably puts us in the 90th percentile of tandem experience.

Stay tuned, a lot of new stuff coming in the weeks and months ahead.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My TOSRV 2010, Part 1

It has been a couple of weeks, but the memories are still fresh from my 11th time to ride the Tour of Scioto River Valley  - TOSRV.  (That is 22 centuries, about a 5th of my total century rides).  it was my first time to ride a single bike since my first TOSRV in 1979.  It was also my first dry TOSRV in since 2005.    After picking up registration materials, I helped  Apres Velo, a client, with their booth at registration.  They had a very good evening with the large crowd.  From there, I connected for dinner with a friend from my Bellingham days, before crashing for the night. I woke up to 25 to 35mph winds of the west (cross winds) and temps in the low 50s.  The winds would  blow all day, but it would get warmer as we rode closer to Portsmouth.  

After dropping my overnight bag on the Shawnee State baggage truck and parking my car,  I added a layer (a good move).  I also decided to ride with a CamelBak, to allow hands-free drinking.  This was another good move with the gusting cross winds.  I was on the road at 8:15.  The first 10 miles from downtown were urban cycling, however, with many of the road projects of the last 5 years were complete, it was over smooth pavement with a lot fewer cones a barricades.  I made my first stop at the Scout camp at 10 miles out, and then moved on for Circleville.  The last 5 miles were brutal, and the wind break of town a welcome relief.  I rolled into the rest stop to find the longest lines I had ever seen, probably 4-500 people.  I still had plenty of water, and so I opened a cliff bar, and rod straight through;  a good move, since those 4-500 would now be behind me in the lunch line!  

The next 25 miles to to Chillicothe were probably the worst of the day.  The cross winds (with gusts up to 50 mph) made drafting or coasting down a hill almost impossible.  Much of the time i was riding leaned into the wind, like a tacking sailboat.  Riding into the open past a grove of trees or buildings would expose to winds that push you toward the center of the road.  The noise was mind numbing as well.  The one good things was the prior weeks rain prevented the bare fields from turning into dust storms.  I arrived in Chillicothe just before Noon,  to find no lunch lines.  I piled on fruit, meats and cheeses, along with a baked potato, before topping off water and Gatorade.  Then it was on for the next leg to Waverly.

The rolling hills of Three Locks Road is my favorite scenic section of TOSRV.  A bridge is being replaced at about the 70 mile mark, and the original plans were for complete detour around this section.  But just before the start of the ride a new detour, adding 10 new miles, bypassed only 3 miles of this section.  While it was an interesting change, there were 2 very good climbs in this new route, along with 5 miles directly into the westerly winds.  I arrived in Wavery with almost 80 miles, and over 30 to go.  (to be continued)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Back from TOSRV, Again

Another  TOSRV is complete.  This was my first time on single bike since 1979, with the 8 rides in between,  all on the front of a tandem.  This was a tough one, with gusty crosswinds on Saturday, and a very chilly headwind for the ride back to Columbus.  A planned detour added about 8-9 miles to the ride down. But riding with Marty and Dave (friends from my Lafayette days) on Sunday, we took the regular route, portaged the closed bridge, cutting back to only 109 miles.  So the total was about 220 or so.  (Unresolved cycle-computer problems leave the actual somewhat in doubt, messing with my somewhat OC mileage logging.)

Equipment was flawless.  I road the Motebecane Gran Sprint (new in spring 2008) with Ultegra shifters, derailleurs and cassette, FSA Triple and Vuetla wheels.  I was shifting a lot, and did use all 30 gears.  I was running an older set of Serfas 700x25s, wire beads, which have been around since my Chris Carmichael ride in June 2007, and on DALMAC in 2008, so they are on the high side of 2,500 miles.  Great tires for $25 to $30 retail.  I had hoped to add Fizik gel pads under new tape before the ride, but ran out of time.  But no hands problems, so that becomes another round tuit project.

It was a great time.  It was refreshing to see and talk to first timers;  I rode with Team Awesome out of Columbus from White Lake to Portsmouth, and one the riders was finishing her first TOSRV and first century.  And there were already a lot of people talking the 50th next year.  It should be a fun ride.