Bikepacking with the kiddo

School ended here on Wednesday, and I was off Thursday and Friday. My son has been talking about wanting to take the tandem and ride to Camden (I feel like we’re gonna get some good tongue twisters out of this idea) for about half the year, but I told him that a ride like that, even if you take a few days, requires some shorter practice runs to serve as training. He was down with that. Almost two years ago we attempted a trip to Freeport, one way, on our own individual bikes, but that was during a chillier time of year and we underprepared just enough to make it unpleasant. We still went fourteen miles before the wife came and picked us up. And we did have fun. He even mentioned some of the snacks we’d brought on that trip when we were planning this one.

In between he has done a lot of riding around with me, and we’ve gone on a few group rides that cover 10-20 miles. He’s into it, and he feels (properly) like a badass when we go out on the bike.

When I first got rid of my personal car I was limited by how far Ezra could ride if I didn’t want to do some sort of vehicular shuffle with my wife to get him from place to place. But since getting the tandem it’s been such a wonderful change. We can just chat, and boy does he love to chat! Plus that inherent closeness of a tandem means it’s not work to stay together or ride side by side, and no moving over and into single file occasionally when cars pass. PLUS I got him clipless shoes and pedals so he’s attached to the bike and can’t slack without me noticing. It is rarely an issue, though, to be honest. He’s pretty tough, and if he’s feeling tired I usually am too, so he helps me remember to stop and rest. We usually have great chats with folks we meet while we’re just chilling for a moment.

So what I’m trying to say is that he’s very familiar with the tandem, and he was super psyched to be doing this thing. He’s been listening to me talk about wanting to take a solo trip of a few days and just wander, but this ended up being the first such trip for both of us, and I’m so glad he was there to share it with me. He’s a lot of fun to hang out with.

I had originally planned to pack and prepare a day or two ahead of time, but with this being the last few days of school and things being so hectic all around, that didn’t much happen. But I did make a Don’t Forget list, and I only forgot a couple of things, nothing too important*. You don’t need forks or spoons to eat hot dogs and s’mores.

So on the day I woke up and gathered all the stuff I would need in a little pile. I tried to be as minimalist as possible, and I don’t think I brought anything we didn’t use. We brought a small, 2 person tent, a couple sleeping bags, most of a change of clothes, swim suits, and a few small things to keeps us occupied. I took my time loading up the packs and getting everything on the bike, so we ended up leaving after noon, but I had been aiming for 11am, so it wasn’t way behind schedule. I was concerned that the bike might handle poorly with so much extra weight loaded on the back, but it felt no different, really. The extra pounds might’ve even helped give us some momentum to keep rolling on the flats. We met up with my wife as we were getting onto Route 1 to pick up my helmet that I’d left in her car. Then we were off on a leisurely ride north.

We took Route 1 for a while, then veered onto 88 to keep the traffic light and the views scenic. That met back up with 1 in Yarmouth where we stopped into Rosemont market to see a friend (who wasn’t working), then had lunch at Otto’s pizza. After that we had a pretty straight shot into Freeport, although we did stop for a short rest around 3pm to try to play HQ, but the connection failed us.

We stopped at Bow Street market in Freeport to grab hotdog and s’mores fixins, then we had the final push through the hilliest part of the ride. We only had to walk the bike up one quarter of one hill, so I’d call that a success. We had really been casual in our pacing, so we arrived around 4:20, almost four hours after leaving Portland. We got checked in, found our site, unpacked and set up the tent, then headed to the office and café for fire wood and some French fries. However, without thinking we got the fries first, and by the time we were done the office was closed, so we couldn’t get firewood. My son stopped a gentleman on an ATV and I asked if we could get some wood, but the guy said he had a bunch and he lived nearby, so we told him our site number and he brought us a bundle for free! Thank goodness, too, because we had no other means of cooking our meal that evening.

We got back, built our fire, then chilled out and goofed around. We wandered down by the water and found some horseshoe crab shells. I taught Ezbert to shuffle playing cards. Then we cooked a couple of pouches of veggies in the coals and some corn on the cob, and finally we made hotdogs. We rode back to the office once again to wash up and do our bathroom stuff (*which was very minimal since I left behind all toiletries). We hung out a bit more, then climbed into our tent and I read a chapter from The Tao of Pooh (my father is currently reading it, so I’m refreshing my memory in order to answer any of his questions. And Ez was interested), then turned off our cool, inflatable, solar powered lamp and went to bed.

Now, I did make a couple obvious mistakes in my planning and execution. I had two sleeping pads, one twin sized and one queen sized. The queen wouldn’t fit in my little tent. *Rather than look for another small one, or even just buying an inflatable pool floaty, I opted to let the kid have the pad and I would just sleep on the softest part of the ground. Well guess what, there IS no softest part of the ground. So I lay there zoning out until I finally got exhausted enough to fall asleep around 2am. Ez did a better job.

We woke up at 7:30 and I sent the kid out to do some bird watching while I caught 30 blissful minutes of sleep on the pad. Then we packed up much of the camp and went over to the café for some breakfast sandwiches and yogurt. The food here is really good, and the fries were especially so. After that we loaded up the bike and headed on out for our ride home.

My phone was almost dead, so no pics of the return trip. You’ll just have to trust that I made it home and am not currently wandering through some alternate dimension with my son, solving mysteries and using our newly found super powers for good (mostly). Would that this hoodie were a time hoodie!

Once again we had to walk up one of the hills, but again just a little bit at the end, and it was the last hill before we were back in Freeport. We stopped at the market to get snacks and some Gatorade, and the kid ended up chatting with the lady who had checked us out the day before and telling her all about our trip. She was also a cyclist and was very enthusiastic, which suits Ezra well. Once we got back on the road properly we ended up just taking route one all the way home. We stopped to rest a few times but ultimately made it home in under two hours. Our last stop was just before Back Cove at a lemonade stand run by two little girls. No ice unfortunately, but it still hit the spot, or at least somewhere near the spot. When we pulled into the house I quickly unloaded everything off the bike and took it upstairs. We checked ourselves over for ticks, and then showered and finally brushed our teeth.

I have to say, because if I don’t people might think I am torturing my child, that on the way there and especially on the way home my son kept repeatedly yelling about how much fun he was having and how glad he was that we were doing this. It really made me feel like I was doing something right as a father. To be fair that is not always the case. His one and only complaint was that his butt hurt by the time we got home. This is not a huge surprise since I don’t have any really appropriate seats for long distance writing that I can put on that tandem. But even before we went on this ride I was already searching for something that I knew would work well for him in the stoker position. As luck would have it I found that and something perhaps even better the following day, but that is a story for another time.

My son and I always manage to have fun when we are out on adventures together, and this was no different. Later this summer he wants to do some more long rides that involve camping, so here’s hoping I can get my shit together and make that happen before school starts up again.


Minor Tandem Update

   I looked over the rear seatpost and found that it is actually in good shape. There was a bent up aluminum shim around the top part and that made it look a little jacked up. But I removed that and cleaned it up, tightened the seat clamp and ta da!  I also got a better look at the weird clamp mechanism dangling from the rear seatpost, and it appears to be more or less intact, but missing a semicircular wedge piece that would form the bottom half of the clamp.  The seatpost itself has some spring to it for shock absorption, and that all seems to be in working order. 

   I also scraped off the jockey wheels and lubed the derailleurs and the chains. I checked the chains for wear, but both are totally fine. The brake pads also seem to be original and very much not worn. I need to look into it, but there’s a small (adjustment?) screw on each brake pad that I imagine might be used to adjust the angle for toe in.  

   I took the rear seat post to the Gear Hub and dug around in a box of parts, and I did find a wedge that should work. It was a millimeter or so too wide to fit between the two screws on the clamp, but luckily I recently purchased a bench grinder, so when I got home I put on my safety goggles and my work gloves and my denim jacket (and I finished attaching the protective shields to the wheel) and I carefully ground it down on both sides until it fit. Then I went ahead and switched out the front saddle onto that clamp and put the whole thing on the bike. 

   I had an old Avocet laying around, so I put that on the front of the bike just to give me something to ride on for now. If I ever plan to take a long ride with someone I’ll probably switch it out for one of my regular saddles. And it’s an old fashioned clamp mechanism on the front seat, so I will have to get one that adjusts easier to replace the front one. But on the bright side, I should be able to turn that old clamp upside down and put a saddle on there, then keep that one handy for rides with Ezra. By reversing the clamp and flipping it the saddle height in the rear becomes and inch or so lower, and that should just about allow Ezra to reach the pedals and ride comfortably as a stoker. Then when I want to ride with an adult I can just switch out the whole rear seat post. Quick and easy!

   I did a little bit of test riding today since the sun decided to come out. The rear derailleur works well, but I had trouble shifting the chain onto the largest cog. The jockey wheel was bumping up against it. It’s possible that the chain will need to be on the smallest chainring in order to get there, but the front derailleur also needed some adjusting and I ran out of time. Boo!  The shifting was smooth, though, otherwise. The bike will need a thorough cleaning, then I’ll re-lube everything and give it another go. And I still need to adjust the position of the two sets of crank arms so they are in synch. Either way I’m still really happy with the purchase. I feel like I found pretty much what I was looking for, and it doesn’t require any major work to get it rideable. Now I just need some good weather, some spare time, and a friend with the same. 

A Random Tandem

I finally found a tandem!  And I bought that tandem!  I have been looking on Craigslist and elsewhere for the perfect starter tandem. I have no guarantee that my wife will be for realz down with riding, and my son is still at least one growth spurt away from being stoker sized, so I couldn’t possible spend multiple hundreds of dollars on a bike that I’m unlikely to ride by myself. But I also didn’t want to get something too cumbersome or too crappy since that wouldn’t really create the kind of tandem experience I seek. So I contacted a few people and asked a few questions, but nothing I found really fit the bill. Then I went in for my Bike Swap orientation on Saturday evening and lo and behold!  The KHS Tandemania Comp from, I believe, 1995. 

   I’m not very familiar with the KHS brand, but I’m getting there now that I have a good reason. And as a side note, just like when you learn a new factoid and suddenly it starts to come up everywhere, I have seen so many KHS bikes around town in the last 24 hours. It’s a Taiwanese brand that makes some decent, affordable bikes. Solidly middle of the road, and reliable enough that they don’t come up for sale used as often as many more expensive brands. 

   This one needs a new rear seat post and a saddle to go on it, but other than a cleaning and a tune up it doesn’t seem to need much else.  I’m planning to move the current saddle to the rear since I’ve ridden on an identical one before and I think my wife will like it. I’ll probably just transfer my C17 to that one whenever we’re going to go for a ride. 

   I’m really looking forward to working on this thing!  It will all have to be done in the front yard since it can’t make it up to my attic workshop.  It’s all Deore components, which ain’t too bad no matter what decade they’re from. Tandems are different in some obvious ways, and this one has an eccentric bottom bracket in the front, which I’ve seen before, but never personally experienced or dealt with. I’ll need to do some research ahead of time, which only makes it more exciting for me. But mostly I’m looking forward to riding it. 

   I did get a taste of it on the night I bought it. I don’t have a tandem rack for my car, and I’m not even sure my car can take one without some other support structure in place. So I ended up riding the bike home from the orientation meeting, then going back for my regular bike afterwards. The bike rode well and the brakes were more than sufficient for just my weight.  It was a little weird riding on the clipless pedals with regular shoes, but I managed. And I think I have some pedal-correct shoes someplace.  I shifted the rear derailleur a little bit, and it worked alright, but far from smooth. Though in the end I didn’t feel like the hearing was bad. Riding in the middle range felt like riding other bikes I’ve owned in the past. The rear end felt a little odd, but the weight and acceleration felt very familiar and natural. So that’s a plus!

   I’ve got a couple things I’d like to get for this, mainly to aid in my wife’s future comfort. Fenders and a rack of some sort for starters. So I’ll have to post an update later on.