This was forecast to be one of the, if not the, hottest days of the year. It was also our first long ride on the new tandem – a 63 mile trip involving some steep gradients, notably the 10% climb of Tram Hill that takes one up to Brill itself and so representing a test of gears and brakes. The ride itself was something of a shakedown ride, being an opportunity to make sure that the bike was spot on in its setup for both riders – very important, given that the intention is to tour on this bike.
Prior to the ride, I’d fitted four bottle cages (we took three 750ml bottles on the day), and the handlebar bag. In fitting the handlebar bag I’d rotated the front bars in the stem to help the cable runs, which changed the angle of the grips and bar ends. This made the bars more comfortable. While out on the run, we stopped three times, to adjust the stoker’s seat angle, and on one of the stops we also adjusted her handlebar angle. By the end of the day she was happy with the angle of the saddle, and the remaining adjustments will probably involve trimming the length of the stoker handlebars.
We had no problems getting up (or down) any of the gradients. I tried to use the full range gears, but didn’t need the very bottom gears or the top gears. The Rohloff hub continues to perform well in all respects, except the gear shifter seems a bit vague about which gear is engaged (the raven that is the pointer sometimes seems to be between numbers!). I’m particularly pleased with have thing three stopping brakes. By this, I mean that on the Dawes we have an Arai drag brake (which is for slowing down on descents, not actually stopping) and two cantilevers. Unfortunately the rear cantilever is rather spongy. I’ve been thinking that the reliance on the front brake has been the real cause of the two front tyre blowouts we’ve had in the last couple of years. On the Thorn tandem, both front and rear V-brakes are very effective stoppers, as is the Hope hydraulic disc brake on the rear wheel. On this ride, I was trying to use the rear V-brake, which takes a little practice as it’s controlled by a thumb shifter (I think it’s actually a bar end gear lever on friction). The added confidence inspired by having three fully functional brakes is huge, and also gives me confidence in Thorn’s FAQ on braking tandems!
We had intended after the ride to have a go with taking the frame apart and packing the bike in the car. But I was distracted by Stage 9 of the Tour de France and we were both somewhat singed by the sunny conditions and, dare I say it, rather tired. So that will have to wait until part 4 of this review. I’m still very pleased with the new tandem. So far we’re ridden to work and back a few times, had a couple of short tester runs – but this was the first ‘serious’ outing, and it was genuinely smile-inducing.
No photos. Unfortunately when I tried, I discovered that all three sets of batteries had run down!