MG and I arrived back in Boulder, Colo. at the end of the Colorado High Country 1200K last July and happily dismounted our trusty coupled steel Co-Motion Speedster tandem. Little did we know that day would be the last we’d turn the pedals on our steel stallion.
During packing the next day, I discovered a deep scratch through the weld at the junction of the stoker seat tube and the top tube. I didn’t recall any mishap that would have caused it, and it was not in a straight line. That was a bad sign.
After getting it home to Washington and then to our shop College Park Bicycles, manager Charles P. quickly confirmed my fears — the tube had cracked. Inside the seat tube we discovered more cracks at the junction of the top tube.
This discovery seemed to explain a random clicking we heard from that area over the previous few months. I’d grease the inside of the tube and it would go away, but then come back again.
I was reminded of Rivendell Bicycles’ founder Grant Petersen’s praise of steel bicycle tubing, in that it fails slowly. Thinking back to the start of the clicking problem, we probably put 4,000 miles or more on the bike with the crack developing, including the 750 miles over the Colorado Rockies.
This was sad news for us. We had purchased the Speedster as a custom in 2006 with plans to ride Paris-Brest-Paris on it the following year. That didn’t work out, but we got her over to PBP in 2011 and had a terrific ride. By the time we finished the High Country ride we had something like 25,000 miles on it.
Highlights of our time include events large and small, brevets, lots of mini-tours of up to two weeks, and of course those relaxing Sunday coffee rides out to Potomac, Md. and jaunts with friends new and old.
What happened next?
The bike went back to its birthplace in Eugene, Ore. where Co-Motion co-owner Dwan Shepherd co-operated (ha!) fully with us on a warranty resolution. He gave us the option of a free repair or a very generous credit toward a new frameset.
A new frame was tempting because we had at times wanted to use bigger tires — beyond 700 x 32s — or put heavier loads than we could on the Speedster. As the name implies, the Speedster is intended primarily for lightly loaded road riding.
My attention was drawn to the revamped Java 29er tandem Co-Motion unveiled in 2011, which could take big 700 x 2.0 tires that will let us explore dirt roads and less-technical trails. I learned that Phil, the main mechanic at College Park Bicycles and a tandem rider, had ordered the Java with a lateral tube for extra strength.
We decided to go with that option ourselves, and Dwan made it work out financially for us. He also included some design elements I wanted, like downtube shifter bosses and brazeons for a Nitto small front rack. It will be perfect for brevets and such, while also being stiff enough to take four panniers over mountain roads.
MG is still sad about the loss of the Speedster, because it fit her so well. We got the longest rear top tube that would still fit in an S&S travel case and for her the extra room let her stretch out and lean forward. It’s longer than any production tandem, including our Cannondale MTB tandem, A.K.A. The Lead Sled.
The new tandem arrived this week and is being built up by Phil and we’ll get it out on the road soon. We changed the color from the Speedster, to a more subtle Pewter. Notice the oversize top tube.
We’ll always have fond memories of the Speedster, though. So long, friend, you did well!