The Spectrum Tandem, Bowie, and the Snow

Last week was a weird and long one. The death of David Bowie on Sunday hit me harder than I expected.

I saw Bowie perform twice. The first time was on the first U.S. stop of his monster Serious Moonlight tour in 1983, at the US Festival in California; there were 300,000 people there. Like many in the crowd, I suppose, I was a recent convert, having been drawn in by the Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) and Let’s Dance albums.

My Vantage Point during Bowie's US Festival show

My Vantage Point during Bowie’s US Festival show

The show was a revelation in what rock music could be — both powerful and artistic. It was at that time and remains for me the most electric rock concert I’ve seen; a standard in terms of theatrics and raw rock sound that nobody else has equaled.

Up to then I’d always been a fan of his sound but I was more into the hits than his albums. I realized why his fans were so ardent.

I was on Team Bowie until I saw him at Merriweather Post Pavilion outside DC in 1990 on his Sound+Vision Tour, which was supposed to be his last tour singing his big hits. That experience was a letdown; he appeared to be disinterested.

After that Bowie’s output didn’t register, until the release of the Blackstar album on Jan. 8. It had that Bowie weirdness that caught my ear. It seemed Bowie was back in form — at age 69 — pushing current rock artists to do something really new (looking at you, James Murphy!).

Then his surprise death kind of knocked me down. The guy had cancer, kept it secret, recorded one final album about it, plus two eerie videos, then died two days after the release. This was an artistic act nobody else would pull off. Who does that?

Johnny Cash recorded three albums in his final years, but it was known that he was ill and was racing time.

As long as Bowie was still recording, it felt like I still had a living link to those days of youth; all that’s gone now. But we have something else.

Bowie’s final gift was his challenge to us to create, to push our own and society’s limits, while we still have time, right up until the final day.

I’m starting to dig into Bowie’s back catalog to hear the songs that didn’t get into compilations. I’m also interested to see whether renewed public attention to his work will spur some of today’s artists toward bolder directions.

The next album from Arcade Fire should be interesting and so should one planned by Murphy and his renewed LCD Soundsystem. Murphy played on Blackstar, so I hope that experience will have an impact.

Even in death, I believe Bowie is going to move rock music in ways we can’t yet predict.

The end of work on Friday came none too soon. With a three-day holiday weekend ahead, Mary and I got out the car on Saturday to take our new Spectrum road tandem back to Tom Kellogg’s workshop in Breinigsville, Pa. for a small fix.

The view from the car roof (courtesy Mary G)

The view from the car roof (courtesy Mary G)

He used internal cable routing for the rear brake and on our second ride the sleeve started to make a metallic noise inside the frame when we went over a bump. By phone, Tom suspected the sleeve was hitting a set of bottle cage bolt bosses that protrude into the frame tube.

Tom brought us into the warm confines of his shop at his rural home, and quickly confirmed the noise source was that sleeve. While we went to lunch, he injected some expanding insulation foam into the frame tube, which isolated the sleeve and stopped the noise.

We had a nice visit afterwards where we talked about bikes and riding. Tom gave us some free T-Shirts for our trouble.

A souvenir from Tom

A souvenir from Tom

On Sunday we decided to ignore the gloomy forecast for snow showers and took out the Spectrum, with Ted N., to Leesburg via the W&OD Trail. The skies were dark grey but the temperatures were enough above freezing, so we kept on going after Ted turned back in Vienna, about 20 miles out.

Not snowing, yet

Not snowing, yet

The frame noise was gone, so we were glad about that. The whole bike rolls really smoothly. It’s appropriately stiff but not as rigid as our Cannondale MTB tandem (super-stiff) or our Co-Motion Java (very stiff), and has a more agile feeling in turns.

By the time we got to Leesburg snow flurries had started and were gaining intensity, but were still melting on the ground, so we were OK. After getting hauled over the Potomac on White’s Ferry we rode through a fair squall and got cold and a little wet. This was a bummer! Riding a century in the January cold is never easy, is it?

You can see our ride details at my Garmin Connect page.

Waiting on White's Ferry

Waiting on White’s Ferry

The tandem discount. One bike, not two riders!

The tandem discount. One bike, not two riders!

We warmed up in Poolesville at the McDonalds while the snow tailed off, and by the time we got home in late afternoon the sun had come out. We rode around the neighborhood to make it an exact century, 100.0 miles, right outside our door so that we could claim some bragging rights on the Freezing Saddles challenge.

Warmup at McDonalds

Warmup at McDonalds

I’ll write up a separate post on buying a custom steel tandem; it took a long time to get and costs a lot, and then you find out how it rides. After our first century, in the snow, we’re satisfied, and expect the feeling to grow.

The Spectrum's first ride on Whites Ferry

The Spectrum’s first ride on Whites Ferry

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5 thoughts on “The Spectrum Tandem, Bowie, and the Snow

  1. Thanks for your comments about David Bowie. For some reason I never followed him. But it was good to go listen to some of the Serious Moonlight tour on youtube. Much harder rock than I remember! Of course that lead to Blackstar, which I’m not sure what to make of. It had echoes back to the Dead’s Dark Star but it also had echoes to Lou Reed’s Magic and Loss, which I listened to over and over again back in the 90’s. Sublime. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLLEK6Qbx0lYj9-JUh421pEMXn5exJiCOm

  2. Wow, I skip a month or so and you suddenly have a Spectrum tandem! Man, that’s nice! I hope you liked your visit to “the barn”. I have never been there but I have seen it numerous times in Tom’s videos that you can access from his website. Ceci and I lived in PA before moving to VA but I never got over to Tom’s shop. Speaking of new bikes, I just received my aluminum Zanconato and it’s excellent in British racing green. That will be it for me though – 3 bikes is enough!

    I understand what you mean when you say that Bowie’s death hit you harder than you would have guessed. You probably never expected it and when someone dies that I know but did not even remotely expect, it always hits me hard.

    Have a great spring and ride that Spectrum into the ground!
    Dave Albecker

  3. I’ve been watching your blog and look forward to hearing more about your new tandem, it is beautiful and I love that it isn’t a fair weather ride. It will be interesting to hear how you’ve spec’ed it out etc. When we relocated to Pennsylvania I visited Tom’s shop a few times and I had him refinish my 82 Eddy Merckx after a mover destroyed the finish by just throwing in into the truck with no regard to what he was handling during that relocation.

    • Hi Paul,

      just seeing your comment now. I’ve not attended to the blog this summer, so forgive the delayed response. I’ll get around to a post on the tandem. We’re very happy with the way it rides. It has some ideosyncracies that I noticed at first but don’t think much about anymore, like the way the cables are routed, forward-facing front dropouts, things like that. Anyway, thanks for writing, we’re glad we bought it.

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