Larry - We're just 9 weeks away from the start of THE BIG RIDE. Preparations continue, but have begun to level off as we've just about accumulated all the stuff' we'll need for the trip.
Martha's prep concerns differ from my own and mine from hers. As mentioned in earlier posts, she's in charge of technology for the ride and I'm responsible for making sure everything on the bike works or I have the necessaries on board (and the expertise) to fix stuff that breaks.
I am admittedly a bit of a gear head. I'm constantly tweaking small things that I think will make the bike run more reliably and, just as importantly, comfortably. To that end I've installed some lower gearing in the form of an 11-36 cassette to go with 48-36-24 chainrings. That gives us a very wide range of gearing (18 gear inches to over 120 gear inches). That's kind of the tandem way. Tandems are like tractor trailer trucks out on the interstate. We're pretty steady on the flats, labor on the ups and are scary fast on the downs. We need those wide ranging gears. We use 'em all.
I've had lots of stokers over the years. None of them ever complained that the tandem's gears were too low. Carrying all the stuff that goes with THE BIG RIDE makes for a heavy bike and there will be plenty of hills and mountains to get over. It's nice to be able to spin up the tough climbs without burning your legs up. I think it's very important at our stage of life to protect your body so it can live to fight another day.
In addition to lower gears, I've reinstalled the Arai drum brake. Drum brakes are pretty much unique to tandems. Tandems have twice the mass of a regular bike and only slightly more frontal area. That's why they're so fast on downhills. Downhill braking on extended descents (read mountains) can overheat the rims and cause a tire blowout. High speed blowouts are no fun. I've had a couple and was very lucky to stay up. Disc brakes can't take the tremendous heat that a descending tandem creates. The disc warps and the rotors melt. That's where the drum brake comes in. It's just like the drum brake on a car. It can take the heat and not degrade. With a thumb controller, I can adjust the degree of grab on a long descent and sit up, the bike under control, and enjoy the scenery. The drum does get super hot. At the end of a big descent, a squirt of water on it vaporizes instantly! Do not touch!! The bad thing is that Arai has quit making those brakes - such a niche market and such. A real loss for us tandemists without any other manufacturer yet having stepped in with a comparable replacement.
While I've been gearheading, Martha's been fashionistaing. I've the noticed the UPS truck stopping at our house on a steady basis. Martha's started to lay out her tour clothes on one of the extra beds. She's given it a lot of thought and has come up with outfits that will see double, even triple, duty as we go along. And, unlike my hodgepodge of mix and mostly mismatched tour threads, Martha has color coordinated ensembles! What a bike babe she is! In addition to shirt, skirts and jackets, Martha is all over the shoe thing. Like most women, Martha really, really like shoes. THE BIG RIDE planning has been a shoe challenge for her. Only two pair? Horrors! How about three? She's only a size 4. Three pair of hers weigh less that 2 pair of mine. Three it is.