My Progress

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Ah Serenity, you are anything but so far...

Ah Serenity…  Reality was anything but serene however.  As a bike she has yet to live up to her name.  Maybe P.I.T.A. would be a better name for her.

My wife, Vicky and I were in the market for the ultimate bike geek couples bike, a tandem.  We’ve had upright tandems before and knew we were compatible on tandems.  I call out the pot holes and surprises; she doesn’t smack me in the back of the head!  However since we have to be different, we were looking for the oddball of oddballs, a recumbent tandem.  Talk about a truly niche market, we were looking for something that was a niche within a niche within a niche.  Truly we were looking in a very limited market.  Let’s just say that the pickings on the used market were a little slim.

We ended up doing a lot of reading, research, and picking of other tandem rider’s minds to see what was going to suit us best.  Since what we were looking for just was not going to found at just about any local bike shop there wasn’t going to be a whole lot of test riding to do.  Fortunately when it comes to recumbent tandems there aren’t that many manufactures or models in current production out there to choose from, Rans has two models, Volae has one, and every now and then John Morcigliio does a custom one off.
A Morciglio classic

We settled fairly quickly on the idea of a Rans Seavo  for two main reasons, both wheels are the same size and there was one local to us to test ride.  The wheel size issue was a big deciding point for me, I like not having to stock and carry multiple tires and tubes for one bike.
A Rans Seavo in green

We missed two bikes that were in the used market by a day each.  One was in St Joseph Missouri and the other was in Wichita Kansas, both of those within driving distance to pick one up.  But due to funding issues, (scraping up the cash) and actually making the decision to purchase we missed both bikes by less than 24 hours.  One of the two bikes had been on the market for 2 ½ years and it sold hours before we decided to commit to it. 
Our next option was to buy a new bike.  The penny pinching part of me rebelled at this as I like getting a deal and saving money as much if not more so than the next person.

Somewhere in the back of my mind was also the thought of keeping the whole deal simple.  Show up, give someone money, ride off on bike, see?  Nice and simple!  Unfortunately nothing I seem to do is simple.  There is an easy way to do things, a hard way to do them, and then the Dave way, (which is usually harder and more expensive).

Soon a Rans dealer was located, a paint color chosen, a parts list written up and a deal negotiated.

A quick note on the dealer we used.  He is a good guy, he runs a good shop.  He was just way out of his comfort zone on a tandem build.  I should have asked more questions, I should have done more research and found a shop with a lot more tandem building experience.  I don't lay any blame with the dealer.  Hind sight being 20/20, it was an almost comical cascade of problems.

September 21st Vicky and I attended a recumbent event hosted by the dealer who ordered our bike and was to have done the build.  We were bringing the wheels and the plan had been to pop the wheels onto the bike, adjust the brakes, adjust the derailleurs and go ride.  Yea, plans, so much for the best laid plans.  What we ended up bring home was the Rans Seavo frame with some parts mounted to it, a box  of some of the other parts and a wrong seat.

The build for the bike involved the following:

  •   Three different bike mechanics, (not counting myself)
    • Their bribes of:
      • Jack Daniels Green Label
      • a six pack of beer
      • two dozen bagels
      • a gallon of coffee
      • a $20 bill
  •  Trips to five different local shops for unexpected and unplanned for needs
  • Four fingers and a big water glass of Knob Creek Rye whiskey and doing something I have not done in 25+ years
  • More swearing than you would hear in a Marine Infantry Brigade.

The laundry list of "challenges" in the build is long but here are the highlights.

  •  The bottom brackets were missing spacer rings.  No really that isn't a new self adjusting chainline, it's just someone forgot to space the bottom bracket cups properly.
  • A missing headset, Rans said the bike came with one, it didn't.
  • The new short reach riser for the captain's handlebars.  Opps, someone put the riser on backwards.
  • The auto eject feature for the captains seat complete with auto eject screws holding the brackets on that hold the seat to the bike.
  • Rans forgot to ship seat mesh for both seats, (let's hope that they pay a little more attention to their airplanes)
  • The random chain, really a nine speed chain spliced in with a ten speed chain, spliced into an unknown chain really doesn't work well.
  • Shifters and derailleurs really work better if the shifter cable isn't shattered, (housing strands broken and poking out of the ferrules.
  • Brakes stop better when the correct adapters are ordered, especially when you ask the dealer three different times if they ordered the correct adapters.
  • A rear derailleur that when the lower limit screw is adjusted to stop the chain from being thrown into the spokes on the lowest gear, won't let the bike shift into the highest gear.  (That one issue caused all sorts of headaches).  Thankfully Dreadlock Mike at Richardson Bike Mart is the Albert Einstein of derailleurs.
  • And finally a really nice wheelset  that was sourced off Ebay.  All the specifications indicated it was a 145 mm rear hub, the auction listed it as a 145, the bike it was built for uses a 145 rear hub, the hub manufacture builds 145 mm rear hubs.  Nope not mine however.   It's some sort of mutant space alien 155 mm rear hub.  Yay!  That meant a new rear wheel overnighted from the land of cheese and beer, and a new axle kit for the original rear wheel as well as a future date with a shop to get the axle installed and the wheel re-dished.

Finally though the build is done, it's finally a bike!  Monday evening was our maiden voyage, 10.5 miles of seat slipping, gears crunching, stopping and adjusting joy.  Let's just say I am hoping she will settle down and live up to her name after all, she had better, we're stuck with her.


  1. Wondering why you bought the RANS instead of the Volae. Rolf and Barb Garthus (Hostel Shoppe owners) are dedicated tandem riders and have designed the Venture for the utmost in tandem riding. HS is meticulous in their bike setup and I bet you would not had any of the issues with the Venture that you had with the Seavo. IMO the Venture has much better seats than the Seavo. There's a couple on BROL that went from a Screamer to a Venture and just love it. Say their average speed has increased dramatically over the Screamer.

    1. John, I really should check in more often! Sorry it's taken me a while.

      We went with the Seavo over a Screamer or the Volae Venture due to the wheel size. I'm a big fan of commonality of parts, tires and tubes and didn't want to deal with different sizes of wheels on one bike.

      Also we have friends in the DFW area who where kind enough to let us demo their Seavo for a ride, unfortunately we weren't able to find a Venture to try out.

      The other problem with going to Wisconsin and picking up the Venture is I would have went nuts loading up on beer and cheese up there, (I lived in Wisconsin for several years and still miss the beer and cheese!).

      8 months later and Serenity is living up to her name, This Saturday we're all, (my wife, myself, & Serenity) are all headed to Tour de Paris in Paris Texas for hopefully 57 miles, our longest ride yet.