It has been over a year since we began riding the Salsa Powderkeg tandem and began talking about doing a big trip to make use of it’s wide tyre capacity, strong forks and high ground clearance.
The Bicycle Pedlar will be closed for the whole six weeks while we cycle tour in some sort of loop that will encompass the state of Queensland and is likely hit a border or two.
As part of our Powderkeg preparation, Mick is going to build a Rohloff hub into the rear wheel to replace the derailleur gear system. As the Captain on the front of the tandem who holds full responsibility for brake and gear changes, Mick is particularly excited about the ease of changing gears on the Rohloff, even when the bike is stationary. The low maintenance hub has less potential for damage too, something we appreciate when riding out the back of nowhere.
We have also changed pedal style. Up until the last few months, we were diligent ‘cleat riders’, wearing touring shoes that look similar to joggers, but have cleats on the bottom to click into the pedal, and are still okay to walk in off the bike. We have spent years talking about the efficiency of ‘clicking in’ and it’s benefit to your speed and capacity.
However, after all our encounters with fellow cycle tourers who just wear whatever footwear they have in the cupboard, we decided to give flat pedals a go. After all, when we are cycle touring, efficiency is not really our primary goal, but we do like having regular shoes to wear around town once we get there (makes me wonder about our Crocs…). If efficiency was that important to us, we wouldn’t carry our Helinox chairs, sleeping mats, mozzie coils, bottles of wine…
If you read about my recent cycle touring trip to Mount Isa, on which I had some issues with my flat pedals and sneakers you may wonder why we are persisting with the platform pedal idea.
We worked out that painful problem was due to the weird design of the platform pedals I was using, which have a centre crosspiece that is higher than the outside edge of the pedal. This causes a great deal of pressure to be placed on the ball of the foot causing numbness and pain. It may be just that I’m weird in this regard, but the problem was immediately fixed when we tried older flat pedals with a concave centre piece.
Our only concession to the pedalling efficiency bandwagon may be to add toe straps for me on the back of the tandem. There have been some memorable and hilarious moments when my unclipped feet have been sent flying off the pedals after hitting an unexpected bump or sudden awkward gear change. On these occasions I end up grasping wildly onto the handlebars after nearly being thrown off the saddle, helmet askew, with one leg sticking out either side, yelling at Mick to stop pedalling so I can put my feet back where they belong. This is the only time the old and worn out ‘SHE’S NOT PEDALLING!’ joke could be applicable!
The Salsa Powderkeg was never going to remain as it came ‘off the shelf’. As we test out more wild and wonderful ideas, we will let you know.
And if you think of any other tandem jokes, feel free to pass them on, we’re ready for a change!