This was Caroline's idea.
Downhill + tailwind = smiles Photo by Walt Anderson
"What if we did the Divide on a tandem?" she asked one afternoon, seemingly completely out of the blue. Apparently she had been pondering this for some time.
"Um, we don't have a tandem," I replied. She had caught me very off guard in more ways than one. I'm sure at that moment, I was probably pondering about an upcoming field trip to Utah for one of my classes. And I had been training specifically for the Whiskey 50, a big event held right here in our little town. I had been doing intervals, and lots of them. Between that and work, long rides had been few and far between.
Oh yeah, and a tandem was not among our small fleet of bicycles. I should also point out that she had never ridden one, and I only had years ago while working at Blaine Velo Sports and occasionally assembling one.
Someone is skeptical
We discussed the idea a bit more over the following days. I recalled racing against JayP and Tracey in the 2009 Tour Divide and seeing both how much they suffered on the climbs and snow slogs and how much fun they were having on less demanding segments.
The logical questions were all raised, mostly by me: Would you actually want to race it? Do you think you will enjoy sitting behind me for two and a half weeks? Do you realize how bad I'm going to smell a week in, just inches from your nose? Oh yeah, and where are we going to get a tandem? And how would we pay for it?
Finally I was convinced to send out some emails to a few friends in the bike industry and see if I could come up with any leads. One of those emails was to Kid Riemer at Salsa. I didn't expect he'd have any good leads, but within minutes of clicking "Send," a reply popped up in my inbox.
"I'm on it," was all that Kid wrote.
When Kid says that, wheels soon begin to turn. I was struck by a passing wave of panic. Caroline had reached an agreement: If we could come up with tandem without having to open our wallets, we'd race the Divide in June. I honestly had not expected we'd be able to come up with a fully built rig, but Kid was on to something.
A week later, Kid informed me that Salsa had some prototype tandem frames, one of which might fit Caroline and me. He and the crew at Salsa took a couple weeks to iron out some details, and by early May, the frame known as Big Blue and several boxes of parts were on their way to Preskitt. And White Brothers had already sent us a tandem-specific version of their new LOOP fork. Uh oh.
For readers curious about the component build, I'll give just a few details here and say this right up front - the parts we've gone with on this rig were chosen specifically for their combination of dependability, durability, and weight (none of these companies help us out in any way): a Rohloff internally geared rear hub (on a Rohloff-specific Alternator dropout!), Wipperman ConneX chains, SRAM X0 cranks on GXP bottom brackets, XT brakes with 203 mm rotors, DT Swiss 350 front hub, NoTubes Flow rims with discontinued Michelin Wilderac'r tires, XT pedals, Cane Creek 110 headset (ok, Cane Creek does help us out, but I wouldn't use anything else either way!), and then the correct bars, stems, and seatposts to put us in the correct positions.
We can't thank Salsa, White Brothers, and Revelate Designs enough for making this adventure possible. We're not at all sure what it's going to bring, but if it's anything like our recent rides on the bike, it's going to be a ton of fun and a hell of a lot of work. And I must say, I couldn't be happier to have Caroline sitting right behind me and cranking on the pedals. She's tough as nails and doesn't give up for anything.