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More Magic Fairy Dust, Please

by Pamela Blalock


Magic Fairy Dust™ is the stuff that comes with new bikes (and occasionally even new used bikes) that makes them fly along seemingly without much human effort for the first few rides. You know the feeling. The first time you take that new bike out, you just fly along as if by magic. But after a few rides, it wears off, and you actually have to work to go as fast. If only this stuff could be bottled and one could buy it for less than the price of a new bike!

Well, I'm not here to announce I've discovered the secret of bottling the stuff, just to report on a recent fairy dust enhanced ride.

I guess that I'm also admitting to having recently acquired a new tandem as well. I should offer some history on this purchase. We have a Co-Motion SkyCapp that we love. We have it set up for comfort on wet roads with gear in far away places with long steep descents at night. It has a softride beam, stoker aero-bars, fenders, racks, drag brake, couplers and lights. (No concessions to light weight here.) We have done everything on this bike from fast club rides, lightly loaded tours, heavily loaded tours, and commuting. We've toured in the Alps and the Rockies. We've carried it on airplanes, trains, (including the TGV), and automobiles. We've ridden through all kinds of weather - rain, snow, heat and humidity. We've ridden it all day and all night, including Paris-Brest-Paris. We've ridden it on casual coffee shop rides, and intense hammer fests. And it has served us quite well. But a few months ago, we started batting around the idea of keeping it as a dedicating touring, travelling and bad weather bike, and maybe setting up another bike in a bit more sporty configuration. Not that I'm entering the weight-weenie gram counting realm, but a few pounds here and a few pounds there could actually be noticeable!

We tossed around a short list of possible bikes to look at and ride, and after a while the one that floated to the top of the list was Co-Motion's new Robusta. Never being one to want the first model year of anything (cars, electronics, etc), I really had to be convinced to give this bike a chance! And Dwan Shepard of Co-Motion did a fine job as he explained the rigorous standards and testing process the new carbon fork had to pass. Our prior experience with Co-Motion's craftsmanship and quality framebuilding was also a plus. The test ride did the rest of the job convincing us.

Now at this point, I have to mention how wary I am whenever I read bike reviews which talk about how great some bike handled the instant the rider mounted up. If the bike immediately feels right, it's most likely because it handles very similar to whatever the rider most recently rode. I have bikes that I have ridden thousands of miles, that handle and perform flawlessly. Yet if I've been riding something different, like the tandem (especially captaining) or my commuter with a heavy saddle bag or pannier and then hop back on my sporty single, I spend the first mile or so hardly able to get out of the saddle. I'm all over the road. I would swear the bike has been chopped in half. But within a short time, everything is back to normal, and my trusty old bike is handling great again.

Well, we are so used to riding our tandem heavily laden, that we did actually have a bit of trouble getting out of the saddle on the new super light weight tandem. As we stood and rocked the bike, it was obvious it took far less effort, and was far less top heavy (no beam, aerobars or leather saddle). It didn't take too long for us to adjust to the lighter touch. But those first few miles were interesting. Fortunately we truly understand the adaptation time for different bikes, and by the time we finished our test ride, it was simply a matter of what color we wanted!

We asked to change a few components and arranged to pick the bike up a couple of days later. We'd get it just in time to take to Vermont for TOSRV-East.

Now I should offer some history of this ride. Inspired by the original TOSRV in Ohio, TOSRV-East was started 30 years ago by the Boston AYH chapter as a way of supporting a couple of hostels in Vermont. Over the years, the leaders have changed, the hostels have changed, the start and finish have changed, and the route has changed, but 30 years later, the Tour of Scenic Rural Vermont, is still scenic, rural and in Vermont! I should also mention that over the years, the weather has given us extremes - some years, participants have renamed the ride to be the tour of soggy rainy Vermont. One year, we had to scramble to change the overnight destination as flooding washed out roads. Other years, it has been tagged the tour of scorching roasting Vermont, as temperatures have reached all time record highs. This year gave us both!

But John and I hardly noticed, because we were covered by that magic fairy dust! We picked up the new bike Friday afternoon. We stopped by the house to get everything set up ideally, before driving off to White River Junction in Vermont. At this point I should put a plug in for Chris Rutkowski's Fit Stick. Thanks to this simple little device, we were quite easily able to replicate our preferred positions on the new bike.

We were a bit late arriving at the hostel, so didn't see folks until the next morning, when we pulled the new fairy dust laden bike from the van, and went for a spin around the parking lot to check it out. Unfortunately I didn't realize that our friends, Roy and Susan, would not be on their new tandem. When the four of us ride together on tandems, we get in a mode where we torture singles trying to hang on for dear life trying to draft two tandems working together, and sprinting for town lines. But being Father's Day weekend, Roy was riding tandem with their son, and Susan was cast off to her single bike where she proved what an incredible powerhouse she is by hanging with this new tandem recently coated with magic fairy dust!

The ride started out well, we were out of the saddle and flying along. From White River Junction, we headed toward Queechee, where an annual balloon festival provided great early morning entertainment. We didn't stop, as we were meeting Roy and Drew in Woodstock for breakfast. After this delicious meal, John and Roy dragged Susan and I away from the shops - having bought a bike the day before, John wasn't pleased to see me eyeing expensive jewelry - wasn't that large silver thing leaning against the restaurant enough!

At this point things started to heat up, and the road started to turn up. Our first major climb followed, along with the first descent on the new bike. Well our first 50 mph descent was good. And by the end of the day, after we'd done lots of 50 mph twisty descents, we were totally at one with the bike.

We spent the rest of the day alternating between stopping for cold drinks and hammering along the roads of scenic roasting Vermont. Our destination for the day was an inn at the base of Appalachain Gap. We somehow managed to convince Susan to climb to the top with us after 100 miles of up and down in hot humid conditions. We figured we might as well take advantage of the magic fairy dust while we've got it.

Overnight the heavens opened, and rain poured down hard enough to wake me out of a sound sleep. Fortunately most of the rain fell overnight, and we only had to endure a few hours of wet butts the next morning. Now I knew this would happen - we left the fendered bike at home, so of course I would have to experience a wet muddy stripe up my back! Once I was thoroughly soaked, it wasn't so bad. John didn't seem to understand my complaint, since I served as his rear fender. We pressed on through soggy rural Vermont.

After a couple of hours, the rain stopped, although it did look threatening the rest of the day. We continued putting the bike and Susan to the test, as we attacked climbs with ease and took descents with confidence!

Apparently I do have some weight weenie tendencies, because several times when we were stopped, I'd just go lift the bike and giggle. (My single commuter bike is heavier!)

We finished the weekend off on the lighter than air theme with dinner on the patio at Simon Pierce in Queechee as we watched a couple dozen hot air ballons take off and pass overhead.

Do I love our new sporty tandem? Yes. Do I love our old touring tandem? Yes. And I'm quite fond of the mountain bike too.