Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Barlow Pass-Burley

Freshly re-shoed Burley on the C&O Towpath
I think the very first observation I made of the Burley Bossa Nova when I checked it out in the previous owner's garage was.... lots of clearance even with those 27 1/4 tires, I wonder how wide I could go with 700c?...  well I can now safely say that 700Cx38mm is a smooth fit on this frame.  I'd even say that if fenders weren't in the future that 42mm tires a la BG Rock N Road's would fit.

While I'm clearly a fan of larger tires at this point the 700C conversion of the tandem wasn't just to make a more comfortable ride around town.  In fact the 27 1/4 x 32mm Continental Gatorskins proved to be darn good tires/wheels as we've gotten used to riding the tandem.  Cushy enough but very confidence inspiring in turns and with a nice road feel.  No the main drive for getting fatter was to take on the C&O via tandem with luggage.  I've been wanting to do a Harpers Ferry trip ever since I realized it was a possibility, and the thought of completing the DC to Pittsburgh trip in toto is also on my mind!

First came the wheel change though, the 27 1/4 wheel size just doesn't offer many +32mm tires and the rear wheel with it's drag brake and freewheel hub also kept us down to a heavy, 6 spd max wheel.  I thought I had a solution when I made a trade for a Phil Wood wheelset where the rear was an older freewheel model but I figured I could have it respaced from 120mm out to 135mm to support the tandem.  Good idea in theory but two problems arose.... the 120mm rear fit the Bob Jackson frame perfectly and the re-spacing was going to cost $137 not including shipping.  The front wheel was pretty slick though and I kind of slow rolled the next move.  Then last weekend my wife and I had a spectacular 20ish mile ride up to Falls Church and back on the tandem and I realized I should bite the bullet and find the new rear wheel.

Lucky for me I was one 'WTB' post away on the iBOB google list from a slick Phil Wood cassette hub, 135mm spacing and 40 spoke.  48 spoke would have been preferred but between the fat tires, peter white wheel build and phil wood hub I think we're in relatively good hands.  The wheel arrived incredibly quick and I had nearly simultaneously put in the order for a set of Barlow Pass 700x38mm tires from Compass Bikes.  All of a sudden the tandem had a very smart all Phil Wood wheelset w/ brand new Compass tires.

The Dia Compe canti's provided plenty of adjustment to accept the slightly smaller rims which was a nice suprise. I have a pair of Paul Mini-Moto's that are intended for this bike but haven't put them on yet as I want to make sure they will work with the 38mm tires + fenders.

So the ride, well it was awesome.  The longer distances on the tandem really allows us to get in sync.  And the new tires do for the tandem exactly what the Hetre's do for my Saluki. It's like pedaling on fresh pavement at all times. Enough chit chat... on to the photo's.

Phil Wood rear wheel, 40 spoke with an 8 speed cassette and Compass Barlow Pass Tires.

Barlow Pass with plenty of Towpath dust (more later)

Front Phil Wood wheel, bladed wheelsmith spokes... not sure I like that actually but it seems like a very strong and properly tensioned wheel so I won't be messing with it.

The Olmstead Island boardwalk is one of my favorite destinations, the recent rain has really swelled the Potomac River and makes for a dramatic water way.

How many of these shot's are up on this blog in the last 2 years?!?  Well here is one more, doesn't get old.  Our noon-ish arrival meant that we shared the view with more people than I am used to  but even that was ok.  The view of two daredevil kayaker's shooting the rapids was also pretty neat.

Trail Dust!  I was so filthy after this ride it was incredible, not just my legs and arms either.  My face and hair were thoroughly coated with dirt from the towpath.  Anyone who thinks fenders are just for rain are kidding themselves.  On the plus side we realized that the stoker is effectively shielded from this dust by the captain, and in the rear the seat bag did a good job soaking up most of the rooster tail as well.  Fenders are getting ordered this week.

The rear didn't escape the dust any more than the front, some steel berthoud fenders are definitely coming soon.


  1. All set for a fall overnighter, I'd say. Or, who knows, maybe sooner?

    1. Yes sir! I plan to swap the Bruce Gordon racks from my Saluki over to the Burley for cargo purposes. I'll need to pick up some panniers for that though as the saddlebag space is pretty limited by the low stoker seat.

  2. Such a pretty setup! When you say longer distances, how far are you going on it? Centuries or so?

    1. Thanks Mary! Longer so far just means that this ride ~42 miles was our longest to date up from low 30's and plenty of ~20 mile rides. Nothing in comparison to you and Felkerino! But we are working up to some longer distances. The rides I have planned for the near future are a two day out and back to Harpers Ferry, consecutive ~70 mile days and in the fall a Leesburg Loop at 85 miles door to door. If those go well and we're still enjoyinig it maybe we'll push it further. I think a century would be a lot of fun on the tandem. I've only done one informal century on a solo bike myself. In general Erika and I both find the tandem to be easier and more enjoyable at the distances we've tried.