Words by Amanda Schaper @ascrapes
Amanda Schaper + Scott Chapin = TEAM SCRAPIN
Here's the thing about tandems... They're friggin' awesome. But when we decided we wanted a legit tandem (something better than our townie tandem that feels like it might break in half on rough roads), we wanted it to be the awesomest. We had a long list of criteria, and we were looking for one extra-long bike that could handle it all (bike tours, rowdy mountain bike trails, gravel races) while handling great, having good tire clearance, fitting us appropriately, and most importantly, looking sweet. And you know what? There just wasn't a production bike out there that fit the bill, so we did what any reasonable people would do...we had a custom Rock Lobster tandem frame made by the legendary Paul Sadoff. And holy smokes, this thing looks really damn good and rides even better.
The frame itself is a thing of beauty. Paul has built a handful of tandems over the years, but this is the first tandem he's built in 14 years, and it's the first aluminum mountain bike tandem he's ever built. Looking at the frame, you're probably wondering about that downtube. When we swung by Paul's shop and told him that we were serious about making a tandem frame, he rummaged through a pile in the corner of his shop, pulled that sucker out, and said "I've got just the right tool for the job." And so it began. Turns out, that downtube was originally made for Intense back in the day, but the tube manufacturer used the wrong aluminum (7005 instead of 6061), so somehow Paul ended up with one. The tube had been patiently waiting in that pile for years until we came along.
After many moments of wondering why he agreed to this project in the first place and nearly burning down his shop (long story, but it takes a lot of heat to weld this much metal), Paul created the raddest tandem frame you've ever seen. And a rad frame deserves a rad paint job, right? Our gold-to-orange-to-purple fade is inspired by a warm sunset on West Cliff, while drinking a beer and taking in the ocean breeze.
When it came to building the bike, finding the right wheels was a big priority. You can't just throw any wheels on a tandem because the extra weight requires more spokes, and it was tough to find appropriate 36-hole rims. Of course, we wanted to run WTB, so we reached out to Heather and asked if WTB might have some random 36-hole rims kicking around. We knew it was a longshot, so we were stoked when Heather said she could get some rims custom drilled with 36 holes. RAD! That was back in January, and the rims arrived in our hands on Thursday, April 19. We laced them up that night, threw a Vigilante on the front, Riddler on the rear, and we were off to the races. Literally. The next day we headed to Sea Otter Classic to race the Tandem XC race...which we won. Snap!
But we're just getting started. We're planning to race this mean machine in the Lost Sierra Triple Crown. We'll be taking it the distance in the 100-mile Lost and Found gravel race, testing the strength of those welds on the techy, rocky trails of the Downieville Classic, and then finally seeing how much party it can handle at Grinduro. And if we make it through all that, we're getting married this fall. Some people do pre-marital counseling, but we're opting for a summer filled with sketchy tandem bike racing to make sure we're ready to tie the knot.
People call tandems lots of things, "divorcycles" is common. I say those people are wrong. They're just relationship accelerators. Wherever your relationship is headed, a tandem bicycle will get you there faster.