Ibis Tandem – January update


Back-up tandem that I can use on unpaved routes. Not likely to ride technical descents or difficult single track but interested in “gravel grinding”. Rides on my list include:

The Kirkendal mountain bike books have a bunch of “easy” rides that look to be unpaved roads. The Wert Rail Trail book also has some unpaved routes that are not full of ballast. I think a bike with 26 inch off-road tires would expand our repertoire and would be a lot of fun.

I also am interested in being able to use this bike to travel on tours that involve unpaved sections and I’d like to be able to lend it to other teams or to invite people along for rides with us.

A secondary objective is to get the experience building up a bike. I would rather make some mistakes and spend some extra money than simply have my LBS do the upgrades for me.

Where I am at the beginning of 2014:

I’ve had R+E build new wheels with Velocity rims on White Industries “Daisy” hubs I already had, and I’ve put 1.5″ Continental Sport Contact road tires (that I already had) on them. I’ve put 1.95″ Serfas Drifter tires (probably 10 years old but almost unused) on the Hugi wheelset. I installed and adjusted Rodriguez big squeeze cantilevers. I put the Maddox brake on the White Industries wheelset. I installed a bar-end shifter (used Shimano friction type) and the related cabling from the stoker bars for the drum brake and re-wrapped the stoker handlebars with the existing bar-tape. I installed a pully where the brake cable bends 80 degrees down by the front bottom bracket. I bought and installed a second maddox drum brake on the Hugi wheelset. I fabricated spacers for the drum brakes so that they don’t leave as much of a gap behind the outer plate (basically I used a dremel tool to grind out the hole in a thick steel washer so that it would fit over the brake threads.) I installed a thud buster for the stoker. I bought & Installed Terry saddles for both riders. I bought a Zefal frame pump and a strap to secure it.  I bought an 8-speed cassette with 11-30 cogs and installed it on the White Industries wheelset. Will gave me an  8-speed cassette with 11-34 cogs and I installed that on the Hugi wheelset. I bought a pair of Salsa skewers. I bought a wedge bag for the back saddle and stuffed it with tubes, CO2 cartridges, tire tools, head & tail-light, etc.  In the process of getting to know this bike, Odette and I put about 150 miles on it.


– New drive train. I’d like a lower bottom-end for the chain rings (but I’d rather not loose the 54-T big ring.) I’d like them to be ramped and pinned so that they shift more smoothly.

– If I’m going to fiddle with chain rings I probably ought to change out the cranks & spider and bottom bracket. I was looking at the FSA gossamer (or even one of the carbon alternatives) because they come as a complete tandem package but I’ve read about the need to replace bearings after less than 1,000 miles and that doesn’t work for me. (I’m not sure that I ought to attempt press-fit bearings if the tolerances are that close and I don’t know if external cups will work on this bike.) The conventional wisdom seems to be Phil Wood bearings – so why not a Phil bottom bracket? Then I could go with any spider & cranks… (Tandems East quoted me about $650 for a full set with Phil BBs and daVinci spider and cranks…)

– I think that I’d be happier with a 9-speed rear derailleur and if I’m thinking about new rings/cranks I probably ought to think about new derailleurs front and back – and new shifters & cogs to match. That would give me a reason to replace all of the cabling, too, and to retape the bars, but it would mean replacing two virtually unused 8-speed casettes.

– If I’m going to have to retape the bars because of new shifters I should replace the brake levers too and that would be the time to make the switch to carbon bars (like I have on the other tandem and on my touring bike.)

– I’d need new stems (both front and back) to hold larger bars – and to give me a more upright position in the front. That would also allow me to go with a threadless adapter in the front so that I can get the extra flexibility and the more modern look.

– Instead of an adapter maybe I should get a new headset and really go threadless. I expect that would require a new fork but it would make the bike a lot easier to break down for travel and on a new fork I could get braze-ons for a front rack. What I’d really like would be to weld on an un-threaded extension to the steerer….

– I’ve probably got $1,500 in the Ibis now. The list of things I’d like to do might add another $1,500 and I’m good with that. One concern is the report that some older Ibis frames don’t have vent holes and thus a lot of internal rust. If the frame is compromised I’d rather not put so much money into it. I’m thinking that one way to find out would be to cut the frame up and look inside – kind of what you’d have to do to install S&S couplers. I’d have to spend some time researching, but I expect that it would take six couplers and probably cost another $3,500 (assuming a repaint at the same time.) If I amortize this cost over 10 years it would be acceptable and then I’d have two travel bikes to choose between…

I scheduled a conversation with John Lehman at R+E the first day they were open in January to figure out:

  1. drivetrain – what advice do they have about the bottom brackets & cranksets? is there any reason to change from 8-speed to 9-speed? if 10-speed becomes standard on tandems will 9-speed go away? what about doing the cranksets now and waiting a year or two on the shifters, derailleurs & casettes?
  2. headset & handlebars – is there any argument for the carbon bars that I have on the other bikes? can I get the fit I want with a threadless adapter and an extender? is a steerer extension safe if they put the joint in the middle of the head tube and reinforced it with an interior support? could I use a Rodriguez stoker stem?  what do they recommend for brake levers?
  3. frame – what about the vent holes? (I found a couple of teaspoons of clear water when I pulled the screw to install the drum brake pully.) Would couplers give me the opportunity to fix the concern about rust from sealed tubes? would they do the steering tube extension for me as part of that project?

Rodriguez conversation results:

So I hauled the Ibis over to R+E and told John  what I wanted to do with it.  Dan Towle, the owner, ended up joining in.  They were both impressed by the bike and thought it was in good condition.  (They both agreed that it was built before 1997, based on the components John guessed ’95-’96 and Dan ’93-’94.)  They didn’t see any of the signs that would indicate internal rust, but they can’t be sure until they get it open.  They told me that I wouldn’t be saving any money compared to what a new frame would cost but that I wouldn’t be paying a big premium to keep the Ibis frame either, and that was what I needed to know.  It turns out that the second chainring I noticed is for a child-back.  So here’s the plan:

  1. I will strip it down to the bare frame in the next week and take that in to R+E
  2. They will do a coupler conversion, adding S&S couplers and outriggers and drilling vent holes as needed.
  3. They will install a threadless headset and a Rodriguez tandem fork with low-rider braze-ons and FSA aluminum wing-pro handlebars
  4. I will order decals
  5. They will repaint the bike with a grey-to-silver top-to-bottom fade and with rust inhibiter on the inside
  6. I will build it back up
  7. I will bring it in for a post-build fitting and tune

They were really interested in the Maddox brake, saying that they had ordered one a year ago and never heard back from the maker.  They would not consider the idea of welding on an extension to the steerer, saying that while that might work for a single, the forces were too great in a tandem.  They liked the Specialized cranksets and thought I should keep those.  They didn’t see any reason to replace bottom brackets if the old ones were not crunchy but they said I should think about upgrading the eccentric. They said that my Hugi hubs were keepers.  We didn’t talk about changing derailleurs or shifters.  They thought I should be able to use the Ibis stoker stem with a shim and just change the clamp.  We talked about brake lever options and didn’t resolve anything.  John says self extracting crank bolts are part of the conversion but evidently there is a fitting you install with a “red pin spanner”.


I’m not sure how the build up will work – I expect that they are going to need to install derailleurs and brakes in order to do the outriggers, but maybe not.  If they are going to put in the headset they will likely want to install the handlebars – I expect that we’ll work it out and that I’ll end up doing somewhat less than the whole build.  They are supposed to call me to talk about specific colors before it gets painted so we’ll have an opportunity to talk then.

I ordered the decals as soon as I got home.  (The “made in Sebastapol by cyclists” for the chain stay was out of stock.)

When I stripped the frame down (here are the pics,) I found that the inside of the back part of the frame was wet.  I’m not sure how much was from the last few rides we did, but I don’t know where else it would have come from.  The back bottom bracket shell had some oily black stuff and the bottom bracket was covered with it.  The front one was totally clean both inside and outside of the eccentric.   John didn’t seem worried but it gives me more reason to upgrade the bottom brackets.

Here’s my current list of open items:

  1. stoker stem – I decided that I wanted to go  with a Rodriguez stem and avoid the shim (I arranged that with John before they got to the paint stage and followed up to make sure he knew the Ibis had a 28.6mm seat post.)
  2. brake levers / stoker pegs / bar-end shifters – will need need brake levers that fit a larger handlebar – don’t know if that means a new strap to bolt to or if it means whole new levers, but I’d prefer new levers.  I need to figure out if the existing shifters will fit in the ends of a larger bar.
  3. cables –  I’ll need new cables all around because of the new outriggers and splitters.  I’ll also need a new straddle cable on the front and either a set-screw or a whole new straddle saddle.
  4. bottom brackets / eccentric – I’ve decided I want to upgrade to the Bushnell eccentric and I think I want to go with Phil BBs (I arranged with John to upgrade to the featherweight Bushnell – didn’t talk through BB options.)
  5. fit appointment / rebuild coordination / padding

I took the kid-back chain ring off and had to buy new chain ring bolts to work with the single ring.  Origin8 single speed bolts worked just fine.  I spent a couple of hours cleaning the cranks and chain rings and had to buy a wrench to get the chain ring bolts tightened down properly.  Cleaned the bottom brackets and chains (with gasoline) while I was at it.  Two weeks after PayPal I’m beginning to worry about the decals.

While looking up something else I came across this page on the R+E website.  The illustration of a single mitre design they provide is an older Ibis frame – looking at the photo I wonder if it is mine?

Three weeks to the day from my initial conversation with John, he called to say they had put the color on the frame and needed decals before they did clear coat.  I had expected a conversation before they painted.  They had Ibis down tube decals that they could provide, so I told them to go ahead – I’ll survive without the rest.  Still need to talk about bottom brackets and brake levers, and I need to make an appointment for a fitting.  Stay tuned.



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