Tandem Bikes Category Archive

Alleykat_riding in sunset

Alee Denham and Kat Webster recently completed the bike trip of a lifetime, bicycling through 30 countries from Europe to Asia and back to their home in Australia over two years–all documented on their website, www.cyclingabout.com. The couple overcame adversity, enjoyed thrills, camped in stunning landscapes, ate incredible foods, persevered through nagging injuries and pains, befriended countless individuals and created enduring memories. The couple started in the Netherlands in 2012 with two Surly Long Haul Truckers modified to use a Rohloff hub and Gates Carbon Drive belt, then switched to a Co-Motion Equator with Gates belt drive and Rohloff hub. Riding without chains and derailleurs gave them more time to enjoy the sites and relax instead of doing drive-train maintenance. We recently caught up with Alleykat, now back home in Melbourne for several months, to get their story.

Alleykat_Kat with bike in Malaysia

Alleykat_camping in Kyrgzstan

What is Alleykat, who are you, and what is your cycling history?

Alleykat is our combined name (Alee+Kat) which our friends gave us when we first started dating. We are both in our mid-20’s and are passionate about the world. So much so that we decided to dedicate two years of our life to travelling the world and meeting its people. We believe that bikes are the best way to experience the planet as we can work our way into all the places that regular tourists don’t often get to. Our bike offers no physical barrier between us and local people, so we meet people more regularly and get to experience the world’s amazing hospitality. We’ve never had to worry about waiting, timetables or understanding a transport system. We do what we want, when we want. Bikes give us the ultimate freedom.

Alleykat_Kat phoning home from Thailand

Alleykat_pickled produce in Turkey

Tell me about your trip: how long in length and time, and what countries did you hit?

We spent over two years cycling 31,000km (19,000 miles) between Amsterdam to Melbourne in Australia. We zig-zagged through Europe to Turkey, then headed into Georgia, Azerbaijan and Iran before cycling through the ‘Stans (Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan). We were denied a Chinese visa at the time, so we flew over it to Korea, and then caught a boat to Japan. The typhoon hit the Philippines late last year, so we went over to help. We then flew from there to South East Asia to cover six more countries before flying into Australia to complete the rest of our trip.

Alleykat_night in Croatia

Alleykat_disaster relief in the philippines

What kind of bike and gear did you have?

We started our big trip in two separate bikes (both with Carbon Drive) before realizing that a tandem would allow us to go further, faster. It turned out there were other benefits too, such as the extra space given to us on the road, overwhelmingly kind responses from the people who saw us, easier communication between us on the bike, and the feeling of a team effort. We got a custom tandem bicycle made by Co-Motion in the USA, and we carried around 40kg (88 pounds) of gear between us in five bags (no trailer… woo hoo!). You can see our gear breakdown here.

Alleykat_camping in Japan

Alleykat_Georgian home in the gloom

What were the high points of the trip?

The most mind-blowing thing about our trip was undoubtedly the people. It is always the people who make a place special, who change our perceptions and who open our hearts and eyes. We have had the most incredible travel experiences in the dullest of places. We’ve learned that we can trust more people than we ever thought was possible. We’ve learned that people are incredibly hospitable and on the whole, people are very kind and generous if you give them a chance… even in your own country!

Alleykat_night in Iran

Alleykat_Montenegro gate

What was the most difficult experience of the trip?

The hardest thing to deal with was how Kat was treated in some countries. Men felt it was their right to touch her inappropriately and even kiss her. Sometimes it happened multiple times per day, making it very hard to have a good time. This problem was localized in small pockets of the world, and we did become a bit better at dealing with it over time. We don’t want to discourage women from traveling, so let’s put it in perspective: Kat was treated very well 99.99% of the time.

Alleykat_Bosnian night

Alleykat_mosque in Uzbekistan

Tell me about your experience with Gates Carbon Drive.

We had a very positive experience on the three bikes we’ve used with Gates Carbon Drive. At the time we left, we were unsure as to the durability of the system, but we thought we’d give it a go anyway. We carried a few spare belts just in case. Our first (and only) belt lasted 31,000km. Try getting a chain to last that long!

Alleykat_night swimming in Germany

Alleykat_cooling off in Albania

How did the Gates belt and sprockets compare to chains you’ve used? Did using the Carbon Drive belt make the trip easier or less maintenance?

The best thing about belts for us was the maintenance-free nature of them. We cleaned our belts with water and a toothbrush about once a month on average. We found that they required more frequent cleaning on dusty roads with really fine grit, but those kinds of roads were only a few short sections of our journey. On the whole, the Gates belts certainly made our life easier.

Alleykat_original bikes in Netherlands

Alleykat_pedaling in Laos behind bus

What are your plans now that you have returned home?

We are taking some time to think about and remember and reflect on all that has happened over the past few years and determine how to implement some of the amazing ideas we’ve come up with. It would be easy to float back into jobs, but we think it’s important to extract everything we can from our life-changing experience. With that in mind, Kat has recently started writing a book about our journey. She has also decided that it’s time for a career change from teaching to dietetics, so she will be studying as of next year. I’ve decided to devote some time into making our bicycle touring website even better, and will invest time into learning new skills, notably the ins and outs of documentary film making. Work will have to wait.

Alleykat_dinner in south korea

Alleykat_food market in Vietnam

The few images we’ve shown in this post are just a tiny sample of the incredible video and photo archive Alleykay have compiled of their trip. Below is their video report from Laos. It’s hard not to love these guys once you see and hear their enthusiasm for this beautiful nation, its people, wildlife and culture. Who knows? Their joyful attitude may convince you to embark on a bicycle journey yourself.

CyclingAbout.com // Alleykat Loves Laos (EP.12) from Cycling About on Vimeo.



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This may be a first: a triplet tandem with Gates Carbon Drive. Blog reader Edward Tasch sent us these images. The little dude in the middle is clearly enjoying the rush. “The bike rides great and is amazingly tight and responsive,” Tasch tells us. Build weight is 42 lbs. “Very stiff and shifting is remarkably precise.” The 7005 aluminum frame was designed by Mark Johnson of Precision Tandems and built by Dan Towle’s team at Rod Cycle in Seattle.

Triplet tandem against wall



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In Russian, the word “paketa” means “rocket.”  Colorado bike maker Paketa Bicycles builds bikes that will indeed rocket you down the road. Paketa’s secret sauce for speed is its super light frame material–magnesium. Mg, as it is known on the periodic table of the elements, has been called the lightest useful metal and it’s best-known use may be in in high-end “Mag” wheels for cars.

“Magnesium is the lightest structural metal currently available in the world,” says Paketa engineer Dave Walker. “It’s 34 percent lighter by volume than aluminum and 50 percent lighter than titanium.” Magnesium also offers excellent fatigue resistance, fights denting and buckling, and has the highest known vibration-damping capacity of any structural metal, Walker says. “The result is a much smoother ride than any other material out there.”
From 2001 to 2004 the company imported magnesium frames built in Moscow. Since then, however, every frame has been hand-built in Colorado by the Broomfield-based company. Paketa makes all form of bikes, from mountain to road racing rigs, but it may be best known for its tandems, which are highly prized in the world of tandem racing due to their light weight.
To lighten its bikes even more, Paketa uses Gates Carbon Drive tandem timing belts, which are far lighter than chains. “We recommend Carbon Drive on all our tandems for the light weight, quietness, cleanliness, and ease-of-maintenance. Every single tandem we’ve sold in the past two-plus years has been delivered with Carbon Drive. Our customers feel just like we do:  Carbon Drive is the perfect complement to Paketa’s high-performance tandems.”

Paketa will be exhibiting at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show in Denver in February and plans to enter the Gates Carbon Drive innovative belt drive bike design contest. Come check out Paketa’s belt drive rockets at NAHBS. And if you’re a custom builder exhibiting at NAHBS, sign up for the contest for the chance to win more than $11,000 in cash and prizes.

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Charlie and Pat Jenkins during the Race Across the West

Whether it’s long-distance randonneuring or ultra-distance racing, Pat and Charlie Jenkins of Denison, Texas, have found marital bliss on tandem bikes. In fact, they like riding their Calfee tandem so much that they have all but given up riding solo. Since 2008, they have logged at least 10,000 miles by tandem annually. They set the tandem course record in the 500-mile Tejas 500 and set a course record for tandems in the 2009 Race Across America (RAAM).

Before embarking on the transcontinental RAAM in 2009, the Jenkins bought a Gates Carbon Drive for their tandem. They were pleased by the 360 grams of weight savings they got from replacing the chain and chainrings. But it was on their first ride, a 100-miler, that the couple noticed “a huge improvement in power transfer.” Here is Charlie describing that first ride:

“No more than a mile or two in, the belt really got my attention. With the old chain drive, we would stand to power up a hill and it would feel like there was a pause before the power would transfer to the wheel. With the belt drive, the lag time we experienced in the chain drive was gone. We were immediately impressed.”

Fast-forward to 2011. The Jenkins, who initially hoped to get 5,000 to 10,000 miles from their belt, were still using the same belt, 25,000 miles later. “We never dreamed we would get 25,000,” Charlie says. Charlie and Pat ride hard in all weather conditions and are accustomed to wearing out bike parts, so the longevity of Gates Carbon Drive has been a bonus. They installed a new belt in 2011 just to be safe, and packed the old one away as a back up. “The old belt still has plenty of miles left in it.”

What’s next for the tandem couple? They recently became interested in endurance gravel road racing, where competitors pedal 100 to 300 miles on dirt and gravel roads. To make things interesting they are getting a new custom belt-drive Calfee bamboo “gravel grinder” tandem. “We are incredibly pleased with Gates Carbon Drive,” Charlie says. “It’s clean, quiet, lightweight, durable and reliable.” And, as the Jenkins illustrate, it helps keep happily married couples rolling down the road, strong as ever.

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