Burley Tandem Mayhem

Last week I drove to Zeeland, Michigan and picked up a 1990 Burley Duet tandem bicycle. I got what I believe to be a good deal on it, but it will require some investment to ride like I think it should.

One of the first features that stood out to me were the bottom brackets. The front one is housed in something that I learned from bike forums is called an “eccentric”. I’d only heard “eccentric” used as an adjective before. Used in a sentence, “Wow! Isn’t that man eccentric? He spends his days working on bikes in the garage instead of getting an office job.” I looked up “eccentric”, and as a noun, it simply means “(of a thing) not placed centrally or not having its axis or other part placed centrally.” And that is what they mean when it comes to Burley tandems. I think it’s for the purpose of putting tension on the captain-to-stoker chain once it’s been installed. It’s held in place with two set screws on the top of the bb shell.

The eccentric bottom bracket on my Burley is doing fine. It’s the rear one that I’m working to make right. The stoker’s bottom bracket is simply composed of a shell (the frame part), two sets of sealed bearings, a spindle, two lock rings to keep the bearings from popping out, and a metal cuff on the middle of the spindle, whose placement on that spindle determines the right-left placement of the spindle, and thus, the cranks. Having worked on all kinds of bottom brackets in the past, it is my opinion that, although it works, this setup is not, ummmmm…. good, worthy of cycling technology, yada yada yada. Oh well. I’m gonna work with it.

The cuff on my rear bb spindle, which determines the placement of the spindle and the cranks, slides with a modest tap of the orange plastic hammer. It’s not supposed to do that. I am currently in conversations with tandem experts on bikeforums.com to sort out the best way to keep the cuff from slipping. I have some good ideas going, and it looks like it’s going to be resolved shortly.

The other issue that I’ve found is with the cantilever brakes that came with the bike. They are Scott SE Composite cantilever brakes. I have not done any research into these, but I can say what I’ve found out about them. Although there is an internal spring to aid tension to the action and articulation of the brakes, the prime force in returning the brakes to their open position is compressed air inside of a chamber. I tried to overhaul the one in the rear that wasn’t working, but it was a no-go. I’m sure that these brakes worked wonderfully 30 years ago, but today, they’re not going to stay on the bike. The front pair was still working, but weren’t articulating smoothly like new ones will.

The black part is a compression chamber, inside of which is a spring which doesn’t do much work, and a plastic threaded bolt, and the whole thing contracts when the brake is applied

I do plan on keeping this bike for my wife and I to go on dates with around town. For that reason, I don’t mind spending some money on it. Here are the brakes that are going to replace the Scotts. And yes, I saw that terrible chain. It’s going away too.

Updates will come as I get further along. Thanks for visiting!

She’s got new cables and housing, new grips, new brakes and pads, new saddles, matching bottle cages and a new captain-to-stoker chain (actually two chains spliced together).

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