Photo by Jason DeVarennes

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Hanging with Dwan from Co-Motion

Dwan Shepard's title on the Co-Motion Cycles website is co-conspirator. Dwan, along with his fellow co-conspirator, Dan Vrijmoet, founded Co-Motion back in 1988. Dan seems to be the shy one, and we've only seen him once, ducking behind a frame jig, while Dwan was taking us on a tour of the factory. Dwan is more of the public face, representing Co-Motion on various social media sites and at bike shows and such. This is how we've been lucky enough to get to know him.

I first corresponded with Dwan in the early years, when we spotted a Co-Motion ad in a magazine, featuring one of their tandems adorned with some gorgeous Mavic cranks. They had modified some single bike cranks with heliocoils to take pedals in the appropriate orientation to work on a tandem, but Dwan didn't recommend doing the heliocoil for hard core use. However, we were later lucky enough to acquire a few sets of not yet threaded cranks from the North American rep for Mavic. We then had them threaded for tandem use. It was a sad day when we crashed and damaged one, and had to retire the full set!

At the time we discussed these cranks, we owned a pretty customized tandem and despite the N+1 rule, we weren't in the market for another tandem (yet). However, because Dwan had been so helpful and forthcoming sharing info on the cranks, we began to look more seriously at Co-Motion tandems. When that (unnamed brand) custom tandem developed irreparable problems, we replaced it with our first Co-Motion. We've since owned several Co-Motions , starting with a Softride beam model, later getting a mountain tandem, then a coupled tandem designed for touring, and later a racy tandem that was used to set lots of hillclimb records on our nearby mountains. 

By the time the titanium bug bit us, Co-Motion was no longer building in titanium, and we went with the local builders at Seven. Despite having switch most of our travel to coupled singles (to make it easier to get action photos), we kept our Co-Motion travel tandem. That is, until friends persuaded us to sell the neglected travel tandem to them. Of course, a few months after selling it, we decided we needed a travel tandem after all. So we ordered a new S&S Java, which we use primarily with 650B wheels fitted with fat and sometimes knobbly tires. This is the bike that we used for touring around Oregon last fall. This bike is awesome, with loads of clearance for the fattest of tires, to handle all the off road stuff we love and room for fenders for those occasions where they are warranted. The frame has an open design, which allows for only 4 couplers and enables us to use a cool internal frame bag. The orange color attracts lots of positive attention and I used the new color to justify adding a bunch or orange clothes to my wardrobe (N+1 jerseys)!

Over the years, we've taken a few trips to the Co-Motion factory. The homing device seems to go off whenever we are near Eugene. We've also chatted with Dwan at NAHBS a few times, the most recent time in Charlotte, where Dwan bought a round of drinks for the crowd hanging out at the hotel bar. Before we could repay his generosity, he took off for another party and we've been in his debt ever since. We tried to repay last fall, but he was at Interbike when we were in Eugene. We left him a beer at Velo B&B, but I think we and the beer was long forgotten by the time Dwan and Rob got out for a ride together a few months back. So we were still in debt!

I should also mention that Dwan was one of the first people to contact me after I announced my cancer diagnosis on social media. Dwan is a cancer survivor and, as such, knows what is going on inside my head and also, just the right things to say. He reached out to offer an ear and reinforced for me how helpful it can be to write about it. He performs a lot of cancer outreach activities in Eugene, and I can't say how inspiring his notes were/are to me. 

So I was super-excited when he contacted me a few weeks ago saying he'd be in Boston for a tandem and touring demo and wanted to get together. Yay! We could finally repay that beer debt. It had built up quite a bit of interest by this stage, but we'd do our best.

He was due to be in town from Thursday morning to Monday night, with obligations at Belmont Wheelworks on Saturday and Sunday. So we made plans to meet for dinner and drinks on Thursday night, then to guide him on a long cruisey bike ride on Friday. And for a really special treat for me, I asked Dwan to captain our bike, with me stoking, on the Wheelworks tandem ride on Saturday morning. I warned him that I wasn't as strong as I had been, but should be at the best part of my chemo cycle, so I'd try not to slow him down too much. Being a great sport, he agreed to haul me around on Saturday morning.

So Thursday evening, John pedaled over to his B&B in Belmont, to guide Dwan back to our place, taking in a few hills, trails and alleyways. We had planned to go to a nearby brew-pub, but arrived to find a sign on the door, saying closed for private party until 9. We stalled by enjoying a lovely Thai meal across the street, until the party was over and we could go sample some New England brews.

The next morning we met at Vicki Lee's for breakfast before heading out on a 76 mile ride taking in trails and the soon-to-be-world-famous giant golf ball at MIT Haystack Observatory.

After a nice breakfast, we started up the first hill at a true digestive pace, to the infamous Arlington water tower. The view of the Boston skyline was a bit hazy, so we didn't hang around or even take a photo, before bombing down the far side to pick up the Minuteman bike path out to Lexington.   

From there, we picked up the Battle Road trail, a dirt and gravel trail that takes in the path of Paul Revere out to Concord, with lots of twists, turns, some boardwalk and some occasional loose sand. In Concord, we stopped to take in some historical sites and strolled across the Old North Bridge.

Next up was a slightly more rugged trail through Estabrook Woods before finally picking up some quiet roads in Carlisle. A quick jaunt along the Bruce Freeman trail brought us to Hart Pond and a few more quiet paved roads to a trail in Westford, with a hidden stone arched bridge, where we mistimed the self-timer photo.

Photo courtesy of Dwan

Finally we reached the feature climb of the day, up to MIT Haystack for the iconic shot in front of the golf ball.

Photo courtesy of Dwan

Dwan pulls away from us on the climb

Photo courtesy of Dwan

The whisper chamber!
We followed that with another trail packed with fun whoop-de-whoops before making the long slog to lunch. I think hunger was getting to us all, and Dwan was having thoughts that a new debt would be added to account, but The Java Room finally appeared and sandwiches and coffee went down a treat.

We digested lunch while cruising down the other end of Bruce Freeman and then cutting through Great Brook Farm. Our next trail was a easy dirt trail behind the VA in Bedford, before picking up the Minuteman back to Lexington, where we proudly parked our Co-Motion bikes in front of Ride Studio Cafe and enjoyed coffees on the recently re-installed parklet.

Photo courtesy of Dwan

We finished up the day by leading Dwan back to Wheelworks, where he spent the evening hanging our with local tandem maestro, Doug MacKenzie, planning the rest of the weekend.

For Saturday, I enticed Jenny Wojewoda to stoke for John while I rode with Dwan. I forgot to ask her not to show me up by providing actual power. Now John knows what a slacker I am. We traded off leading and sweeping the group, with 10 tandems in total. It was so much fun and I'm still coming down from the high of stoking with the person who designed our bike!

John with newly addicted stoker, Jenny W, while Dwan and I sneak up with camera in hand.

Barely pedaling while trying to use Dwan's camera!

A collective of tandems and Wheelworks Co-Motion demo day ride

As I mentioned last week, riding tandem is my EPO, my boost! Riding with Dwan Shepard, and getting to spend time hanging out, talking bikes, politics, cancer and lots of fun stuff too, was amazing. Thank you Dwan for a fabulous weekend!

1 comment:

  1. Pamela,

    You're a terrific writer and as for inspiration, well, you leave me speechless. All of my best to you and John and the cats as to plough throw this thing called life.

    We met Dwan about 10 years ago after the NWTR in Bend Oregon. My wife is originally from Eugene and so we decided to drop in at the factory after the rally to check things out. At the time were riding an aluminum Cannondale that didn't even close to fit us, a fact to which we were oblivious. Although it was a weekend and, as I recall, Dwan was the only one there, he put us on one of his tester bikes and pointed us out to the area roads. Were we hooked or what. He didn't need to do any selling on us as the bike did that for him. By the time we got back to the plant, all that we needed was to be measured up by him. We took these back to our LBS in Victoria and after some impatient waiting, this lovely coupled Speedster joined our family. Dwan was charming and helpful and we have never had any regrets on this decision.

    Keep up the good work and I look forward to future news from your front.

    Jim Jaarsma
    Victoria, BC