Cyclist as a lifestyle, Jon Woodroof rides everything, from CX races to the Silk Road Mountain Race, commutes in Amsterdam and carries his kids on an e-cargo bike in Florida.
When he came to the French Riviera with his rather unusual tandem, I enjoyed the opportunity to meet him – family man and founder of TwoTone- and have a closer look at his beautiful party machine!
What’s the story of your tandem? Bilenky bikes are pretty rare in Europe!
Indeed! This Bilenky was ordered in 2007 and delivered in 2008. It was custom made for my now ex-wife and me.
Instead of people buying us weird crap for our wedding, we requested parts for our bike. I made a little web page with paypal buttons for the bars, spokes, tubes, tires and essentially everything on the bike. At the wedding, the bike was there and so many felt like they had contributed to the build.
For our honeymoon, we toured on it in Spain, France, Switzerland and Germany the summer of 2018. A very special bike indeed.
It then saw regular use in Atlanta where we lived. We did the Tennessee Tandem Rally the next year.
We raced a Valentine’s Day alleycat once, towed our son (born in 2009) around town and even brought it back to Europe in 2011 when I was finishing my Master’s in Freiburg am Breisgau for a summer.
When my ex, two kids and our dog moved to Amsterdam in 2013, the Bilenky came as well!
There was about a year where the fate of this bike was uncertain.
I’m grateful to still have it in the family!
To help protect the environment, individual actions like skipping single-use plastics or recycling are important.
Still the task can seem overwhelming when making efforts on your own…
Join a collective!
There are many initiatives out there where people join forces to make a better, cleaner, more sustainable world.
What can you do?
• Fix bikes?
Join a local collaborative repair shop!
• Maybe you can fix more than bikes?
Give a hand in a repair café!
• Not that skilled?
Maybe join -or even organize- a cleanup ride!
Unity makes strength
ShiftCyclingCulture is a great example of what we can do as cyclists: They connect people, teams and brands who want to get involved, create events inspire to make things better.
You can also inspire people to ride and live in a more responsible way by joining the Evanoui team!
Among all the existing framebuilders, why Bilenky? Atlanta is a long way to Philly…
Bilenky is known for tandems. I knew a tandem would be perfect for the wedding. Really, it was a no-brainer. I met Stephen several times at NAHBS and once visited their workshop.
Is handmade/fillet brazing important to you? Why?
Knowing who built my bike has always been a special thing for me. I went to NAHBS for years and now always Bespoked.
Some of my best friends are framebuilders and I admire the work so greatly. I love bikes and especially when I know the builder. It is wonderful.
I see many “connoisseur parts” (Phil hubs, MKS track pedals, Nitto…)
What cycling culture do you come from?
Haha! Busted! This tandem very much has a track bike pedigree. Back in 2008 was the peak of my fixie style haha. I still also love (and race!) track bikes by the way.
But when I built up the bike, I was clearly stoked on track bikes. We toured with MKS pedals and NJS Toshi straps. Phil Wood was my idea of the best hub and their 48h rear touring hub is indeed a beast! Euro Asia Imports (EAI) has an old Shimano square taper bb tandem group and I got that though I almost went Suntour XC!
- Frame: 2008 Bilenky Touring Tandem.
- Rims: Velocity Dyad
- Spokes: DT Swiss Competition (x3 front, x4 rear)
- Hubs: Phil Wood hubs (40h front and 48 rear)
- Crankset: Vintage Sugino XD tandem mtb group
- Chainrings: TA Zephyr 48, 38, 28
- Shifters: Bar end shifting (indexed rear and friction front)
- Captain’s bars: Nitto randonneur
- Captain’s stem: Thomson
- Stokers’s stem: Nitto Pista
- Bar tape: Brooks leather
- Captain’s saddle: Brooks spring Flyer
- Stoker’s saddle: Flite “Europe edition”
- Seatposts: Thomson
- Racks: Nitto Campee
- Headset: Chris King
- Bottle Cages: Nitto
- Handlebar + stoker bag: Berthoud Cycles
- Drum brake: Arai
- Fenders: Honjo
- Timing chain: KMC BMX
- Bottom Bracket: Eccentric hub
Brooks saddles and wrap to Nitto bars with Thomson stem and seatposts were all fixie influence too. Thomson is from Georgia, my homestate!
Even doing Nitto racks was related to my love for that brand.
I had begun to dig rando style and clearly by even building a rando tandem at 24 years old, I had a blossoming aesthetic that was more spoke sniffer than anything else. I loved the style of Gilles Berthoud and got bags from them through EAI. Now my company (TwoTone Ams, ed.) works with Berthoud for a 2nd time and it is a tremendous honor!
Talking about uncommon parts: Tell us more about that drag brake!
They’re mega rare now! But so key before disc brakes and quite handy anyway!
You can use it as a parking brake when fully loaded, but also turn it on on loaded descents to not over-use your canti brakes and blow up your tires with excessive heat.
I think I see a double typo on your Nitto handlebar. Is it really written « Grand Rundoner » ?!
Yeah it’s actually written “Raundoneur”. Its a production mistake that people know about. Just an inside joke and not at all disparaging to Nitto! 😀
Don’t you feel like swapping your vintage parts with a modern groupset?
Haha! Never! That being said, I love Mattia from Legor‘s tandem. A 650b thru axle disc equipped adventure tandem rig would be really cool someday but the Bilenky will remain as is.
The Bilenky has become a bit of a trademark for me over the past decade and such a very special bike.
It is truly a forever bike.
Do you have future projects with this bike? How do you feel about riding it with your kids?
When we met was the first time I rode my tandem with the kids, it was magical. A special milestone for the 3 of us. I’m so grateful for the photos you took!
I also have done some recent little trips with my girlfriend, Kristy, like Berlin and York (which we’ll do again for my framebuilder buddy Ricky Feather‘s wedding next summer.)
Someday, I’d love to do tours with both Otto and Mira on this bike. Maybe Torino Nice with Otto in a few years!