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Jun 16, 2017

New tandem headset system

Recently my very ancient review on the Tandem Club of America website brought me in touch with a blind tandemist from the Amsterdam area. Richard was hell-bent on finding a great solution as he has many “pilots” who don’t hear well. After exploring the Wiwi from Korea which looked promising but they were impossible to communicate with and had no refunds and another system that was $1000+ designed for surgeons, we settled on giving the Arbiter a try. They’re designed for, and widely used by, referees and sold in the USA with a brief return policy. They’re not inexpensive, about $500 for a pair with headsets (use the $25 coupon code you get when you subscribe). We decided given that our old Simultalk from Eartec was needing repair and they’re not making it anymore and we were tired of the wires of our very old Tandem-Com (note they do offer a wireless system but it’s using Eartec’s Simultalk) that it was worth trying the Arbiter since we’d have a narrow 3-day return window.

We rode about 55 miles yesterday with our new Arbiter system. Here’s a summary of the pros and cons. Bottom line, we’re keeping it.


  • small & light weight
  • well-made and sturdy construction
  • excellent headset, can easily switch ears as needed
  • no interference experienced between us or with others around us
  • charged quickly in wall
  • wind did not seem to be an issue
  • Full Duplex Communication System (No Push-To-Talk required)
  • Waterproof (IP65)
  • lasted way longer than any other device we’ve tried which is a HUGE plus for us (advertised as 10+ Hours of battery Life)
  • Charged in about 2 hours (advertised as a charging Time: 3 Hours)
  • We could talk when pretty far apart (2 floors in our building still worked without line-of-site, and when it finally didn’t work and I returned to range it reconnected automatically) advertised up to 800-meter line-of-sight range
  • 1 Year Warranty


  • the antennae and headsets plug protrude from opposite ends of the device. Not a huge problem but slightly awkward for putting in a jersey pocket
  • the headset cord is short….just long enough to go under the arm to the back pocket. Would be too short to use these headsets in a wired device as stoker couldn’t stand if connected to captain by wires. They are reportedly working on making it longer and it’s not an issue now.
  • sound quality was not as high fidelity as I’d like. Several times Spencer sounded garbled enough that I had to have him repeat. This was close to a deal-breaker for me but since Spencer’s hearing is not that great he didn’t notice. And I like so much about it we both think it’ll be OK. Their rep suggested we re-pair when away from any other blue-tooth to see if that helped. They were surprised as they’re known for good sound quality.
  • Bluetooth pairing has to occur and took a while to figure out. Then turning it on each time is a multi-step process which we’re still learning but not a big deal. The documentation for this is not great. But once you have it you never need it again.
  • You have to reestablish the necessary volume setting each time since it’s a +/- system and not a dial that can be left at the setting.

I’ll report back after we ride STP with it next month. That’s back-to-back centuries. We’ll need to charge overnight but theoretically they should hold up each day without issue.

Post-STP Update

We were VERY happy with our headsets on STP. We had the headset on and working from 6 AM to 6 PM both days with a 2-hour charge before going to bed Saturday night. It never failed us. Please note that if you mention that I referred you we get a tiny commission. Thanks!

May 8, 2017

Tandem Headset Review

This article originally appeared in the printed Doubletalk Magazine in 2012 and then migrated to the Tandem Club’s website.

We’ve been riding tandem since 1999. My Captain has a hereditary hearing loss so having some assisted listening device has been essential to our happiness riding together. In case you’ve never run into a tandem headset, it’s simply a way to make it easier for the Captain and Stoker to hear each other in wind and traffic without yelling at each other all the time. Typically there’s a pack that resides in the Captain’s back pocket that you both plug into. There used to only be two such devices available, Tandem Talk and Tandem-Com. And while one of those is gone now, there are finally new options to choose from.

We first learned about Tandem Talk shortly after beginning to ride tandem. They were a small family owned company who custom built a simple and affordable device ($80) that worked quite well. It was a wired device with an on-off switch and no volume control. The headset was in-the-ear and could be used in either ear though we preferred the right so our traffic-facing ears were unencumbered. The first time our Tandem Talk died was less than a week before we were heading to Europe to ride. They were SO accommodating, rushing us a new one overnight in time for the trip. Sadly, the company no longer exists. Therefore, as our old device is on its last legs after crossing the country with us this summer, we’ve been on a quest for a suitable replacement.

The only other long-standing device is the Tandem-Com. We tried that early on and found we preferred the Tandem Talk. Tandem-Com offers both a wired and wireless option and runs $369. We were comparing the wired version and didn’t like the fact that the volume needed to be adjusted every time it was turned on, and that the headset covered the left rather than the right ear.

Thankfully technology is catching up. For a long time now there’ve been Bluetooth devices for motorcyclists and if you search the web there are riders who’ve jerry-rigged the motorcycle headsets to work on bicycle helmets. That is no longer necessary. As of this season, the company who makes motorcycle headsets has developed a system for cyclists. We tried one out recently called Cardo BK-1 Duo. It had a transmitter that straps on the top of your helmet. Because it’s Bluetooth it has the advantage of being able to hookup with a smart phone, MP3 player and/or GPS so you can take calls and get directions in your ear. Sadly a brief test ride with this system left us unimpressed. There was a tinny echo and slight delay as we spoke to each other which was annoying. We found it completely unusable. UPDATE: As of mid-2017 this system is no longer available. There are other BlueTooth options out there but since we found them unacceptable we haven’t evaluated any of the new ones. See note below about one such option.

On to the next option: from Eartec in Rhode Island (my home state). They’ve been around a long time and build headsets for a wide assortment of specialized purposes. The Simultalk Cycle-Com Wireless System runs $300. It’s no longer on their website but they still have them available. Contact Eartec directly.  So far this system is a keeper.


  • Great natural sound
  • Comfortable lightweight headsets
  • Wireless and works up to 150 ft
  • Optional headset upgrade
  • Can carry a pre-charged backup battery for longer rides
  • It has a series of dip switches so the two packs can be set to communicate with each other on a unique channel that won’t compete with your Garmin or other technology. It took us a couple of rides to realize that’s why my heart rate monitor and cadence were no longer working. But with a little trial and error we ironed it out in no time.


  • The volume is controlled with the on switch so has to be reset with every use.
  • The battery pack can only be charged in the unit (takes 6 hours and should not be left charging more than 12 hours).
  • The battery pack will only last for about 4-5 hours of talk time, longer in standby mode.
  • The headset that comes with it is a left ear headset.
  • We tried the upgraded headset which costs more and is a right ear headset but it hurt the top of our ear where it sat.

On the horizon is a system out of Sweden called the Hiod. They don’t have it licensed for US sales yet so we haven’t tried it yet. Judging only from the website it looks to be an innovative and unique approach. Only time will tell how it performs and what it costs. Meanwhile, we are thrilled to have found the Eartec solution and hope you’ll find this information useful.

UPDATE (Summer 2015)

We are still using the Eartec device and find they need the batteries swapped every 4 hours. On longer rides this is somewhat tedious. It’s also a bit annoying to only be able to charge the batteries inside the device and the 6-12 hour window means one must plan your charging times. We now carry the wired TandemCom pack as a backup which has been helpful. Now that we’re comparing the sound to the wireless Eartec the wired TandemCom actually offers superior sound quality. Though it’s also not ideal to switch between wireless and wired. I still prefer having a wireless device. I hope someday someone will design the PERFECT solution, which none of these offer. If you find something please let me know!

UPDATE (Spring 2017)

I was contacted recently to see if I had any updates. I didn’t. But decided to see what was happening out there. Sadly, not much. The Hiod mentioned at the end of the original post is nowhere to be found now. Our Eartec batteries no longer charge. I contacted them and they said they’re discontinuing this model because the technology has “advanced” and they can include it all in the headset. I looked at the headset and laughed. It’s huge and would not work with a helmet. They assured me they’re working on a belt-pack that is due out this summer and we’d be able to continue to use our existing headsets that work with a helmet. There’s a new Bluetooth option Terrano-X that some might find acceptable. Our experience when testing BT in the past was unacceptable. With the close proximity of the captain and stoker the BT delay is disturbing as you hear both. But “your mileage may vary” so  check ’em out. If anyone finds another great solution, we’re all ears.

UPDATE (June 2017)

We bought a new headset. I’ve posted a whole new review about it.

Aug 6, 2016

Community mosaic completed

framed-mosaicLast March, 2015 we posted about Sheila winning an AARP Essay Contest and that we were splitting the proceeds between our Banff-Jasper bike tour and creating a mosaic for our community’s entry. The completed mosaic went up a few weeks ago and is all we hoped it to be. It makes a stunning impression as you walk into the corridor from the entry gate. The mirrored tiles reflect the sun differently throughout the day. Many have commented that the photos do not do it justice so we hope you’ll come to see. None-the-less we wanted to document the process here for our friends who may not be able to visit or follow along on our Facebook album.

mosaic-claireAfter meeting a few times with Claire at Seattle Mosaic Arts (shown right) and drafting and refining a design to be executed at the finished size of 8’x8′ we set about learning all the steps necessary. We were lucky to have the Braeburn’s art room to work in and store materials. Beginning September 12, 2015 we started the first of twelve 24″ x 32″ panels. As you’ll see in the slide show below everyone from the community put in some tiles. We finished that round by mid-December then the next phase began. Each pair of panels had to be stitched together then cut apart along grout lines so they could be mounted on the wall and the seams would not be visible. The 12 panels slowly became 17 panels. Spencer and Bill installed the backer board early on when we thought we’d be moving in January. Then we waited. And waited. We finally got our Temporary Certificate of Occupancy mid-June which allowed us official access to do the wall installation. Claire came out with two staff members and three volunteers and in just a couple of hectic hours the crew mounted the panels with cement (see video at bottom). After a few days of drying community members worked together inspired by homemade cinnamon buns and great music to rub on the grout and then clean it off the tiles. It’s only awaiting the dark brown frame and small plaque we’ll be adding in the next couple of weeks.

We hope you’ll enjoy this slideshow of the project and the video one of the staff took when we mounted it.

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Aug 7, 2016

Community is more than the building

CHUC-entrance-800x600It’s been a long six years and a particularly long last six months but we’ve finally arrived. Persistence pays off! We moved into CHUC (Capitol Hill Urban Cohousing) on June 14, 2016.


Spencer and I have long been interested in community and in cohousing. We explored it with our friends Larry & Karin in the early ’90s but didn’t want to leave the dense, diverse and walkable neighbor we’ve lived in on Capitol Hill. After 20 years in a house in this neighborhood we moved into a condo ten years ago describing it as “cohousing-lite”. And while I was the president we indeed had some sense of community. But with 150 units, high turn-over, no actual intent to BE a community and a 5-person board making all the decisions, that sense dissolved rapidly when I left leadership. When we heard there would be a new cohousing development right in our neighborhood (literally half way between our old house and the condo) we attended the next gathering and were quickly “all-in”. That was in April, 2010.

About CHUC

You have likely seen/heard about our process over the last six years. You can visit our website for more specifics and see photos of construction on Flickr, but here is a brief overview of what it has taken to build our community. We began with regularly scheduled introductory meetings promoted through the neighborhood blog. During this process we “kissed a lot of frogs”. Many folks were excited about cohousing and/or our project, but for an assortment of reasons it didn’t work out for them. Such things as timing, size, cost, layout all played a role. And of course in some cases it just wasn’t a good match. It was a “self-selecting” process with no application form, background checks or approval. But it worked. We eventually had all nine of our households committed and participating for more than a year before we moved in. Everyone involved was drawn to living in community AND specifically to this Capitol Hill location. We are currently 17 adults and 11 children including one born since we moved in (and not pictured below).


What does “participating” mean exactly?

Early on we had several all-day, professionally facilitated workshops including creating our vision and values, learning about decision making by consensus and how to resolve conflicts, our communication styles, etc. We had monthly business meetings with potlucks from the beginning and a few years ago added bi-weekly Supper Club meals where one household hosted. These activities plus assorted social events such as baseball games, bowling, game nights, pumpkin carving and post-Thanksgiving potlucks all served to create connections and a sense of community long before we were in the same physical space. And of course there were also numerous team meetings to devise plans for our common meals, how to integrate the kids into the community, and most importantly the design and development of the physical plant and how it would all get financed and maintained. Our unique hybrid approach to our financial structure is a little more detailed than the purview of this post. Suffice it to say that our finance-legal team (dubbed Finegal) met weekly for a couple of years to sort it all out and aren’t quite done yet! It’s a lot of work creating a community.

So what’s it like?

At this time, it’s been nearly two months since we moved it. We’re still in the start-up phase where we’re settling in and figuring out how to live together with our different styles and preferences and how to get all the work done while holding down jobs and nurturing families. What’s wonderful is that the building is designed to encourage interactions, with tall windows, facing kitchens, wide open walkways and ample common spaces.

There are many wonderful things about living in community. Here’s a short list of joys that come immediately to mind:

  • We often hear children playing in the courtyard.
  • Spencer has already had many coveted opportunities to play with the kids.
  • We get fresh greens from the rooftop farm.
  • We have impromptu visits from neighbors.
  • We share resources and workloads.
  • We eat together 5 times every two weeks. In a 6 week rotation we each only cook once and assist twice.

We’re confident that the start-up workload will settle down and that we’ll continue to find both joys and challenges in living in community for a long time to come.

Spencer & Sheila’s apartment

For those who are not able to stop by for a visit here’s some photos of our new home. It’s 850 sq ft, so only slightly smaller than our condo. But here we have a much smaller storage area and no parking included. Of course we can walk to everything, are across the park from Light Rail and have ample transportation alternatives.  There are 3 unique floor plans and each unit had one non-weight-bearing wall that could optionally be left out. We chose to leave out the one that made a second bedroom. That allows us more light coming in from the west and better cross ventilation. It also makes a very long narrow unit which was affectionately dubbed “the bowling alley” prior to move-in. Hopefully you’ll agree that with furnishings it’s quite nicely arranged. We have 1.5 baths, a cork floors, Caesar Stone counter tops and a large storage closet.

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Mar 1, 2015

AARP Essay Contest

17-S2 Atlantic victory postcardLast summer Sheila happened upon an AARP photo contest about your best vacation ever. She entered the photo of us holding up the tandem at the end of our cross country journey (shown right) and forgot about it. In the fall she was sent a $100 gift card. Not bad. Encouraged by success, when she saw a new contest she decided to try again. This one was an essay limited to 200 words on the topic “Our Town”. The judges selected the top 9 in each of 9 communities based on their specified criteria and Sheila’s was included for Seattle. Here’s what she wrote:

Growing up in New England and living in Europe and Asia before settling in Seattle. I can say Seattle is THE greatest place to live. This diverse and densely populated city is divided into walkable neighborhoods with distinct personalities. You can be sure it will feel like a community where farmer’s markets, street fairs and sidewalks abound, all connected with a transportation system that includes car and bike sharing with extensive bike paths. The temperate weather lets us enjoy all the scenic wonders the Puget Sound region offers while sailing, kayaking, mountain climbing, hiking and skiing. Seattle was named the most literate city, with a nationally acclaimed library and reading program. Town Hall serves as a community cultural center, offering affordable daily programs in humanities, civic discourse, and world culture events. There are dozens of professional cultural institutions with offerings from ballet and symphony to art museums and independent theater companies. And don’t forget the International Film Festival and the Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, and a multitude of offerings at the Seattle Center including ethnic festivals, Bumbershoot and Folk Life Festival. Seattle welcomes everyone, young and old with an active AARP chapter and many inter-generational cohousing communities and Villages.

Then in December there was a month of online popular voting. While we awaited the results we talked about what would we DO in the unlikely event of winning the $10,000 prize? We agreed we didn’t really “need” the money. We decided to give half to our cohousing community for some project that would not have been done otherwise and would have some lasting impact. And that we’d spend half on a special bicycle trip.

We found out in late January that indeed Sheila’s entry was selected. WHOOPEE! $10,000 is a sweet windfall. We are still in the planning stages but it looks like we will work with our friend Clarie Barnett’s business Seattle Mosaic Arts to develop a mosaic art piece for our new building’s entry as well as pavers representing each family in our atrium courtyard off the common space.

For our bicycle trip we decided to finally do the Banff-Jasper trip we’d planned just before Sheila broke her hip in May of 2013. This time instead of doing it all on the cheap (camping) we’ve signed up for a plush tour with Cycling Escapes. Watch for more about our training plans soon.

Feb 14, 2013

1 Billion Rising


QdobaToday was Valentine’s Day. We really rolled back the clock on this one. After a day of fussing with computers, we headed to the NE YMCA (now called the University YMCA) where Sheila and I met just over 30 years ago.  A little trip down memory lane.

We went to attend a world-wide event – 1 Billion Rising. It is a dance protest to stand against violence against women. Violence that will see 1 Billion women become victims of violence in their lives. We need to break that chain. People in more than 200 countries around the world participated in flash mobs and other organized dances. You can see our group below.


After we danced for 30 minutes, Sheila and I went back to Capitol Hill and ate at Qdoba Mexican Food where we got two for one burritos for kissing while in line! What a deal!

Closed our our evening by sharing chocolates with our meditation group while discussing Loving-kindness. I shared stories of my mom and her “favorites”. That’s the best example of loving-kindness I can think of.

It was a great evening. Memories, dancing, (bargain) dining, chocolate, meditation, and love. All wrapped up in this precious moment.

Oct 11, 2001

S2 Joint Stuff

Spencer & Sheila at Jim & Jeannie Grippin's wedding (Spencer officiated)You could call this our hodge-podge area. Here you’ll find the details of our lives that aren’t covered in the Sheila, Spencer or S2Cycle sections. Right now it covers: our bio-diesel car, our Food Choices, including some new developments,  Spirituality, our relationship review and our cats including Morrie’s toilet training and diabetes. We’ve added a whole new sub-section about our home including the back-story of downsizing and photos of the new condo. Our newest adventure is a major change in our food choices called Eat to Live. It’s so major it gets its own page. And the newest section is called Making a Difference that focuses on ways we can all make a difference. And check out our Fly Less page. Remember as the group We Add Up says, No one can do everything. But everyone can do something!



Sep 30, 2012


…for making the S2 Milestones Celebration wonderful

We’ve setup a Flickr slideshow of the photos we’ve collected.
If you have any to add please email them and we’ll add them.

Video of Ceremony (13 minutes)

If you click this link the video will come up in another window.
Or you can simply read the ceremony here.

Many of you complimented the food so I wanted to be sure to acknowledge Personal Chef Rachel Duboff of Thyme to Nourish.

And here are a few of the wonderful wishes we received….

Fabulous party. I left feeling full–physically and spiritually. Thank you so much for including me. —Joyce

It was a wonderful party! I’m sorry I couldn’t stay later and schmooze some more. Great food, great people, and you two really are so inspirational. I was honored to be there among your special communities. —Wendy L

Thanks for orchestrating such an inspiring demonstration of community! XOXO. —Paulette

What a fabulous evening. So much fun, I loved every minute and what a terrific setting! Talked to your sister-in-law, she hurried me outside to secretly show me the gift she got for Spencer! She remembers me and our visit there and the crystal ball we gave her, which she still has!! And Wendy Lippmann was wonderful to visit with, as was Mary Anne! You two look radiantly happy!!! Congratulations!!! Indeed glorious!!!! As was the party, such happiness, you could feel it everywhere!

A huge, bright rainbow was arching across the sky when I left. Good sign! Gorgeous sign from nature that your life is a gift from the universe!!! Celebratory day in so many ways…love to you both and your butterfly! Congratulations again, you both are loved and treasured in our lives, what a wonderful community of good spirits there. —Wendy T

The event and facility was simply gorgeous. Kudos to you and Spencer for having such a beautiful vision to make it an event that was clearly so reflective of you and what is important to you. I felt really blessed to have been a part of it. —Rachel

Spencer and Sheila, you really know how to throw a fun party. We had a great time last night. There was such a positive energy in the room. We have never before been to a party and felt like we belonged and felt welcomed by all the other guests like we did last night. I feel honored that you chose me to represent the ETC part of your community in holding your Chuppah. We hope someday to play Spenceopoly. That is the best birthday gift we have ever seen. Thank you, — Thyce & Amy PS The food was amazing.

Hi Spencer & Sheila! Reflecting on inner and outer journeys we celebrate you, your tenacity and clarity for life directions.

We enjoy our feelings this Sunday morning from the wonderful celebration of your recommitment of life together, your birthday Spencer and your great bicycle journey. We were moved by your deep personal sharing during the recommitment ceremony. We appreciate the commitment and generosity you give to each other and to your community. As we review our journey with you we find much to celebrate in terms of understanding why we eat the food we eat and the manner we live in community. We have known your clarity, self-confidence, playfulness and organization and yesterday our images expanded to included a svelte Spencer and a glamorous Sheila. Thank you for the meaningful sharing of yourselves and generous inclusion of community. — Sid &Carole

It was an absolute pleasure to be there Spencer. You have a wonderful community and I felt honored to be part of it and to have a daughter who has benefited from having your genes!!! Amazing resemblances! Whew! Seriously, she was in charge of packing the prop truck after each show this summer because she was so good at it!! So funny!!! I hope the amazing glow of the day (not to mention the rainbow!!) continues for you and Sheila for many days! —Fran

Congratulations to you! What a wonderful party and tribute to the both of you. It was so cool to see and meet so many of your friends who clearly think of you as the stars that light the universe! The location was lovely, the recommitment ceremony beautiful, all in all a wonderful day. So glad we could be there to share this day. Hope you are home basking in all the glory the day had to bring. —Love to you, Em

Wonderful beautiful gathering Sheila et Spencer. I’m sorry Arden couldn’t be there so we could share the experience. Enjoyed meeting all the different folks – no surprise that so many were very outgoing and easy to talk to. Welcome back and bon voyage on your next journey – co-housing! —Eric

Let us live…what we believe. You two embody this better than anyone we know! —MASH & John

S&S you are an amazing duo! We love your tenacity, energy, and humor and your commitment to nourishing your own lives and the lives of those around you near and far. May you continue to share adventure and challenges, love and joy for many more years to come. May the love your community hold you in its warm embrace all your days. —George & Julene

Jul 4, 2001

Relationship Review

Every year we set aside time between Christmas and New Year’s to do what we call our relationship review. It’s a structured set of questions which we discuss and journal. Then we set both personal and relationship goals for the coming year and beyond. We’ve been doing this process since before we were married. If you would find it useful you’re welcome to download a copy and customize it to suit your needs. It’s something we really look forward to doing together. We recommend setting aside a large chunk of uninterrupted time, ideally away from phones, computers, etc. It takes us an entire day to go through it. This may, in part be why we’ve been happy together for 25+ years!

Dec 30, 1989

Food Choices

Our food choices have shaped our lives dramatically for more than a decade. In 1990 we heard John Robbins speak at the University of Washington. We immediately read his book Diet for a New America and gave up meat, dairy, and eggs on the basis of the environmental destruction those industries cause. We founded the Seattle chapter of EarthSave to help spreadClick to enlarge the word. Spencer served as secretary for 5 years, while Sheila was the president. Sheila eventually gave up that position and helped the organization start a healthy food festival, “The Taste of Health” while she also served on the national board of directors. After 10 years we both retired. To learn more about the connection between your food choices and the environment visit EarthSave’s national website. John Robbins has a new book out called The Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Save Your Life and The World. It covers updated information about genetically modified foods and Mad Cow Disease.

New as of April 20, 2007. We have decided that despite our plant-based diet we have been consuming way too much processed food, mostly in the form of soy and nowhere near enough whole foods such as fruits and veggies. SO… we’ve just started a 6-wekk program based on the book Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman, MD. His web site offers a wealth of support including a comprehensive recipe database, discussion forum and an archive of past radio talks and newsletters. We’re excited to finally be cleaning up our eating and hope that we’ll be thinner and healthier by Memorial Day weekend when we attend this year’s Northwest Tandem Rally in Yakima. Read the full story here.