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Tandemonium!


Mrs. Bgddy and I took our tandem out last evening. 

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We went out with a plan though…  It was time to start working on actually working together.  Every tandem couple we’ve talked to has said that the keys to enjoying a tandem are efficiency and working together.  One breeds the other but I don’t know which is the chicken and which is the egg… let alone which came first.

Before we left I swapped saddles with my Trek.  I’ve got almost 30,000 miles on Specialized Romin saddles and the Selle Italia X1 that came on the tandem wasn’t getting it.

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We started easy but quickly ramped up the speed to an easy 19-1/2 mph.  Speed wasn’t the agenda though.  Efficiency and working together was.  We went through what it felt like when I was putting the power on and when I was soft pedaling to make my wife work.  Then we worked on matching power.  Finally we got to a real trouble spot.

Cadence.  Damn.

My wife, it turns out, is a masher.  I once was too, before I saw the light (and it was a while coming, I’m not blaming my wife) but now that I know how to use the gears efficiently, to push a lighter gear faster, trying to go back to mashing sucks. So I showed my wife how I like to spin up an easier gear so the transition to an up shift is smooth and easy. It seemed like she really took to it as well, once she got to feel the difference.

Funny moment of the night: My wife asked me why it is that I get to pick the cadence.

Surprisingly, we did find an excellent compromise that we can both live with and works (I didn’t expect this). I simply shift about a second earlier than I normally would when we’re spinning up to a higher a gear. It’s not enough that I can’t muscle through it in one pedal stroke and it’s slightly before my wife starts bouncing in her saddle to keep up.

We stopped once to adjust saddle heights, once to check the front brake that started grinding (long story, took 10 minutes to fix it when we got back).

Throughout the ride we did one thing that we’d failed to do in that last several miles. We talked about everything that we were doing – and more important, what we were going to do. Communication is key and sadly, one of the few flaws of becoming competent on a solo bike first, you never have to constantly communicate with another cyclist about riding… You simply do it.

Anyway, when it was all said and done, even with several stops, extra caution at intersections, and wobbles along the way, we pulled into the driveway with an 18.3 mph average. I would have been happy with 15 or 16… All things considered, yesterday’s ride was MUCH more fruitful than I anticipated it would be.

Once we get this locked down, we’re going to fly.

P.S. The title is a tad misleading. There was no pandemonium. It just sounded cool in my head when I thought of it.

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11 Comments

  1. Sounds like big grins are on the way

  2. Sandra says:

    In kayaking, there is a saying: “Paddle alone, sleep together.” I have yet to hear this applied to cycling–sounds like you’re working things out together quite well! Will you let her ride up front some day, too?

    • bgddyjim says:

      Sandra, when my wife becomes the strongest cyclist between us and decides to eat a house and outweigh me (I weigh 35 pounds more than she does on my light days), she can take the captain’s chair. Unlike canoeing, tandem bikes are not a popularity contest or social experiment. You put the strongest cyclist in the front because keeping that bike on the road is hard to begin with. You put the lightest, weaker cyclist in the front, you should be able to imagine the implications. With a 135 pound person on the back, who shifts around, it’s unruly. In other words, el Capitan is me. We are getting her prepared to captain for our daughters. She fits the profile with them.

      • Sandra says:

        Same with canoeing, put the strongest paddler in front–the difference is that the rear does the ‘steering’. Hubby always paddles in the front. Like cycling, it’s also not a popularity contest or social experiment. Put the lightest, weakest paddler in the front and perhaps you could imagine the consequences as well. My hubby and I will paddle a canoe together, but there is no el capitan–it is a joint effort that takes trust between both for the tasks that each one does! That’s why we’ll likely never tandem bike. I like lookin’ at his fine patoot, but I don’t need to smell it! LOL!

      • bgddyjim says:

        LOL! Yes, we have a rule about that issue… A tandem is no fun when only one is pedaling, so I have to, ahem, wait for stops.

        Interestingly then, as with you and your husband whilst canoeing, we will maintain the proper order of the universe and put the big, strong ox in the captain’s saddle where he belongs. 😎

      • Sandra says:

        I doubt she refers to you as an ox. . . the view certainly is better up front. I found that out during a heavy wind even where we needed to change the weight balance in order just to navigate. I much prefer the back to having waves crash over the front of the canoe into my lap–seem so much less stable! 🙂
        We all have our own ways to contemplate the world and how we move through it, don’t we? The logical way for best results seem so obvious once pondered.

      • bgddyjim says:

        Mmmm. Perhaps this is the difference between canoeing and tandem cycling: There is no view up front except for the traffic. I’m too busy avoiding bumps, so I don’t hurt my wife (she can’t brace herself because she can’t see them). I also have to keep the bike in line and upright, make sure we’re in the right gear for the road conditions, and make sure we don’t crash into or lose the wheel in front of us. My wife, on the other hand, is free to check out the scenery as she pleases though she does help immensely with signalling and checking our six when needed. As is often the case, the captain’s saddle may seem like the place to be but it’s not near as sexy as it seems.

  3. Dan says:

    Sounds like you’ve beaten the tandem naysaying gods already!

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