My wife and I are growing vastly more competent on our new tandem.
Our test ride (23-1/2 miles) was a little rough and slow because the bike setup was simply “eyeballed”. Still, it was obviously enjoyable enough for us to buy the bike.
Our second foray (44 miles) was awesome for the first 3o-ish miles and a meltdown thereafter. We were both sweating the idea that maybe we’d be better off sticking with solo bikes.
Then we went on two rides during the week, Wednesday and Friday (16 and 30 miles respectively) that were aimed at getting us working together. They succeeded and wildly exceeded my expectations. Our outlook on the tandem improved exponentially.
Then came yesterday’s 50 miler… It started out awesome. We were headed into a stiff cross headwind but we were cutting into it fairly well between 19 and 21 mph. We were working excellently together and our pace was fantastic. I learned too… Where I would normally have worn knee and arm warmers for 58 degrees, I left them home. My wife and I were hiding behind another tandem but we took a nice long turn up front too and I wasn’t having to work as hard as last Sunday’s jaunt. Mrs. Bgddy was cranking out good wattage. I’d also spent some time thinking, the day before, about how I could be a better, more efficient captain – and I came up with a good one. During the group rides I had a tendency to try too hard to hold a wheel. Wind simply isn’t the same on a tandem and there’s a little more room to let a gap form because it’s not all that hard to make it up in a few pedal strokes. The ride went smoother for my lack of urgency – so much that Mrs. Bgddy actually commented about 20 miles in that I was doing a much better job of captaining the bike. Excellent news.
Then we hit 30 miles and my wife started to bonk. It got messy, quick. Not necessarily between us, but she was fading fast. There were even some tears. It got so bad, I was at max power trying to hold the other tandem’s wheel and could barely keep up. When I started running out of juice, I told my wife I was was fading and needed help. She was good for a couple of miles.
I offered for everyone else to go on ahead but they slowed the pace and let us stay with them. The rest of the ride was uneventful and she even came back quite a bit for a strong finish.
We pulled into the driveway, ate, napped and showered… and talked about the ride.
It seems we found my wife’s limit on the tandem – 30 to 35 miles (on a solo bike it’s 40). This will increase as time goes but we’re going to have an interesting time trying to extend her rides in the meantime.
The meltdown did nothing to tamp either of our enthusiasm, of course. We simply know we have some work to do.
I was prepared for this, I’ve lived it for years, trying to get the hydration, nutrition and effort right. What my wife went through was no fun but she’ll be stronger for it in the end. Concentrating on the positive, the first 30 miles were an absolute joy and I am looking forward to getting comfortable with the longer distances (30 miles is nice but it’s not enough for a weekend ride).
All in good time.