Tandemonium! Learning How to Love A Tandem Bicycle – We Had to Start Slow… (But We Didn’t)
Sunday Funday became a perfect chance for my wife and I to learn how to ride our tandem. It was my wife who first suggested we pull the tandem out for an easier Sunday ride. Back in days past, I’d text out that we’d be riding an easy pace and it’d start out great, but if one or two heavy hitters showed, it would get out of hand in a hurry. My wife, with no speedometer for the stoker, had no idea how fast we were going so she would… uh… pedal lightly. I’d hammer the pedals to keep up and I could literally feel my pedal strokes pushing into hers.
My buddy, Mike, said once, a while back, that he works about 30% harder on a tandem with his wife than on his single so I figured this was simply how tandems were. I’d be good for about 30, maybe 35 miles, and I’d be smoked. We managed close to a 20-mph pace a few times, but that kind of speed was hard.
Then, Sunday Funday. With no pressure to keep a 20-mph average, my wife and I were afforded the opportunity to learn how to work together on the bike. Better, as the ride became known as a relaxed pace ride, more tandems popped up. We had four tandems one week – more tandems than single bikes.
With the relaxed pace I watched how the others rode. I learned little tricks, like not holding wheels as tightly in a pace-line as I would on my single (this was a huge tip – I blew a lot of energy trying to stay right on the wheel in front of me). Also, using the right of the cyclist in front of me as a little bailout to scrub speed. Riding with experienced tandem couples was huge. Unfortunately, it also meant a lot of work. Experienced tandem couples tend to have really nice tandems, often weighing ten to sixteen pounds less than ours (and costing more than double, even triple the $4,000 we have into ours).
I cleaned up and readied the tandem for the first time since last year about eight Sundays ago. 17-mph was a fair bit of work back then. Today, 18 is easy. In fact, just yesterday, to keep our at the upper range of a 17 to 18-mph average, we actually had to scrub speed coming home with a tailwind. It was fantastic. Now, we could have finished with an 18.2-mph average. Nobody in that group would have cared, but we decided to go exploring and took our time with it. The ride was so much fun, I’m likely to get a call from my accountant that my taxes have been raised because it’s just not fair I should have so much fun on a bicycle.
If I had it to do over again, we would’ve started out slower, maybe even just the two of us, rather than try to climb directly into the ring to duke it out. On the other hand, if that had been how we started, I’m not guaranteed we would be where we are now, either. In the end, I suppose everything worked out just as it should because we’re having an @$$-ton of fun on that bicycle. Yesterday’s ride was a little more than 40 miles. We pulled up front for 37 of them.
And I just had something new arrive at the house for it yesterday: