My wife and I chose the tandem for Sunday’s ride. It had been at least a couple of months since we had it out – such is the nature of summer riding. My wife rides long miles during the week when I’m locked for time because of work, so I ride long on the weekends when I can get the miles in… which means we end up on single bikes until after the A-100.
We had a great route picked out and the weather was on the
warm hot side of spectacular. Another mostly sunny day with no wind to think of. We rolled out at 7:30 because the days are getting noticeably shorter now but we had a great group. Three tandems and three single bikes, and we were off an rolling in the warm, heavy early morning air. Diane and Jeff are one of the strongest tandem couples we have locally at the moment, so if we can simply hold their wheel, I’m happy. My riding buddy, Chuck just picked up a new Co-Motion gravel bike tandem that’s simply freaking fantastic (and light), they were on theirs. Then we had Matt, Mike and Chuck to round out the group on their singles.
I am finicky on our tandem. My wife and I don’t hold wheels well on the tandem. See, momentum is a funny thing with tandems… when you have it, you can go forever. When you lose it, it takes forever to build it back up, so you have to do everything you can to keep it. With two people pedaling in a pace-line, it’s not like I can simply adjust how hard I’m pedaling as I would on a single bike – that doesn’t work when my wife is laying down power, too. So you have to scrub speed with one of the brakes. Well, my wife likes to lay off her power when she feels the brake drag, so we lose twice the momentum, rather than simply scrubbing a little speed. On my part of the ledger on this, I’ve got serious issues with staying right up on somebody’s rear wheel to get the optimal draft. I get this, obviously, from single bikes but it doesn’t work the same with a tandem. I work on relaxing a little bit and staying back a good foot or two rather than try to maintain 6″ to 12″.
My wife and I stayed up front for just shy of the first 18 miles.
Generally smooth roads around the whole 45-mile route and my wife and I actually picked off a couple of City Limits signs, including one of my favorites in Durand, our second in a row on that stretch. The first is an interesting one. We take advantage of a decent descent followed by a nasty climb that we normally end up fading on. Yesterday, though, we powered down the hill and rode the momentum up the climb so we hit the false flat and easier pedaling – we barely slowed down and managed to climb the rest of the hill at 18-mph (we usually drop down to 10 to 12-mph) before hitting another downhill that the sign is at the end of. We powered down the hill topping 33-mph and stayed on the gas through the sign so we carried our momentum up another punchy climb before heading back downhill again. We worked the momentum perfectly through the rollers.
We had a straight, flat section for a couple of miles and that leads up to another short, shallow uphill – and this leads to one of my favorite City Limits signs that I fight for, no matter what. Normally, I like to build my speed up on the short climb, but that’s near impossible on the tandem – but we did maintain near 20-mph on the way up and then we put the hammer down as we crested. I could hear Mike shifting behind us – I knew he was coming, so I gave it everything I had and my wife matched me. Normally, I’m happy if I can hit 32 or 33 across the line, but with Mike closing in, we were spurred on and managed to take it all the way to 35-mph and pip Mike by inches as we charged across the line.
We took a bypass around a massive track crossing in Durand, then hit the homestretch. Sadly, we saw a massive plume of smoke on the horizon and as we closed in, we saw fire trucks and police cars stretched across the road about a mile from our house. Jess and I stopped while Diane & Jeff, Chuck and Libby, and Matt rolled through to see if they could get around. Mike and Chuck went the back way home… and just as I was getting ready to roll for home, a police SUV went by and blocked the road at the intersection just to our right so nobody else could get through. Rather than mess with first responders doing their job, we went back toward the police vehicle and went the long way around (I wanted the extra miles anyway).
That last five or six miles, we simply kept a decent pace and talked about the ride – how we did, how we felt, and so on. For me, I was really pleased with how we did after so long on the singles. I enjoyed the ride thoroughly and was exceedingly happy with how well we worked together. It was a perfect tandem ride. My wife had a lot of good to say as well. It was another glorious morning on the right side of the grass. We ended up with 49 miles @ 17.9-mph and a top speed of 34.7-mph.
That tandem may be an unruly, heavy beast, but I sure do love riding it with my wife.