Let me be very clear before I begin this post; 1% better every day works. In my case, though, the first month was made possible by seismic changes and a whole mess of patience betwixt both partners.
My wife and I were in a marriage you could call good but not great. I believe we’d have stayed together to reach old age but we would have made it to senior citizen status not loving each other as much as we could have. My wife and I would have both done the minimum necessary to stay together, but no more.
We would have wasted a lot of potential and it would have been sad. That’s not how this freakin’ story ends, though.
I started watching Jordan Peterson and Richard Grannon lectures so I could better argue with my wife. So I could learn to win. My wife is a professional arguer and has the memory of… well, something that has a looooong memory. She can mess me up in a debate and I wanted to be able to take her down.
I didn’t learn how to debate my wife, though. I learned how to not debate her. I learned how we could both win. This is the video that changed our marriage, found on YouTube: Jordan Peterson: If you have any sense, you seek peace rather than victory. I’d actually listened to it a couple of days prior but went back to it when my wife asked me to attend a concert with her across state, about almost two-hour’s drive. I listened to that video twice on the way to meet my wife. Then I put it into practice when things got heated not five minutes into the ride to the arena. It worked – and better, my wife followed suit with the changed tactics – having never watched a minute of those videos.
We ended up having one of the best nights we’d had together in years. And that was the day that rocked our marriage.
From there, I heard a clip on how to do one percent better every day to clean up your life. I tended to be messy (not so much any more). Unless it’s massive, I rarely see untidiness. I see filth, but not untidiness. I started by cleaning my room. Just a little bit each day; ten minutes. I put my clothes away. I dusted my dresser and cleaned off the top of everything. I made my side of the bedroom match my wife’s over the course of two weeks. Before she knew it, my side was as clean, or cleaner, than hers. I applied the 1% better trick to the yard with my girls. We’d pick up sticks, normally a 45 minute task, 10 minutes a day over the course of four days. They loved it.
Once the my room and the yard were clean, I made another leap – and this was the one that really made the difference. I started listening to Richard Grannon’s series on narcissists. I’d always suspected my wife is a bit of a benign narcissist, so I wanted to learn how to live with that peacefully and happily.
To make a very long story short, I ended up finding out that I’m just as much a narcissist as my wife is. That was a shock that shook me to my core. We exhibit different traits, but I learned I was truly no better than my wife. That’s what completely changed our game. I asked God to open my eyes so I could see everything as it was. Once I saw who I really was, rather than who I thought I was, I saw a mountain in the mirror that needed changing.
So I set about doing that. At first, the changes were massive, starting with every emotional barrier I’d built over the last 25 years. It was terrifying work! What if my wife took advantage of me in that state?! That wouldn’t be unheard of. I laid everything out for her in a tear-filled confession. I trusted my Higher Power to work a miracle. My wife accepted the changes, skeptically at first, but fully embraced them as she realized the changes were real and not just a manipulation. The changes became more gradual – a lot like that 1% a day. I started communicating with my wife a lot more, and she made vast changes at the same time.
It’s been about four months and we’re in a place we only dreamt was possible five months ago – and we’ve just begun. I go to sleep every night and wake up every morning thanking God for the changes in me that led to the changes in us.
And so it was, just a couple of weeks ago, my wife and I headed up north to a bike tour with our tandem. It was an amazing weekend that would have been almost impossible four months earlier. And we’re only growing closer…
Think about the possibilities. 1% better today than you were yesterday… that’s easy. Now imagine what happens in a hundred days.
Picking Off QOMs for My Wife on the Tandem… And Even A KOM or Two for Me! It’s Legal, but Is It Fair?!
My wife and I are one dynamic couple on a tandem. We’re not incredibly fast over the long haul (though we can hold a 20-mph average when we want to) but on short bursts, we’re exceptionally fast. When it really comes to laying down the watts, on the flat or downhill sections, we can absolutely kill it on our tandem. We knock down QOMs and KOMs that would normally require a fair tailwind with little more than a light crossing tailwind.
A few weeks ago, wanting to get my wife the QOM for a particular segment, we hammered it for the better part of half-a-mile before running out of gas just as we crossed the City Limits sign to take the QOM and KOM for me at a 33-mph average for the stretch.
Don’t ask me how Jessica is at 53 seconds and I’m at 50… we’re contacting Strava about that.
A few weeks before, we picked off a sweet QOM for my wife heading into Vernon. That KOM is simply out of reach, even on the tandem as the male pace is close to 40-mph for that segment. Still, I was feeling quite peacockish for helping my wife unseat the previous QOM holder (who also attained her QOM status on a tandem).
So, the question is, is QOM seeking fair on a tandem?
The jury is out on fairness. It’s legal, though, and I doubt I’d ever grow tired of helping my wife get another even is it wasn’t.
My Rear Admiral and I are neck deep in our tandem and we’re both loving it. My wife worries, a little too much (IMHO), that I need my normal buddy rides but I’ve tried to let her know that there’s no place I’d rather be than on the tandem with her. I do have some big rides coming up, of course, that will be on a single bike with my friends. The Assenmacher 100 pre-ride, the Assenmacher 100, DALMAC… but the way I see it, I’m following my heart, here.
That I’m actually paying attention to what my heart wants is a small miracle in and of itself and my heart wants me on that tandem with my wife, it feels that’s where I am happiest on a bicycle. I love being a tandem couple all the way down to my baby toes tucked in our matching socks.
We rolled out Sunday morning to a perfect setting. Not too hot, not too cool, a little bit of sun and the rain from the night before had dried up. Even the wind was behaving (for once). We ate most of the headwind at the beginning of the ride, then settled in for an awesome stretch of tailwind on the way home. We’d had a 17-ish-mph average when we made the turn and pulled into the driveway with better than 18.3. The ride was an absolute blast.
For Monday, now this one was a kicker to my ticker; my wife had to work from home because she had some business in town to attend to in the late morning. She could have ridden early on her road bike with my buddy, Mike, but she opted to ride in the afternoon with me, on the tandem, instead. She made sure to lay down the Rear Admiral law, though; no speed demon crap – she wanted nice and easy. That’s what we always do on Monday, right before the big event Tuesday, so I was pleased as punch to comply. We talked about things of consequence the entire time we were on the bike, an hour and five minutes – and we still maintained a 16-mph average.
We got a great “spinning” ride in and talked about everything we had coming up that needed to be kicked around. We never would have had time to do both separately and we would have missed half of what was said on single bikes. Chalk up one more reason to love the tandem.
Now there’s tonight… we’re doing the tandem this evening so we can be the “B” group. Our A-Elite and A groups have merged, so there’s some lamentation that the “B” group has gone. Well, my wife and I are going do our part to resurrect it.
And that’ll be our fifth day in a row on the tandem.
You can’t see it, but I just did a little happy dance. Thanks, God.
This year is a distinct departure from the last eleven. In an effort to be a better husband to my wife, I’ve let go of my need/desire (take your pick) to be an aggressively fast cyclist. This change in heart has been a long time in coming and, while my previous choices didn’t make me a “bad” husband/father, looking back I don’t think there’s any question I was selfish and self-centered. Now, you may wonder how this runs into golf. Well, I used to golf. A lot. I could regularly shoot in the 70s for 18 holes and would even manage par or one under fairly consistently on moderate to easy courses. I can still remember the first round I beat my dad (who spent double the time I did on a golf course and could kick my butt with fairways and greens). Then Alzheimer’s and what they call alcoholic “wet brain” at the same time for my dad. I met up with my dad every Friday for years for a Friday afternoon round of golf. We’d play 18, then get some lunch or dinner. Then I’d head home to my wife and kids. Speaking of kids, after our first was born, golf took a back seat. Practice four days a week with two rounds a week turned into one practice day and a round or two a week. My dad started breaking down in 2013 and we moved him to a home so he could be looked after. Our Friday golf outing dwindled from 18 holes to 14, to 9… and when my dad started teeing up the ball at me, I pulled the plug and stopped taking him.
Shortly after my dad died, I quit golf altogether. It just wasn’t the same without him and our Friday outings. I quit for a broken heart.
Well, this past spring, my daughter asked me to teach the game to her and, being the dad I am, I said I would. I had to find a way to get my heart back into it, though. I took my dad’s set of Callaway Big Bertha Irons in and had the shafts lengthened and re-gripped and I had a second set of my dad’s clubs regripped for my daughter. With my dad’s spirit in my golf bag, I started practicing again at the local driving range about five miles from my house. I’ve played four rounds in the last, call it five weeks, and I almost feel like my old self. When I get a hold of a drive, I’m hitting 270 to 280 yards (247 to 256 meters) and am starting to get quite proficient with my short irons (my 5 and 6 still need some work). Not bad for a 52-year-old who hasn’t swung a club in eight years.
So, uncharacteristically, twice last week I chose golf, or practice over riding. Once to take my daughter to the range, Wednesday, and once Friday for an invite to a supplier’s golf outing.
I played well, Friday – a four man best-ball scramble. I one-putted for holes to keep our team even or drop a shot – all over 20′ with the longest at least 40′ (12 meters) and hit several fantastic drives, as well as a few good iron shots. I started really getting warmed up in the middle holes, call it six to fourteen before sputtering out because I was hungry.
In that eight hole stretch I felt like the old me again, and it was good.
Saturday, it was time for a rowdy ride on the tandem with my lovely wife – my (new-ish) favorite mode of cycling. We did a nice 46-mile loop with an average pace over 18-mph. We were absolutely on as a couple and the ride showed it. We were laughing and talking and had two long pulls in excess of 16-miles, one dead into a high single-digit headwind. I love it when we’re on like that. The rest of the day was a special celebration for my wife that I need not get into here, but I will say it was a lovely day.
Today will be more of the same – tandemonium, yet again, followed by yard work and some flower planting and yardwork.
My favorite band of all time is Stone Temple Pilots. I saw them once in an arena and my wife and I saw their lead singer perform at a local concert bar where he was tightening up his solo act before hitting the national scene with his show. He was dead of an overdose shortly thereafter in 2015. It was a sad… and will come into play later in this post….
My wife was going to be home late from work last night so I easily had time to fit in an early evening ride before we had dinner as a family for the first time in a week. Our daughters both work, now, so getting everybody in the house at the same time, along with my wife and I, is increasingly rare. As I turned onto our street, I saw a hearse in my neighbor’s driveway. His wife had been battling many health issues and a bit of dementia as well. She’d recently stopped eating and it was only a matter of time. Her husband of 65-years is absolutely gutted. We stopped by the other day to say good-bye. He had his wife on a hospital bed in their living room, facing the television watching the pro baseball game, holding her hand. He must have said, “that’s my whole life right there”, pointing at his wife, a dozen times.
That’s exactly how much I love my wife and I can only hope I’ve got another 40 or 50 years left of this…
Back to last night. I threw a leg over the top tube of my Specialized Venge in the driveway and rolled out onto the road after letting two cars clear, wobbling strangely at first. I half-chuckled at how strange and twitchy the single bike felt under me. I started to cry. For Jerry, first, but then those tears turned to gratitude. I spent the whole ride thankful that my Venge felt so… not like the tandem I ride with my wife.
I get to love my wife like there’s no tomorrow, when there is. And for that, I am grateful beyond words.
Getting back to Stone Temple Pilots, Still Remains.
Pick a song and sing of yellow nectarines
Take a bath I’ll drink the water that you leave
If you should die before me ask if you can bring a friend
Pick a flower, hold your breath and drift away…Most lyric sites have it as “pick a song and sing a yellow nectarine”; I don’t believe that’s what he sings in the song because it makes no damned sense that way, but whatever. https://songmeanings.com/songs/view/15231/
That’s the first song in a playlist my wife put together for us back in 2017. The first of 108 songs. That line exactly describes how I feel about my wife and I regularly tell her, “ask if you can bring a friend”. She says she can’t, of course… not until she’s sure our girls are good and taken care of. After that, immediately.
I love riding that silly, heavy tandem with my wife. I told her the other day, if they came out with a new law that said you can only own one bicycle, it’d be a tandem… and my wife and I would ride off into the sunset, singing of yellow nectarines, taking baths, meeting God together, and being grateful to have each other in this crazy world. For however long that might be. One glorious day at a time.
Tires for Tandems!!! Continental Gets the Honorable “Flat Protection” Award… As Specialized Kicks Continental’s Butt and Takes the “Comfortable” Award.
After having ridden Continental Super Sport tires on our tandem until the Kevlar showed (I mean this literally, no rubber left on a patch or two of the tire) without one single flat tire in thousands of miles, I’ve gotta give Continental its due on their flat protection. That I could write this is a testament to how good their tires are – it’s not exactly like a tandem is nimble. Those tires have been through it.
Sadly, compared against the lowly Specialized Espoir Sport 28-mm tire, the Conti’s were like riding on a metal rail. Oh, the “rolling resistance” may have been a little lower but the beyond plush Specialized Espoir Sport is simply outstanding by comparison.
The Specialized Espoir tire is the lower end of the Specialized road spectrum but they’ve always been a decent tire, especially as flat protection goes. On our tandem, they’re like riding on a buttered bagel… with cream cheese next to the Conti’s. In fact, they’ve made riding our Co-Motion quite a bit more enjoyable.
At the writing of this post, I’d say we’ve got about 500 exceedingly comfortable, flat-free miles on the Espoir Sport tires and we won’t be going back.
Sunrise Adventure in Alpena, Michigan; One Amazing Tour (Especially for Tandems and New Tandem Couples)
My wife and I completed our first ever tandem tour just last weekend up in Alpena, Michigan with the League of Michigan Bicyclists.
Now, this is going to be a fairly biased review for several reasons, but for one, because I spent a good deal of my summers as a young boy in Alpena staying with my grandmother. There’s a special cedar smell to Alpena that’s stayed with me all these years… One smell and I’m transported back to being a carefree kid. Combine that with that it was my first tandem tour with my wife, and we spent a good deal of the weekend helping out with logistics and registration. That said, for the scenery and immaculate roads (they were absolutely fantastic) the 2022 Sunrise Adventure was the most enjoyable of all the tours I’ve ever ridden for a multitude of reasons.
For the sake of this post, I’ll stick to the tour itself. This tour is hub-and-spoke, meaning you’re at a “home base” at a hotel (or other rental property – not included in the cost of the tour itself) and you radiate out on three different routes for each of the riding days (Friday, Saturday and Sunday).
Registration is on Thursday afternoon just before the tour kicks off with a rider’s meeting and a wonderful spread of wine and snacks (I, obviously, skipped the wine). We’re not talking about your normal granola bar snacks here. This was a full cracker, cheese and sausage spread from a catering company.
Day One’s route is beautiful and scenic.
Day Two is the most beautiful route I’ve ever ridden (and that includes the Tunnel of Trees route outside of Harbor Springs on Day Four of DALMAC) that ends at the Presque Isle Old Lighthouse where you can ascend the 130 stairs that take you up ten stories to look out over the whole point. The view is absolutely amazing.
Day Three’s route is through farm country and is absolutely picturesque.
There are three routes for each day, a long (usually around 100k), a medium (around 40-miles) and a short (in the 20-mile range), though Sunday is shorter to give everyone a chance to finish and head home.
This little adventure gets better, too. Everything starts in downtown Alpena, so you’ve got shops and fantastic restaurant choices everywhere you look. Most of the local restaurants are amazing, or at least we had that on authority from a few locals we spoke with. Thursday, after we volunteered to help with registration, we ate at Red Brick, which was billed as upscale comfort food. Fabulous is a good word. Try the loaded tater-tots. You can thank me later. My wife and I had lunch after the ride on Day 1 at a place called Fresh Palate – an almond encrusted white fish filet sandwich that was simply amazing. For dinner we ate at Pompeyos Mexican Grill on South State Avenue… which was outstanding and… erm, massive. We ate Pompeyos leftovers for lunch on Day 2, then had a nice dinner with the other riders at the NOAA Maritime Museum that was quite wonderful. Sadly, for the first time in recent memory, we were scheduled for the glass-bottom boat tour out of the museum but that had to be canceled for a small craft advisory due to high winds the first two of the three days. The point is, though, unlike some tours, the Sunrise Adventure has a veritable ton to do off the bike.
Finally, this is a laid back tour. I didn’t see one hammer up there, other than my wife and I. There were a couple of guys who were close (and there were definitely a few high-priced carbon road rigs on display), but for the most part the courses seem to be set up for an enjoyable cycling experience where you could take your time and take everything in. The routes were short to reasonable at 20-ish miles to around 100k (three routes per day – short in the 20-mile range, medium in the low 40s, and long approaching 100k) and weren’t too challenging with gentle, rolling hills. My wife and I, on the tandem, stuck with the medium routes and they were fantastic and only used the granny gear a time or two (52-42-30 front, 11-25 cassette). We’ll have to see what happens next year, whether we’re going to bother with the 100k routes on the new tandem, but I doubt it. With the amount of time we put into volunteering, I just don’t see us bothering with the longer routes. In fact, with how things went, I’d say the 40-ish mile routes were perfect.
I’ll wrap up this post with this; League of Michigan Bicyclist tours are not cheap. What you get for your money, though, is an experience unlike most planned out tours in places that are truly worth visiting. If I had to liken LMB tours to something else, they’d be like a cruise. You spend time on the boat (bike), bouncing from excursion to excursion… and the Sunrise Adventure is a fantastic example that shouldn’t be missed – especially if you’re new to tours (we’re – my wife and I are talking about working with Neal, the tour director, on building workshops centered around the new riders and making the most of their first tours) so the Sunrise can be a safe entry into cycling tours – more on that later).
You can see by the smiles in the photos above, the Sunrise Adventure in Alpena, Michigan is as good as they get.
The Noob’s Guide to Riding Tandem Bicycles with One’s Spouse: How to NOT Kill Each Other (Or Wish for the Other’s Death) Before, During or After A Bike Ride.
My buddy, Mike, likes to say that a tandem is a marriage maker or a marriage breaker. This post will cover how my wife and I made riding tandem the former.
The person up front, the stronger rider is the captain. The person in the back is the stoker*.
Rule Number ONE: The stoker never makes mistakes. Ever. Was ever thus.
*Rule Number TWO: My stoker isn’t referred to as “a stoker”, even though I just wrote that the person in the back is “the stoker”. The stoker is really your Rear Admiral. My wife coined this just a few weeks ago and it shall stick. Because it is awesome. If I keep that perspective, I’m the captain and my wife is the rear admiral, that’s just about the patience humility needed to have the most enjoyable experience one can imagine on a tandem.
This is why my wife and I are awesome on a tandem. We compliment each other. And it was not easy getting here.
Beyond the BS on tandem riding, if you want to not only survive riding a tandem with your spouse, but love it, there are a few things I can pass along that will be helpful. Oh, and it took about two years of regular tandem riding to get here. See if you can do better.
- Get your spouse a Garmin so they can see how fast you’re going, too. They’ll be able to see if you’re slowing down and how that relates to their pedaling. This trick saved me massive headaches.
- Lower your expectations if you’re normally fast on a single bike. Tandems are about 30% more effort than a single bike and it takes effort to work together; more “want to” than you’ll likely think at first. My wife and I are quite fast on single bikes. I’m a 21 to 23-mph average while my wife is comfortable between 18 & 21. When we ride tandem, we can be anywhere from 16 to 20-mph depending on the ride. We did our first tour last week and we didn’t get above 17-mph for an average over the three days and I could not have possibly cared less… because, Number 3.
- Love your spouse like there’s no tomorrow. My wife and I do better the more we love and care for each other off the bike. I’ll make this simple; if you’re prone to fight and get upset if you feel the other isn’t performing up to your expectations, you’re too self-centered. Stop it. Trust me, I know how this works. It isn’t them, it’s you. Cut it out.
- Communicate. When your Rear Admiral pushes through a nice climb, tell them so. When your captain negotiates a challenging situation, let them know. My wife and I developed a series of non-verbal communications on the bike, too. I’ll rub her arm or wrist to let her know I love her. She’ll rub my right butt cheek to do the same. She rides with her hands on my back to signify playful happiness. I extend my left fist back for some knuckles when she powers us through a hill or a turn… and when my wife wants a QOM, she gives a gentle smack on the butt to get me moving.
- Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
- REMEMBER THAT WHICH IS MOST IMPORTANT!!! When it’s all said and done, love each other. If you want to ride well on a tandem, that starts off the bike. My wife and I have more fun riding tandem than should be allowed… because we care for each other immensely. The better we are off the bike, the more fun we have on it.
All of these points are important, but that last one is serious. My wife and I sleep so closely at night, you can’t slip a piece of paper between us. For me, the sun rises and sets on her and my wife treats me the same way. It wasn’t always like that – and that was reflected in how we rode on the tandem. In the end, and this is off the bike, I decided to just worry about “cleaning my side of the street”… and when I thought my street was clean, I asked God to show me if there was any dirt that needed tending to. What my eyes were opened to was shocking… and I went to work, cleaning that up. And we went from an occasional tandem riding couple to “I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be on a bicycle than being the Captain for my Rear Admiral”. We’re regularly moved to tears of joy with how much fun we have together on our tandem. And that’s how we know we’re doing it right.
If you want to ride tandem with your spouse, remember this: sometimes you want to throw them like a lawn dart, but you just have to love ’em. Do this and you can’t go wrong.
This post is for my most amazing wife. I love you, Jessica. There’s no place I’d rather be than on a tandem with you. You are my Sunshine.
I’ve got a lot of work to catch up on in the coming days so I’m going to fit posts in where I can. I’ve got detailed posts working on a lot of fun and exciting stuff from our weekend at the Sunrise Adventure Tour with the League of Michigan Bicyclists. This was the best tour I’ve ever ridden in terms of stunning scenery and excellent roads. The roads were even better than down in Kentucky.
For now, I’ll leave you with some of the highlights from the trip…
And yes, my wife and I matched each day. And it was awesome! As you can gather from the smiles in the photos, my wife and I have found peace, happiness and serenity on a tandem. We won’t give up our individuality on our singles, but we have come to shine on our Co-Motion. At my request, my wife refers to me as “Oh Captain, my Captain”… and at hers, my wife has come up with and lived up to being my “Rear Admiral”.
More tales from the tandem soon.
I apologize for not posting for the last few days. My lovely wife and I are on a cycling adventure – our first on our tandem and it could not possibly be going better. I’ll save the mushy stuff for another post, but suffice it to say, we lead very busy lives and it’s often difficult to find each other in the din to reconnect.
We’re making up for all of that on this trip. It’s been delightful.