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Monthly Archives: July 2022

Love, On a Tandem Bicycle

My wife and I rolled out Saturday morning. We’re recovering from Covid and don’t quite want to ride with our friends yet, but my fever was the last to break four days ago – we’re well beyond contagious. Still, it doesn’t hurt to be a little overly cautious when it comes to Covid. We went though it easily enough, but you never know who won’t.

We’re riding easy, getting our legs back under us and are having a wonderful time of it. We talk about how things are going in our lives, we talk about our plans and aspirations, and we regularly talk of how much we love each other, that we’re excited to see what comes next. We went, in five months, from riding once a week on the tandem to almost every time we throw a leg over a bicycle. It wasn’t always this wonderful. In fact, this love story has a contentious start…

I was a very aggressive rider with a complex about keeping up with the group. If we struggled to keep up, even at a 21-mph pace, I’d try to pedal through my wife to keep the wheel ahead of me. This was hard on my wife and she got to a point where she didn’t much care for the tandem. She also failed to clue me in on this – however, I’d been dense enough I’d missed it myself.

We’d take our tandem out now and again when we anticipated an easier paced ride and I always made sure to tell my wife how much I loved riding that bike with her but I never got the warm, fuzzy response I hoped for. Say, something along the lines of “I love riding the tandem with you, too.” Well, my wife wasn’t all that happy because she felt out of sorts with the fact I was so much stronger a rider than she was. One day, after a difficult, fast ride which resulted in the group splitting up and my wife and I both cranky, it was suggested we should designate Sunday a “Funday” and keep the pace reasonable, say around 17-mph. If someone (or a few someone’s) took the pace up too hot, they’d be reeled in… and life on the tandem improved. We rode the tandem every Sunday Funday and my wife grew to love it. The more fun we had on it, the more we looked forward to riding it.

My wife and I still had marriage issues, but the tandem helped.

This spring, I came to the inglorious conclusion that our issues might improve if I brought out an industrial-sized street sweeper to clean my side of the street (rather than continually concentrate on and complain about how dirty my wife’s side was). Over a series of a few weeks I went through life-altering, massive changes. I saw a lot of room for improvement on my part, and I’d thought I was pretty decent.

I called my wife in tears one day and begged her forgiveness for the way I’d been behaving. I changed, and my wife changed with me. And we fell in love again, but with the experience of having been married for almost twenty-five years. Not only that, with our marriage improving off the bike, riding on the tandem really improved.

Shortly thereafter, I realized there wasn’t any room for that aggressive cyclist on the tandem and my wife. As well, my wife began putting forth an outstanding effort, especially when I needed a little extra boost. We became a tandem couple and a team. As our lives improved off the bike, our time on the bike became… I don’t even know how to put this into words. All I can say is being able to ride with my wife the way we do has been nothing short of amazing.

This love story isn’t perfect, however. We’ve both given up a little of our identities on single bikes to be the tandem couple we are today. I’ve had to give up that aggressive, fast way of riding so I don’t make life on the tandem difficult for my wife. My wife has had to give up much of her identity on a single bike to ride with me because, as my Rear Admiral, she doesn’t have to worry about the intricacies of riding in a group riding and holding a wheel… without practice, she worries about making mistakes.

For me, I’ve never been happier on two wheels, on a tandem with my wife. I’m willing to sacrifice being a speed demon for the happiness of riding with my soulmate… and I definitely don’t mind riding the single bikes now and again to make sure my wife gets her practice in a group. It’s really not an issue for me as much time as we spend on the tandem. I’ve got around 3,000 miles so far this year. I figure the split is close to this; 700 on the trainer, 800 on single bikes and a whopping 1,500 on the tandem.

A friend who happens to be one of the strongest riders I know messaged me on Strava that I was a lucky man being able to ride happily with my wife on the tandem. Without a shadow of a doubt, I know I am.

My wife and I found love. On a tandem bicycle.

When Life Turns too Full For Blog Posts…

We’ve got an intense day today, a nice two-hour morning bike ride on the tandem, taking my daughter to her friend’s house so she can go with her on vacation, hitting the hardware store so I can do some repairing on the camper for an upcoming road trip… and the weather’s fantastic.

My wife and I are riding alone on the tandem, out of an abundance of Covid-caution for the rest of the weekend and having a wonderful time with our newly found affection for each other… and the romance.

My friends, sometime it just gets too good (and full) for a blog post.

Feeling A Bit More Like Myself Post Covid… A Little Pep In My Step

My wife had to work a little late so I prepped the Trek and rolled out for a solo Jimmer Loop, planning on keeping the pace around that butter “15-mph” range so my lungs didn’t get cranky. I rolled out of the driveway and the bike felt fantastic under me. The Venge is all speed and flash while the Trek (a fabulous race bike in its day) is more like a modern day luxury sport sedan… thinking along the lines of a nice, sporty Cadillac CT-4 or something. It’s no purebred sportscar, but it’s no slouch, either.

Anyway, not unlike the days of old, or younger as the case was, “easy” lasted all of three turns of the crank. After a full day of work, I was feeling surprisingly fantastic. I mean really good… so I decided to push it a bit… until I turned left and remembered we had an 18-mph headwind out of the west. That put a little damper on the plans. Still, I managed between 15 & 18-mph into it. Not too shabby for a “last days of Covid” patient.

As one would expect, the ride north, south and east was fantastic. And I had all of the west out of the equation before long anyway.

I stopped at the middle school parking lot to take some photos of the parking lot where it’s failing after less than a year… I’m about to raise some hell about it. Then, I headed for home feeling surprisingly well. Heading south, I was between 19 & 21-mph and west, 24 was feeling quite easy. My lungs were acting as they should and I barely had a runny nose.

I felt like Jim again and pulled into the driveway with almost 19 miles and a 17-1/2-mph average. I’ll take it easy for another week, but I’m pretty stoked about were I am.

Life on two wheels is a blessing.

Finding the Groove on the Tandem Post Covid…

My wife and I headed out for a late lunch ride yesterday afternoon to a mixed bag of a decent temperature but a bit of mixed clouds with a little sprinkle here and there. We did the Jimmer Loop, increasing our mileage from the day before by about 35%. The average suffered a little bit, but this close after Covid, we weren’t about to push our luck.

The cool part, as is often the case with easy miles, was the conversation that comes along with riding the tandem with my wife. I’m going through another emotional growth spurt and we ended up talking about some very important keys that needed discussing and having a glorious time in the process.

Best, my lungs felt quite normal yesterday. Well, maybe I should say they didn’t hurt, at least. The important point is that other than the fact it was slow, it was very much a normal ride on the tandem with my wife. We’ll be riding again this evening and tomorrow morning, but we don’t plan on riding with anyone else until some time next week (Tuesday night should do, I think).

We’re going to have to miss a good ride this weekend, but with my friends, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

A Second, More Successful, VASTLY More Enjoyable Return to Cycling with Covid

I know, I know, I said I was going to take a little more time off in yesterday’s post…

My low-grade fever broke (99.4, I usually run about 97.8) early yesterday morning. As the day wore on and I felt better, taking the tandem out for a spin with my wife looked pretty fantastic. She’s two days ahead of me, as our bouts with Covid went, so she feels a couple of days better than I do. She also wanted a nice, slow, short return to riding so the tandem was the perfect choice.

We only did eleven miles at 15-ish-mph, but that was perfect. My lungs didn’t bother me a bit and we had a lovely conversation along the way.

I also brought Gatorade with me in lieu of my normal plain water. That agreed with my throat a little more than anticipated.

And so it was, my wife and I out on the tandem for a short little spin to shake the cobwebs out. There’s no place I’d rather have been. It was beautiful.

Life on two wheels is a blessing.

Attempting to Return to Cycling from Covid Just a Little Too Soon

My wife had to work late into the evening last night so I decided I’d take my Covid laden butt outside for a much needed session on the Venge.

The first mile was awesome. Slow, but awesome. After that first mile, though, my throat started aching with the minimal effort – and I mean minimal. I knew I was done before I crossed the 5k mark. After a while, I realized it wasn’t my throat, it was the upper quarter of my lungs that were hurting. I’d felt that before… but it’s worse this time. Not much, but noticeably.

So I did the second smart thing; I took my toy and went home. I pulled into the driveway with just shy of nine miles and a healthy desire to not be on my bike anymore.

Now, strangely, once I got into the shower I felt markedly better. My lungs stopped hurting and I regained my strength and desire to stand up in said shower. I knew long before I got into that shower that riding was not my brightest idea. I had to give it a try, though.

Today will be another glorious day, so I’ll try again (hopefully on the tandem with my wife).

UPDATE: On further introspection, perhaps I’ll wait till my fever breaks for real…

Saddle Tilt and Pain in Cycling

Assuming we’re not dealing with the “more padding is better padding” crowd, who are simply misunderstanding “padding” and how padding relates or “works” in regard to to riding a bicycle in general, I’d like to take a moment to delve into one of my favorite topics of late since I started working with my wife on her saddles, saddle tilt. As I’ve written here before, I consider myself quite picky as saddle height, setback and tilt go. If I’m a millimeter off in either, I can feel it and I don’t like it. Too much height and I feel frontal pressure, which differs from the frontal pressure of having the nose too high. With the saddle too low, I feel back pressure on the glutes. With the saddle tilted too far down, I slide off the saddle and that drives me nuts… but not near as nuts as when I’ve got the nose too high!

My wife is unquestionably more sensitive than I am. She feels pressure at half-millimeter increments. It’s almost a little unnerving, but I’ve taken to the challenge and dedicated myself to figuring this out for her. Once I took the issue on like that, it seemed less daunting because, well, I love a good challenge to be vanquished. Doubly so when my wife is the benefactor of my diligence because being on a tandem, I can’t truly be happy as the Captain until my wife is happy as the Rear Admiral.

I had an extensive Body Geometry fitting on my Venge that took something like three hours after I tried setting my bike up myself with the knowledge I’d accrued watching YouTube videos. The only change the fitting showed I needed was to drop the saddle by about two millimeters. I was really stoked that I’d gotten it that close on my own. From that point I’ve simply fine-tuned everything by feel.

My issue is in translating what I have in my melon to what my wife is feeling, without knowing how to make the translation. It’s interesting to say the least, but we’ve begun the process and it’s exciting.

The key, as I’ve written numerous times before, is in getting the saddle to cradle the rider on the bar tops, hoods and in the drops. How I get to this is simple. First, I know my saddle height; 36-5/8″, give or take. Next, I level the saddle to zero, then drop the nose 2 degrees. From there, I go for a ride and adjust by feel. If I feel pressure at the front in the drops, I lower the saddle nose. If I feel no pressure at the front but feel like I’m sliding off the saddle, I raise the nose a smidge. It’s really as simple as that. Once I get that “cradled” feeling, I’m done.

I’m Back! However, Sadly, with an Uninvited Guest

I’m back to writing today, after what very well could be my longest break from writing since I started – I took a full ten days off.

Sadly, we brought an uninvited guest back with us in the form of Covid. Technically, I don’t know I have it, but I’ve been playing kissy-face with my wife the entire time and she showed a positive test result eleven seconds after the drops hit the “S” reservoir on the test.

I’ve got the tiniest of headaches and a little bit of a scratchy throat. Other than that, if my wife hadn’t taken a test that showed positive, I’d likely put this to allergies or something less sinister (and this is definitely my second time around with Covid after having it in the early weeks of the pandemic, just before everything was shut down, possibly third just this past February). My wife, however, has it worse than I. She’s vaccinated and boosted, like me, but she’s got the full slate of symptoms (sore throat, sinus issues, headache, achy body, tired, etc., etc.), though she seems to have turned the corner enough that she’ll wait out the symptoms.

So, I’ll be write back at it in the morning with a new batch of cycling posts interspersed with some recovery topics I picked up on from my time away…

It’s time for an unscheduled break from writing…

I took yesterday off and I actually worked on a post this morning after sleeping in with my wife till almost 9 am – the latest I’d slept in since we’ve been married (unless I was sick).

It was amazing, but I don’t want to get used to it.

Anyway, I was working on a post and I got to thinking… I haven’t taken time off writing in a while, so now is the time.

I’ll be back Monday July 25th.

Awesome adventures till then!

Working with My Wife on a Sensitive Subject; Female Cycling Saddle Issues, Pain and Perseverance Part One of Who Knows How Many!

My wife has been struggling for years with saddle issues. Truth is, she’s even pickier than I am, and I’m picky. My saddle has to be just so, or I’m fidgety in it. A little too high and there’s too much pressure. A little too low, more (but different) pressure. Nose too high? Pressure. Too Low? Sliding off the saddle. My setback is the same on all of my bikes; identical. I must be perfectly placed so the leading edge of my knee is plumb with the leading edge of the crank arm with a 4′ level as my guide. This isn’t exactly to industry standard which requires the use of a plumb bob, but the 4′ level is a little easier to work than a plumb bob when I’m atop my bike on the trainer, and now that I’m used to it, I’m stuck on it.

I am easy, though. All of my bikes are standard format, even if the reach (to the handlebar) varies a little bit, from my gravel bike, to my two road bikes, and our tandem, the cockpits are all very similar. The standard setback measurement works with all of them. That leads to item number two; saddle tilt which is a snap. I don’t want any “frontal” pressure when I’m in the drops. I also don’t want to feel like I’m sliding off the front of the saddle, either. Once the setback and height are set, I dial in the tilt with a level (2 degrees nose down), then fine tune by feel. I take the bike out for a spin, testing all three hand positions. If I feel any frontal pressure when I’m in the drops, I nose the saddle down. My method is flawless, with one exception; how do I do the same for the love of my life? How do I describe the cradled feeling to a woman? What would that even feel like with the obvious differences?

To tell the truth, I am, and have been, intimidated by the idea of working with my wife. And that led to inaction, or only taking care of glaring issues…

I’d left things to her and the local shop owner for years, and I’ve come to regret doing that. As geeky as I can be with bike setup and fit, how could I leave my wife to someone else? That was the question that changed everything for me. I decided it was about time I gave my wife my full, geeky dedication. I started researching (and buying) cycling shorts for her (Terry appears to be awesome, she’s happy so far), and I’ve thrown my entire knowledge of perfecting saddle position at her issues. The trick with my wife, as saddle location goes, is that she’s got three entirely different setups over four bikes. Her Alias (main road bike) is a triathlon specific road bike geometry that sets the saddle closer to the handlebar. Then, the tandem is a little closer than a traditional road setup would be. Then there’s her gravel bike and trainer bike/backup bike which are, at least, close.

We spend the majority of our time on the tandem, so I’ve taken to that first. It’s also the easiest, because I’m on the bike with my wife. She can tell me whatever she’s feeling and I can address anything immediately.

We started with the saddle location changes at Sunrise Adventure up in Alpena. We had at least three separate issues to deal with. The saddle needed to go up a little, then we dealt with moving it forward so she wasn’t trying to scoot back on the saddle (this is counterintuitive – if you want to scoot back on the saddle, move it forward). Finally, once the height and setback locations were good, I notice that it looked like the nose of the saddle tilted up ever-so-slightly, so I dropped the nose as well… then I dropped it one more time, just to make sure it was right, and we seem to have hit pay dirt.

We seem to have come to a decent couple of pairs of shorts for my wife as well. She’s struggled with hot spots using several different brands of shorts so I decided to give Terry a try. Their product descriptions seemed to address exactly the issues my wife was facing. We’ve only had them out for a 52-mile trot once, but my wife was happy with their performance that she actually added miles onto an already decently long route. That is a rarity indeed!

We’ve fixed a lot in the last few weeks. I’ll have more later.