As my wife and I have broken into faster group rides on our tandem, captaining that beast has become easier and more difficult at the same time. In a fast group, everything happens so quickly you have to be on guard at all times – and that’s on a single bike! On a tandem, where your acceleration potential is halved, the nuances come at you double-time. I have to be prepared at all times. And I love it.
Now, before I even get into this series in which I’ll cover some of the difficulties in riding with an “A” or an “A-Elite” group on a tandem, what matters most is riding with a group that isn’t set on breaking the land speed record for cycling every week. If the group is going to hammer the hills every week, there are tactics to counter this and the right pair on a tandem can devastate single riders (double the power with the same wind resistance, or a little less with a crosswind, plus a gravity assist), without some consideration on the “up” parts of the ride, there’s little an above-average tandem couple can do to hang. If the group is willing to temper their urge to hammer the hills, a tandem is an absolute blast.
Take a simple surge on a single bike in a pace-line; three pedal strokes will usually suffice to keep up. It’ll take six on a tandem, and I can tell you, those six require full gas. I’ve increased my potential “full gas” by at least 25% just by riding with my wife on the tandem in our A-Elite Group. They unquestionably take care of us once we hit the hills, though. One guy (who is a massive two-wheel talent) gives us a little boost up a hill or three by pushing my wife’s back if we look like we’re struggling to stay connected to the group. Another, no matter where he is in the pack as we approach the hills, will power to the front of the group to take the hills at a pace we can manage. Yet another, intent on helping us get another personal best on the Tuesday night route, went the short route with us on a perfect night, when everyone else went long, just to give us a draft and a wheel to hold. We did our best to take our turns up front, but he gave us a massive three-mile pull at 23+ mph to the City Limits sign to make it happen. It was everything we had to hold his wheel but my wife secured the QOM for the loop by 16-seconds and we did turn in a new all-time fastest average for the 28-mile loop at 22.5-mph.
Without those considerations from our friends, we’d likely have been dropped in the hills. That would have been fine, of course; I ride a tandem with my wife for loftier reasons – but we both love riding with the A-Group (I always have – my wife’s love of “fast” was a wonderful “cherry on top” surprise) and having friends that help us stay with the group as we’re cutting our teeth on those rides has been simply amazing.