First, for those in the know, forgive the clickbait Title. Second, for most roadies I know, the question isn’t “How can I get my wife to ride a tandem with me?” That’s too easy. The proper, call it more refined and properly narrow question is, “How can I get my wife to ride a tandem… so we’re as fast as I am on a single bike?”
That last half of the second question incredibly important because it’s what doomed my romantic idea of my wife and I on our tandem… and what does many tandem couples in. We’re very close to that fast today, but we absolutely didn’t start out that way.
For my wife and I to fall in love with riding our tandem together, a few things had to happen. While the changes were mutual, I had to initiate them because I tended to present as a pretty horrible riding partner when we rode single bikes. My wife rarely felt at peace riding with me on the tandem (at first) due to how I acted on a single bike. On single bikes, the main issue centered around the fact I was a lot stronger than she was and I became easily frustrated when I felt she wasn’t putting in the effort to keep up with the group. There were times I actually rode away from her, leaving her out there on her own. I still hang my head in shame that I did that to her, even though she’s forgiven me and we both know we had to go through all of that to get to where we are now. She was afraid, therefore, every time we rode the tandem I might find a reason to be upset about how we were riding together.
- Whether we weren’t synched enough
- If I had to work too hard for the speed we were generating
- If we struggled to hold a wheel in a group
- If we got dropped by the group
- If we weren’t riding as fast as I thought we should
- If my wife didn’t communicate properly
I’m sure there are a few more my wife could add here, but you get the point. Now, keep in mind as well, we have a printed note on our refrigerator from the owner of our bike shop that says, “The stoker never makes mistakes” and I thought I abided by that, too! The statement is much deeper than I originally thought, and I’ll get into that in a minute.
First things first, I had to make it safe for my wife to have fun riding with me on the tandem. That meant no more getting pissy about any of those bullet points above (or any others I may have missed). It also meant letting go of the idea that we should be as fast as I was on a single bike. That desire to stay fast was the cause of my problems on the tandem. Also, fairly stated, my wife had her issues, too but that’s not even for another post. If I worry about my wife’s (minor) issues, I tend to lose sight of my own to our detriment… and I think that gets to the real heart of “the stoker doesn’t make mistakes”.
As far as my part went, I had to figure out how to just have fun on the bike and let the pace bit go. I don’t think there was a clear path forward where I stayed the aggressive cyclist “me” and “we” had an enjoyable time on a bike together.
Enter the Covid pandemic. We started putting it together on the tandem when we couldn’t ride with anyone else. We’d head out on the tandem without a care in the world about where we were going or how fast we got there… or back. If I felt I needed a stronger workout after our time on the tandem, I was free to take my single bike out later to hammer out some miles (this didn’t happen often, but it did happen). After all, I was being paid to stay home! I always enjoyed riding the tandem, but with the pressure off, it was wonderful.
That little increase in frequency led to “Sunday Funday” where we’d head out at a semi-easy pace, targeting between 16 & 17-mph. My wife and I could keep up with that pace easily and that gave some of the other riders a break from crushing it two days in a row… and still others who normally wouldn’t ride with us a reason to show up. Sunday Funday was a hit… and we both loved it.
The biggest hurdle to clear for me was to finally see that I have a self-centered, selfish tendency to me that needed to be dealt with in the harshest manner. Put simply, it had to go. The hardest part was recognizing it was there in the first place. It was a small miracle that it happened. I thought I was a great guy… and I was unquestionably well above average, but there was a lot of room for improvement.
The photo above was the first one I posted on this blog after the Covid changes began. That was in June of 2020 and we were just back to riding with friends. Probably a Sunday Funday pic. This is just a few weeks ago:
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that things have changed. It doesn’t matter where or how that change starts, but if I want to be happy on a tandem, and I want that more than anything, I have to make it safe and fun for my wife to be there with me. When I do that, we’re unstoppable.