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Ask If You Can Bring a Friend…

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.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

My Best Bike Tour EVAH!!! Hanging with My Wife on the Tandem.

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.

This just might become a fitness and recovery bike blog with a focus on tandems!

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.

Another Tandem Tuesday… But an Odd and Fantastic One

Mrs. Bgddy chose to ride with me on the tandem for Tuesday night. I was looking forward to it all day long, I won’t lie.

I got in the car to head home from the office and I put on a playlist my wife made years ago for us of love songs that make her think of us. It’s a hundred-eight songs long… and that’s precisely when I realized what a buffoon I can be. That woman loves me so much she put together a playlist of songs that remind her of us… and it’s 108 songs-long. And so I drove home listening to that playlist with a smile on my face.

My wife was working when I got home, so I went straight to prepping for the evening. Summer hit yesterday, so it was good and sticky outside. We rolled out for the church precisely at 5:15 and got there with plenty of time to get ready but not much time to warm up our legs.

We had a few conversations in the parking lot and readied to move out with just a minute to spare. The A Elite group rolled out. We waited a few seconds and headed out ourselves, with a crew of five on single bikes. We had a good amount of tailwind the first ten miles and quickly worked up a 20+ mph average. It took a few miles for my wife and I to synch up but once we did, it was magic as usual. We’ve really come in to our own on the tandem this year.

We made our way through the course taking an easy shortcut that kept us from having to cross a major road that’s always busy with 55-mph+ traffic. It also pops us in front of the A Group… that caught us back up just before the hills. At some point in the hills, we heard a pop behind us but nobody said anything so we just kept rolling. It had happened that Dave had a blowout and three of the group stopped to fix it. We didn’t even know until we got to the regroup spot and the others never came over the hill.

We decided to roll for home, figuring those who stopped would be able to handle the repairs and wouldn’t want us waiting around in the heat.

And so we did… and after a mile and a half, our five cyclist/four bike group shattered. Matt went one way, Lenny went off the back when we accelerated to 33-mph down a slight downhill into Vernon… all of a sudden, Jess and I were alone.

And we didn’t miss the opportunity to take it easy the rest of the way back. We laughed and talked and made plans for the future… it was a perfect ride in, even if we had a brutal crossing headwind for five of the last six miles.

Ordering that new tandem seems like a smarter decision every day. We’re both looking forward to riding the wheels off it. Both sets of wheels.

This Love Story Has a Happy Beginning AND Ending on a Tandem…

“A tandem bicycle is a marriage maker… or a marriage breaker”. Doc Mike – 2017

My wife and I have been through some struggles in our marriage. I haven’t written about many of them here until after we found solutions. I don’t do whining and complaining. We have found a solution to our problems, though. We’ve found a way to love each other so thoroughly and completely that my heart actually skips a beat when I see her. It’s a beautiful thing.

We started riding the tandem more regularly during the pandemic. Why not?! Technically, even though our police would never have enforced it (we asked, the official answer was “no way in hell”, we later tested that answer and it held), we were only supposed to ride with members of our immediate family. Well, why not on the tandem?

We learned to ride that bike together – one of the rare, pure instances where we had to learn to work as a team in our marriage. We tried the other way. Or, maybe I should say I tried the other way and my wife let me bash my head against that rock. I used to pedal through my wife something fierce. If she was laying down 100 watts, I was pushing 300. I’d, predictably, run out of gas after about 25 miles and would become agitated. I’d get snippy with my wife and she’d just sit back there doing her thing and let me struggle.

Then, we started communicating. I mean really talking about stuff when we began “Sunday Fundays”. Sunday Funday became a way of saying, “Hey, we’re going to take it easy and shoot for an average pace between 17 & 18-mph” and it was awesome. At that pace, I could relax a little bit and go with the flow. I learned to stop pedaling through my wife and to work with her. She helped a ton on the hills and we cemented ourselves as a tandem couple over the last four months of this year (2022). We developed a way of communicating on the bike that made riding enjoyable for both of us. It’s been so good, we actually choose the tandem over the single bikes on other days of the week. We’ve even had the tandem out on Tuesday night.

We’ve become so much a tandem couple, we decided to make a change with our bike as well. For our Silver Anniversary, we ordered a 2022 Co-Motion Kalapuya Tandem gravel bike with an extra set of Rolf Prima road wheels so we can instantly switch between road and gravel. It’s Co-Motion’s second to the top of the line; only the Macchiato is higher in their order – but the Macchiato is a pure road bike. We wanted something we could take anywhere. Our tandem will be custom fit and silver (for our anniversary), with black on black decals and our wedding date on the top tube. It’s going to have mechanical Ultegra shifting with top of the line disc brakes… and it’ll be my Venge lighter than our current tandem (for which we’ve already found a new home). It’s going to have a Gates synchronizing belt and a 50/34 double with an 11-40 cassette. In other words, that thing will climb like a goat.

We bought our Co-Motion Periscope as a family bike but now that my kids are grown and they don’t like riding… and as much as my wife and I ride tandem now, the new rig only made sense – and it’s the perfect 25th Anniversary gift for the two of us.

Unfortunately, this story isn’t without its sad side. Brent, buddy, I’m sorry, pal. No fat bikes this year. As I’m sure you can see, though, the new tandem is the best fit for us.

Oh, and ours will have a flat captain’s stem and will be a little more slammed at the front end… obviously.

Our Story of Us: Part One. Don’t Wait For Your Spouse to Change to Clean Your Side of the Marriage…

There was a movie in the late 90s with Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer that was about the most realistic look at a struggling marriage as I’ve ever seen called The Story of Us. My wife and I went to see it and cried a lot, vowing never to be like that again – we could relate to it. A lot.

That vow lasted for quite some time, but eventually our marriage filled with resentment. As I look back honestly, there was a lot of “you hurt me so I feel justified in hurting you back” that went on between us and neither was willing to talk about it.

Our recovery-based marriage counselor passed away shortly after his wife who he loved massively. They were both too young and everybody who knew them agreed he died of a broken heart.

He told me in our first private session, just he and I, that most of our issues were in my wife’s court to fix and that they would work on those issues and things would get much better. My wife had to believe that the bulk of the issues were mine, though, or she would stop working on hers out of resentment. [ED For now, I’ll gloss over how detrimental that was to me… or maybe let’s just say that what I did with that knowledge was what was detrimental to my wife and I. Either way, don’t take the above paragraph as me blaming my wife… more will be revealed. I’ll get to this in a later post]

I agreed to work on my stuff and to keep my mouth shut about my wife’s.

And it worked. Things got WAY better for about six years and we were quite happy together.

At some point, maybe four years ago, we reverted back to the old us. “The Story of Us” us. We survived in the marriage but we both struggled to keep our side of the street clean – which pretty much meant the whole damned street was a mess. The funny thing is, I’d be willing to bet you my lunch that we both thought we were doing a fair job on our own part and was justified in treating the other poorly because the other was not taking care of their side of the street. I know I thought that about my wife. And I know for a fact she thought that way about me – she’s said as much.

And that’s where we were at three months ago, now, just pulling into 25 years together. I wouldn’t have left my wife, but there were a few times I thought we might be headed that way and I didn’t like it. In fact, it felt like the marriage could break at any given time so we wouldn’t talk about anything that would rock the apple cart until we had a blowout of an argument.

I made a deal with God when I started in recovery that, if He would help relieve my desire to drink, I would give recovery everything I had. I kid you not, the next day I woke up free. And I lived up to my end, too. I thought, “Well, God, if you’ll do that for me with recovery, how about our marriage? If you’ll open my eyes and help me, I’ll give loving my wife everything I’ve got. Please help us”. This is paraphrasing, but close enough…

The next day, on the way to work, I got to thinking about all of the time I spend in the car – my commute is 40-ish minutes each way… and it occurred to me that I waste a lot of that listening to the same old news and same old commercials, day in and day out. I thought about listening to podcasts, maybe, instead. Then I remembered Jordan Peterson had something like 1,400 hours worth of content on YouTube. Now that had some value, and maybe I could learn to win an argument against my wife once in a while. Folks, I was literally hoping to learn how to fight with my wife more effectively. That’ll tell you all you need to know about how messed up I was.

To my surprise, Jordan Peterson didn’t teach me how fight better. I learned how to fight less and negotiate for a mutually beneficial peace with my wife, instead. A few days later, the opportunity presented itself to try out my new tactics when I went on an across-state road trip to see a concert with my wife. We started to fight but when negotiations were done an hour-ish later of the two-hour drive, we had our best night out in years.

We literally started to fall back in love again after that night.

I listened to more lectures and clips on line and things progressively improved until I stumbled on Richard Grannon and one of his lectures about narcissism. The first five minutes were all about my wife. The next five were all about me – and I had no clue up until that moment that I exhibited those tendencies.

That’s when things really got rolling. I’d started working with a prominent recovery counselor, a local guy and friend. Our daughters were best friends and our families have spent Halloween and New Years Eve together every year for decades. I’d asked him for a psychologist’s name to work with be he asked if I’d trust him to help me. We started working on the relationship right away.

I was just on the cusp of discovering how deep down the rabbit hole cleaning my side of the street was going to go. I will assure you, it’s big.

And I’ll leave that for part two.

Is Rapha’s Kit Worth the Money? The Answer May Surprise You. It Did Me.

First, you can always tell when someone is wearing a piece of Rapha kit. Their jerseys always stick out because they always look perfect – and the thing that really surprises me about their jerseys is that they look better than any other manufacturer on those of us who need to put in more miles and eat a little less. And yes, I do lump, for lack of a better word, myself into that category.

I’ve had a little bit of a resentment at Rapha for the longest time, though. Their kit is expensive, prohibitively so; and I justify throwing a lot of money at cycling and its related clothing.

Recently, however, they had a sale and all of a sudden, friends who’d never worn Rapha kit started showing up in jerseys and bibs. I investigated and found a midweight jersey I liked on sale for $55 US (sadly, the sale is over). Again, as I lump myself in with the “not exactly at mid-season cycling weight”, I ordered a Large.

So, I’ve always said you can tell a good jersey by how it doesn’t feel. When I’m on the road in my Rapha jersey, it’s so comfortable it just goes away – especially on long rides.

The fact is the core jersey that I picked up is worth every penny of the full sticker price of $75.

If you’ve always wondered, “is Rapha worth the price tag?”

Yep. Shockingly, it is.