It was supposed to be a rainout Sunday. I had visions of chilling out all morning long. Maybe cooking Jess some breakfast, a little bit of laundry, and a whole lot of lazing around. My wife even had me check the forecast before we fell asleep Saturday night (after a wonderful day together). It would be raining at 5am and solid throughout the day…
Until we woke up at 6 and I checked the weather again… barely a light blip on the radar at 7 followed by 30 minutes (ish) of rain and nothing. And the amount was 0.00 inches of that rain. My wife cursed. So did I. Then we laughed out loud. We hemmed and hawed for a minute, flipping back and forth between riding and not, but we were always going to ride. It was just a matter of how happy we’d be about it.
We talked to Mike and decided on 8:30 to give the rain its chance. I wasn’t going to bother sending the text out but did at my wife’s urging. Doc Mike and Diane pulled up just as we were getting our vests on. The Michigan summer was over Wednesday and it’s acting like it. It was chilly. Mike and Diane (the other Mike and Diane) showed up on their singles just before we were set to roll out.
My wife is sporting some new mountain bike shoes, a step up from mine, with a new shim to help equal out her unfortunate right leg/left leg length discrepancy (more on that later this week).
We rolled out exactly at 8:30, just the six of us. We started the pace out slow because Mike gets a little cranky if we start out too fast, and started ramping it up as we moved out.
We were into the northwest wind but it was one of those odd winds where it was heavy and you could feel it but it was barely registering in the trees and leaves blowing. Diane and Mike and Jess and I took turns at the front on our tandems, taking three to five mile pulls each. There’s nothing like a couple of legit tandem couples drafting. It was fantastic sharing the load. Sadly, Diane had things to do so she split off early…
As we hit tailwind and the pace started picking up. My wife and I were riding astonishingly well and I was having a fantastic time of it, Jess, too.
We ended up getting misted on for a few minutes, but nothing bad enough to get anyone wet. We rolled for home, topping 18-mph on the way back with a decent (if light) tailwind at an easy 22-mph, pulling into the driveway with handshakes and smiles as Mike headed up the road to go home. We ended up with a little more than 38 glorious miles on a day we should have been riding the couch.
It was a good date on the tandem for Jess and I… and that’s about how cycling is for me, lately.
This is interchangeable by sex, of course, it could just as easily be “a woman walks into a psychologist’s office”…
A guy walks into a psychiatrist’s office and sits down on the couch for his first working appointment. He looks at the psychologist and and the psychologist back at him. The psychologist says in that quiet, calm psychologist voice, let’s begin.
The guy says, “Well, my wife has a bunch of flaws that really annoy me and I’d like to know how to fix them.”
The psychologist whispers under his breath, “We’re going to need a bigger couch.”
Fans of the 1970’s Steven Spielberg classic, Jaws will get this joke. For the rest… erm, dude. It’s Jaws. You gotta see that movie.
There is a Cure for “Get-there-itis”. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and it isn’t a train…
I am a results-oriented person. Have been my whole life. When I go shopping, I know what I want and I go get the best version of what I want and I’m done. I put a value on my free time… about triple what work is willing to pay me. If I can’t save three times what someone else is willing to pay me, I don’t worry about cost savings.
We can’t take money with us when we go and our existence on this rock is finite – we won’t get out of this alive. You have to save money for the future, of course, but I make the most of the time I have as well. Or so I thought…
As a sufferer of “Get-there-itis”, I’m always pressing to get wherever it is we’re going. That’s the mission (a lot like shopping), to get there. As a result, I’ve been quite anxious, often pushy, and sometimes a downright butthole until we reach whatever destination it is we’re heading to.
To make this exceptionally fun and exciting, my wife likes to take the scenic route. The long way. And she’s an absolute nut until we get out the door. The kids were traumatized when it came to vacations. Any kid would be fortunate to have parents who care as much as we do, but we owe them an amends about getting ready and getting to and from vacation destinations since they were little ones.
I won’t focus on my wife’s numerous quirks in this regard because to do so is an exercise in idiocy that never turns out well. I know the fix to mine, though.
“Get-there-itis”, viewed honestly and open-mindedly, is a self-centric behavior. We have to get there because I am a results-oriented person. There’s no scenic route worth taking, no road but the quickest/fastest way there worth it. Once we get “there”, I can relax and enjoy it. I would actually get fidgety and anxious when we deviated from getting there. I hated it.
This makes life sad and difficult for someone who likes to take a road trip from time to time. Who likes to get there, but to enjoy the trip as well.
So, here’s the trick. First, I fell in love with my wife all over again after 25 years of marriage and 27 years together. This takes a little more than a decision. It takes practice and a whole lot of “want to”. When we fell in love again, I focused on fixing (or at least working on fixing – it’s a massive battle) my self-centeredness. And that’s how I learned my “Get-there-itis” was a result of being selfish. Oh, it’s great when you’ve gotta get the wife to the maternity ward, but it sucks on vacation.
My wife and I went on our first trip together after these changes started manifesting with all of the angst we normally would – thankfully, the kids were staying home for this one. On the way up, because I knew the route to our destination (I’d traveled it regularly with my parents when I was young) I asked my wife if we could take the longer route up the coast because it was vastly more visually stunning. I didn’t have to scrape her jaw off the floor, but it was close. Then, on the way up the coast (east coast of Michigan, in Tawas and Oscoda), my wife kept seeing public beaches and as we passed one she blurted out, “Oh my God, that’s beautiful!” I asked if she wanted to see it up close and whipped our SUV, camper in tow, into a gas station to turn around just as she answered, “yes”.
We walked the beach for ten or fifteen minutes and took a few selfies and photos of the magnificence of the Lake Huron beach.
If memory serves, my wife actually cried as we got back into the car because I’d never been willing to do something like turn the car around in mid-trip to check out a beach! I simply smiled and said, “The change is real, sweetheart.”
Later, during that trip, we were riding our tandem and my wife spotted a beautiful stream passing under the road. It was so gorgeous she couldn’t help but holler out. I checked traffic was clear and whipped the bus-like bike around and we took a ten minute break to take in the scenery. It was amazing. More selfies and regular photos.
It was shortly after I realized my “Get-there-itis” was capable of being “cured”. In the changes I’d gone through, I learned I could have fun with my wife on the journey to the destination… without messing with the thrill of getting to the destination. My vacation time was literally extended by the length of the trip, both to and from.
Friends, my “Get-there-itis” ceased being something my wife and kids had to put up with. Now I watch for its signs so I can stomp the anxiousness out before it has a chance to start because it messes with some great time spent with my wife and kids. My life is vastly more enjoyable without it.
The last I left you, I’d gone through some pretty significant changes in character. Since, there’s been a lot of writing about my wife and I on our tandem, and that’s all been great, but what about the rest?
This has all been a tremendous learning experience for me and, to be quite honest, it’s been a bit of a pain in the butt. The honeymoon phase, which lasted a few months, was awesome. The love I felt in my heart was surprising and fabulous. On one hand, at times I miss the old, confident me. On the other, the old self-confident me was rather ignorant in terms of how to be great to my wife and soulmate… and I really don’t miss that.
Not to put too fine a point on it, I’m basically completely re-learning how to be a better me. While it’s work and often quite difficult and sometimes awkward, I really love it. I love who I’m becoming.
To put this into perspective, I remember back to when my AA sponsor, Mike died. He could light up a room just by walking into it. He immediately made everyone in that room feel better about being themselves. He was an amazing force for good in the world and I was fortunate to know him. I was telling my wife the other day that I used to hope and pray that I could be like him some day. The tough part was, I had no idea how to get there. Without a “Mike” to guide me through the process, I felt lost in the woods. So, with tears running down my cheeks, I said to my wife, I know I’ve still got a long way to go, but after all of these changes, for the first time in my recovery, I can see actually the path.
Now all I have to do is walk it.
I arrived home Tuesday to reports of rain looming just short of the time we’d be finishing the Tuesday night ride in Lennon. I gave my wife two options; we could risk it and see how things shook out, or we could ride from home just the two of us and have a date on our tandem. I was hoping for the latter and was quite happy that this was my wife’s choice as well. She still had some remote work to do so I went to work readying the tandem. I wanted to lube the drivetrain as well as tend to the water bottles and air the tires… and I knew I was in for a little more than that as soon as I tried to move the bike. The rear tire was dead flat.
I was not surprised.
We hit a train track pretty hard Friday and when I aired the tires Saturday morning, the rear was down to 60 pounds from 100. It shouldn’t have been below 90 pounds. I new a flat was nigh.
I didn’t even bother with the tire irons. 28 mm tires on the Velocity Dyad tandem wheels slip off easily with no tools if you know the trick of leveraging the bead against the rim and rolling it just so… both beads at the same time, too. You just roll the tire right off without having to mess around with tire irons (or plastics, as they are, generally). I checked carefully for any foreign objects in the tire and took the tube in to the kitchen sink when I found nothing. I wanted to know where the leak was. A hole on the outside of the tube (toward the tire) generally signifies a foreign object piercing the tube. A hole on the inside, against the rim, generally signifies a pinch-flat.
I filled the sink a couple of inches and ran the just-filled tube ’round. No bubbles. I ran it again. No bubbles. I discarded the tube in the recycle tub and went about my chores. Chain lubed, water bottles topped… and I started a load of laundry as well. Then I pulled out the Venge to clean and lube its drivetrain as well. May as well while I was at it. Jess was still working. And that’s when the thunder became audible, way off in the distance. I wheeled the bike in from the driveway, leaned against my car. The rain was going to hit us well before 7.
We never rode. The rain came swift and hard. We decided on chicken noodle soup for dinner and Jess commenced to chopping veggies while I folded the clothes that had come out of the drier. Our youngest, driving on her own now, came home from practice while the soup was cooking, having been kicked out of the pool at the first sign of thunder.
With the bikes cleaned and readied and chores done, there was nothing left to do but let dinner finish cooking.
Rain days are a bummer, especially when you plan on being able to beat the rain all day and look forward to the ride.
Making the best of them when they happen, on the other hand, isn’t so bad.
Next it’s time to get the gravel bikes ready! Fall arrives today.
Maintaining a fleet of bikes throughout the cycling season is no easy task. Between my wife and I, we’re looking at five bikes; two for her, two for me, and our tandem – the tandem being the more important of the five this year as we’re putting so many miles on it. I’ve been writing for something like eleven years (almost twelve) and every year I have at least a half-dozen posts on maintenance issues.
Well, I haven’t written much about that because, and God help me I hope I don’t jinx anything, I have yet to experience a difficult mechanical issue this year. The Trek and Venge are as near perfection as they’ve ever been. Additionally, my wife’s Alias, after getting a new rear wheel, is as close to perfect as I’ve ever had that bike. Then there’s the tandem, which got new cables last year and is just as good as the rest of the stable.
Now, there’s one interesting thread to this story, and that’s my wife’s saddle location on the tandem. As I said I would earlier this season, I’ve put more time into properly locating my wife’s tandem saddle that I did for my whole stable (mountain, gravel, two road bikes & the tandem). It took the better part of three weeks of stopping now and again to fiddle with the height, fore/aft location, tilt or skew (she actually prefers the saddle to skew ever-so-slightly to the left) but we’ve finally got it to the point she’s content. I almost wrote “happy” but we’re not quite there yet. Close, though, for sure.
Her Specialized Alias was an even bigger triumph. For that, we didn’t even mess around with the “now and again” approach. Before DALMAC we took her bike out and I set to fixing it on the road. We took more than an hour to ride eleven miles but we got the fore/aft and tilt just right before we hit the driveway (she already liked the saddle height, so that was one thing we didn’t have to worry about).
I should add, as well, it helps when major components of the drivetrains on my Trek and Venge were replaced last year. While the shifters, cranks and front derailleurs stayed, the chains, cassettes, rear derailleurs and brake and shifter cables (and housings) were all replaced. My wife’s bike got a new chain, cassette, and cables/housings… and the tandem got new chains early this season and new cables last season. There wasn’t much left to change!
Aluminum has its place in cycling. It’s stiff, light… erm… well, it’s stiff and light. Carbon fiber took the world by storm starting in the late 80s and early 90s but really broke metal’s hold on cycling in the late (late) 90s when Trek introduced one of the first production full carbon fiber frames and dominated the road bike market with it’s 5000 series frames (including the 5200 and 5500 frames). Carbon fiber is infinitely moldable, while aluminum is quite finite as a frame material.
So, which would you choose for your bike?
I’ve got a little of both in the stable; aluminum gravel bike, aluminum mountain bike, steel tandem, carbon fiber road bikes.
With today’s trend of wider tires, aluminum can actually make a little more sense with its main feature; stiffness. Now, we’re going to pretend for a minute that you can’t make carbon fiber stiff in one direction but compliant in another by adjusting the layout and orientation of the carbon sheets. The one killer of efficiency in a bike frame is compliance. The more the frame move as one pedals, the less efficient the frame is. If we can do anything with aluminum tubing, it’s make a stiff bike frame. The one downside of those frames in the 80s and 90s was that skinny tires made them terribly uncomfortable. Once we started throwing 28 to 32 millimeter tires on bikes, aluminum’s rigidity was able to shine because the tires could take so much of the road’s chatter away.
For this reason, I love my gravel bike. Sure, it’s heavy, but it’s not terrible at 24 pounds… until I try rolling with someone on a 17-pound carbon fiber gravel bike. That extra seven pounds takes a good bit of effort (not all seven pounds are in frame weight, obviously, it’s only a pound or two… the rest is cheaper components and wheels. I could make the bike 18 pounds if I invested some money in wheels and decent components).
Where aluminum really makes a good showing is in a tandem frame. Carbon fiber, and there’s at least one manufacturer who makes them (Calfee), is prohibitively expensive when you get to something as big as a tandem. A frame alone costs as much as my wife and my full Co-Motion Kalapuya (with a second set of road wheels) – this is enough I wouldn’t even want to afford one… but that aircraft grade aluminum beauty we ordered is going to be phenomenal when it gets here! And with the ability to ride 32s for paved roads and 45s for gravel, I have zero worries about the rigidity. In fact, I’ll welcome it next to our current steel tandem that weighs 42-pounds. The new tandem will be in the mid to upper 20s.
There’s a return to aluminum as the frame material of choice because it’s more abundant, recyclable and it’s cheap. With the wider tire fad of late, this makes that at least reasonable.
On the other hand, I’d never trade in my carbon fiber. When it comes to an awesome ride, carbon fiber is still the best – no matter how fat tires are getting:
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.
My wife has never liked “the same old thing” when it comes to where to ride. She’s always thinking of new roads to travel, especially on the tandem. Well, she wanted to find out what the roads were like out in Shaftsburg, about 28 miles from our house. Greg, a friend of ours, rides out there quite often so we reached out to him, hoping he would help with a decent out and back type of route… 28 miles out is close to our limit on the tandem as it is.
He shot us back two options and we chose the shorter (65-mile) and set the gang up to ride Saturday morning.
We rolled out at 8 – the days are getting noticeably shorter, now – to perfect conditions. Single-digit breeze out of the south, mild temperature just below room temperature, and a wonderful weather outlook for the day. We had two tandems and four singles in our posse as we headed for parts unknown and an adventure. My wife and I had enough Payday candy bars, Cliff bars and gels in our saddlebag to last us into the winter… and new matching water bottles for the rig. I must say, with us in our matching kit, we must look quite fantastic.
The trip out was quite fantastic and we quickly upped our average to the 18-mph range where it stayed for the entire rest of the ride.
We started hitting roads less traveled (and never traveled, for that matter) around 23 miles in and I was immediately bummed we hadn’t ridden the area more often. It’s gorgeous out there.
As we rolled on passing 50 miles, I could feel my energy level dropping. It was one of those, “oh, no” feelings of impending doom. I hadn’t been drinking near enough and I’d hardly eaten anything. I could feel a bonk coming. By the time we rolled into Durand, with only ten to go, I was lightheaded.
Jess handed me a bit of Payday and I downed it like I’d been starved. That got me to the local gas station where I had a caffeinated root beer and a bag of M&Ms… and I started feeling better. Much better. Rolling out for home after our stop I was actually surprised at how much better I felt. It wasn’t perfect, but I could put some decent effort to match my wife (who was awesome).
We pulled into the driveway with just shy of 66 miles and I was in no mood to go an extra tenth to make it even. Let’s just leave it at, “nap time was AWESOME!”
Now, it should also be fairly stated that when we get to this level of purist silliness, the level I’m about to write about, we’re only talking about the wonky end of the spectrum. Mountain bikers are a finicky bunch. They just are. Disagree? Show up in your road kit and sit back on your folding chair at the trailhead… and watch how you’re looked at.
Better, there’s a question brewing amongst mountain biking organizations where it’s being murmured that e-mountain bikes shouldn’t be allowed on mountain bike trails… because they’re too fast.
They are that. However…
Let’s go with the notion that eBikes shouldn’t be on trails because they’re “too fast”. Never mind that, should you ask your average roadie if an eBike should be allowed in a group for someone past their prime but who still wants to hang with the group you’ll get quite a lot of enthusiasm about it… I’ve seen it. Let’s just forget that for a minute, though.
So here’s what I want to know; are we going to ban fast mountain bikers next? How’s about lightweight mountain bikes? Ooh, better yet, maybe we should have trails designated by class! Yeah! Then we don’t have to worry about fast mountain bikers overtaking slower folks on the trails… because they won’t be there! Then, maybe we could put some form of enforcement out there to hit people with a taser if they don’t comply to the class structure designated for that particular trail! Yeah, that’s the ticket! Then, for those who slip through the cracks, maybe we could have mountain bikers informing the authorities on other mountain bikers. That’d be great!
Oh, wait… where was that tried before? Let me think now… Oh yeah! The Nazi Socialists did that. So did the Marxist Soviet Communists and Italian Socialists… and Chinese Communists. (Never you mind that pattern, it’s all in your head!)
On second thought, maybe we can just let the older folks who still want to ride their mountain bikes have a little bit of an e-assist up the hills, no?