She’s not pedaling on t’back….

How to pack a tandem and solo in a medium-sized car

How to pack a tandem and solo in a medium-sized car

You’ve not only got to have a sense of intention to ride a tandem, but also a sense of humour…….especially the person on the back (the stoker). Our smiles get steadily fainter as the day progresses, when we hear for the twentieth time: “Hey, she’s not pedaling on t’back!”. And, of course, each person who shouts it, thinks it’s really funny because they have just thought of it, and they’ve come out with it spontaneously. And, of course, they probably imagine we’ve never heard it before…………….g-r-o-a-n ;0(

On the Monsal Trail

On the Monsal Trail

It’s a bit like asking your dentist if he’s feeling ‘down in the mouth‘, or asking a guitarist what he’s ‘fretting about‘. They will simply not find such observations funny. But some comments and jokes do raise a smile: Like the tandem rider who is stopped by a police car.

“What’s the pretext, officer?” asks the pilot.

“Didn’t you realize your wife fell off about half a mile back?”

“Thank goodness for that” said the pilot, “I thought I’d gone deaf!”

Reviewing the road subsidence over Mam Tor

Reviewing the road subsidence over Mam Tor

Joking aside, the tandem has always been a great ice-breaker for us. People want to engage with you if you are riding a tandem. The older generation will wistfully tell you of their tandeming escapades in their younger days. Children, who have never seen a tandem before, will stand agog, and an accompanying parent might chime up with a rendering of “Daisy, Daisy give me your answer, do………”.

In short, we have met a lot of interesting people who, if we had been on any other mode of transport, might have ignored us. But the tandem drew them towards us, because they saw tandeming as a ‘together- kind of activity‘ that many people can identify with, especially if they are couples.

Just before negotiating the subsidence over Mam Tor

Just before negotiating the subsidence over Mam Tor

When we are asked the question: “So, what’s so good about tandeming? Why not ride solo bikes?” we like to share the fact that because Jenny can’t ride two wheels on her own (she doesn’t have the balance), it’s her only way of getting out on a bike for a decently long ride.

But that aside, if you have two riders of unequal strength and fitness, riding solos together can be an unforgiving experience for both. One is bound to go too fast, and the other too slow. On a tandem, each rider can stretch themselves to their own limits, enjoy the ride and still be together (for better or worse……!). Conversation is so much easier, and the journey becomes both a burden shared and an experience to be enjoyed………together.

Looking down over Hope Valley

Looking down over Hope Valley

Last week, in the Peak District of Derbyshire, we not only enjoyed the gentle gradients of an old railway track (Monsal Trail) and river valleys (Hope & Edale), but also the challenge of riding over the old (and now subsided) road over Mam Tor, to the head of Edale valley. Stiff climbs that required much determination and patience.

The descent into Edale should have been pay-back time after the leg-breaking climbs. It was a 10% descent,

At the head of the Edale Valley

At the head of the Edale Valley

which is great on a solo bike, but can be a bit terrifying on a tandem. Some law of physics will explain why tandemists are slower to climb the hills, but infinitely faster on the descent. So fast, in fact, that you have to apply the brakes continuously on such a fast descent, which will frequently heat up the rims of your wheels to burning point, until you smell burning rubber (ie. the brake blocks). And that’s what happened as we descended into Edale. The burning rubber turned into the reality of a burst inner tube, which went down instantly…..and (as sometimes happens) the first puncture turned into a second, then a third, then a fourth……and you have to accept that punctures invariably come in groups of three or four…….not sure if there is a law of physics to explain that!

Mending the 3rd puncture!

Mending the 3rd puncture!

But, as I always say to people who ask if I suffer many punctures on my long expeditions………they are the least of my worries. They can be fixed in a trice. A broken frame, on the other hand (as happened in New Zealand) is on another scale.

But going back to some of the inane comments made by passers-by: we were once greatly amused by the passing observation that made mockery of the pilot and not the stoker……….“Hey, missus, he’s not pedaling on the front!”

Peverill Castle, Castleton

Peverill Castle, Castleton


About Frank Burns

Looking for the extraordinary in the commonplace………taking the road less travelled……..striving for the ‘faculty of making happy chance discoveries’ in unremarkable circumstances. Click on the Personal Link below to visit my webpages.

Posted on September 9, 2013, in Aspects of Britain, Cycling UK and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. We have a lot of the same reactions when we ride our tandem and still love it. You are right about the tandem drawing people to you starting conversations. It also allows us to share our comments about the countryside much mare conveniently than when we yell at each other from single bikes.

    We have two tandems now and the new one has more kilometers on it than all the other bikes put together.

  2. Fantastic read Frank – I’ve scaled Edale CP by foot before. An impressive feat to conquer that area on two wheels. It’s fantastic to see you donning your Rutland Cycling jersey too! All the best. Adam

  3. Edward Valletta

    Perhaps this is what is needed to get Sally cycling with me!

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