Category Archives: Tandem riding
La Belle France
Bretagne, the land of Asterix & Obelix
Instead of marauding Gauls, we find a land of Breton-speaking Celts, whose language has much in common with neighbouring Cornish, Welsh, Irish and Manx.
La Loire à tandem
Alas, the period of silence comes to an end! The pencil went blunt, the inkpot ran dry…..the beckoning world of ‘la plume de ma tante’ was naught but a code for……….this man has been AWOL for a couple of weeks. In fact, with his wife riding the tandem midst chateaux and vignobles of the Loire valley, fueling up on croissant and baguettes, re-hydrating on grandes tasses de café et bières a la pression, and when off duty (ie. off the bike), over the final meal of the day, popping the cork on a wine from Saumur or Anjou, and sampling till the lees tell us there is no more……..
Our host, Yan, took us down into the bowels of his garden, a deep
cavernous cellar below his lawns, to reveal wine racks that stretched around the walls, and offered us three of his collection……..two full bodied reds and a sparkling Vouvray that we corked to toast our own 37th anniversary.
The quiet days of October, with warmth still in the sun, is an ideal time to be exploring the Loire valley. We covered most of the terrain between Tours and Angers, discovered the chateaux of Langeais, Villandry, Saumur and Ussé, and found time to idle over a typical French lunch, or be distracted by Caves where the invitation to a degustation was too good to ignore.
Pilots steering from the rear……….
There are so many variations in the construction of tandems. We thought we had just about seen them all at a recent tandem rally over Easter. The rear-seated pilot was not new to us (click here), but this model (seen on a recent visit to Cambridge) really caught my attention.
Unmistakably of a ‘sensible’ Dutch design, it seems to be designed for a child front ‘stoker‘ and a rear ‘pilot’, but fascinatingly long and obviously a bit cumbersome. Made by a company called Dutchbike (www.dutchbike.co.uk), I discovered from their website that it is a versatile cargo-bike, that can carry either children (yes, in the plural) or cargo on the front. Give the children their own little cabin, and they are weather-protected as well. Very neat.
‘Bedlam’ of tandems hit New Forest!
There is a rare form of transport out there, more frequently seen in the Spring and Summer, that heads off to meet up with other ‘random tandems’ in remote spots, usually to do a bit of grazing at watering holes, but also to wander the lanes and byways in some kind of migratory procession. The remote spot, in this instance, was the New Forest, and the best watering holes were abundantly provided for over the Easter weekend. 100 tandemists (= 50 tandems) in case you have a problem with the maths, gathered at Avon Tyrell Activity Centre, and enjoyed a variety of sorties out into the local countryside. From gently rolling forest lanes to the steep climbs over heathland, from encounters with sauntering ponies and cattle (who know they have priority!) to the mêlée of Bank Holiday trippers in Lymington, from the quiet solitude of coastal cycle tracks to the hustle and bustle of holiday traffic on the move. The weekend had everything, including mind-stretching and competitive entertainment in the evenings and, most importantly, the camaraderie of an activity shared with a riding partner and a bunch of other enthusiasts.
The Tandem Club in the UK brings together the enthusiasm of some 4000 members, many of whom organise themselves into local or regional groups, and enjoy monthly rides of some 30-40 miles, the highlight always being the feeding stops en route! And tandem-riding can open a door to people with disabilities,
especially blind or partially-sighted riders, who can make excellent ‘stokers’ (back riders). And a new breed of tandem, the Hase Pino, is ideally suited for riders with other disabilities, with its semi-recumbent design at the front and its independent drive-train.
Humour and laughter are always attendant at such tandem encounters, whether its along the road sharing chat as you weave through the lanes, or at table over a meal in the evenings. As we pedalled along a forest lane, I said to the front rider of the tandem alongside us: if the front rider is called the ‘pilot’, what do we call the back rider? ‘Cabin crew‘? I suggested. He proffered: ‘No, trolley dolly‘!!
We were all enthusiastically appreciative of the fine efforts made by the Wessex regional group, who master-minded every aspect of the weekend. It was a well-rounded experience, designed to cater for every inclination of the motley crowd that gathered
The rise and rise of the “double bike”
When Jenny & I were in Vancouver last year, and asked to hire a tandem in a bike shop, we were greeted with a blank look. I quickly realised I was speaking a foreign language, so I pointed to one. “Oh, yuh mean a double bike, don’t yuh?”.
So this was the biggest turn-out of “double bikes” to date in the Peterborough Tandem group. The word is spreading. All along our route, people looked on in wonder at this line of twosomes. Never before had they seen so many tandems in one snap-shot! Five crews set off from Tallington Lakes, and we met one crew at our Ferrymeadows stop.
It was a chilly, misty start to the day, but we were promised warm spring sunshine, and that is what greeted us before our first stop. And yes, we discovered the delights of having two café stops, the second in the historic town of Stamford, made even more famous as the film locations of Pride and Prejudice, Middlemarch and the Da Vinci Code. The blossoming spring flowers and the bright sunlight made it feel like a holiday weekend……..or was it just the happy social encounter with fellow “double bikers”?
Our group sported an interesting variety of machines: two Dawes, a George Longstaff, Cannondale, Orbit, and a Mercian. No hint of a monopoly there!
Can you ride tandem, then?
Though still in its infancy, the Peterborough tandem group is beginning to form a solid core, and for those who venture out on a monthly ride, there is no shortage of enthusiasm. From Tallington (West Deeping) the pace out to Oakham was brisk (right into a strong cool westerly wind), but the body’s extremities soon warmed up when we hit the first of the many hills in the tiny county of Rutland. Our attention was frequently distracted by overhead buzzards and red kites. Then after the first 20 miles, who wouldn’t enjoy an all-day breakfast at the local greasy spoon?
The Irish prayer “May the wind be ever at your back” was invoked after lunch and, sure enough, it was at our backs on the homeward run, and the sun hailed the flowering snowdrops and crocuses that sprinkled the roadside verges. A great day to be sharing the company of fellow tandemists on this 42 mile route. And at the end, Jenny (who herself cannot ride two wheels) felt justifiably proud at having covered the distance.
Two by two: a ‘peloton’ of tandemists
Like a new-born infant, the emergence of a new tandem group will slowly take its first few faltering steps, gain a little in confidence and momentum, and will eventually find its feet (aka ‘wheels’) firmly planted on the ground, burning rubber at gently increasing speeds. Thanks to the initiative taken by John & Elaine Blackburn, the new Peterborough group is ideally situated to attract riders from a wide geographical radius, and four crews gathered at Orton Mere on July 23rd for a 38 mile ride out into Northamptonshire. The route took us through remarkable villages such as Fotheringhay (birth place of Richard III and where Mary Queen of Scots lost her head), and places with evocative names such as Bulwick, Blatherwycke and Apethorpe, through the picturesque village of King’s Cliffe and past the impressive estates of Elton Hall, family home of the Proby family. It was an excellent ride, new friendships were forged, and we had a tail wind to enhance the speed of the return journey (part of John’s careful calculations!). Interestingly, three of the four tandems were Dawes, accompanied by a venerable Jack Taylor.
To find out more about tandeming in the UK, click here.