Canadian Cycling Magazine
Go on a tandem
Compared with other bicycles, a tandem is longer, heavier and many of its parts are harder to find. Exactly what you want for a long-distance touring bicycle, right? Except our tandem wasn’t even a touring bike. It was a three-year-old sports tandem with a tighter wheelbase and a more forward position. Nothing says bonding like spending a month with your face six inches from your father’s backside. We also thought the very thin Schwalbe Marathons would last us the whole way. Their name implied they could handle long distances. But, they were exposed to double the regular weight. Also, we didn’t rotate them from front to back. We ended up with a spectacular blowout in Quebec. Luckily, we did have a spare and managed to change it before the black flies and mosquitoes carried us away.
On a trip to Maine, I had seen a red, sporty tandem at a great price. I bought it. What else could I do? We rode it a few times around home, pulling the trailer from time to time with some stuff in it. Why bother taking it on a good climb? With two of us pedalling, hills shouldn’t be a problem, right? Also, why bother looking into the machine’s unique maintenance needs, such as chain tension, bottom-bracket adjustment and specific extra-long cables, to name a few? We learned on Day 1 that the captain (front rider) can’t lift his hands off the bar to stretch without the tandem heading for the nearest ditch. Nothing says aggravation like seeing your son’s shadow sitting upright, eating a banana with one hand and taking photos with the other. After many aborted attempts, we finally mastered riding the tandem hands-free, the sweet spot being between 28 and 32 km/h. What pure pleasure.