Over the weekend we wanted to take our bikes to Cape Cod and cycle on the Rail Trail. Unfortunately, our lighter bikes are at the shop and the Pashleys are too heavy for the car's rear rack. Browsing the rail trail brochure, I noticed an advertisement for tandem rentals. Tandems! Within seconds, I was making a reservation.
Our tandem was a modern Fuji mountain-road hybrid, with an aluminum frame and carbon fork. With our mismatched beach attire and sunscreen-streaked faces (it was a hot day) we didn't exactly look glamorous, but it was quite an experience!
Tandem bicycles look charming and fun, which makes them seem easy to ride. I assure you that they are not! Despite Sheldon Brown's detailed description, we did not expect it to be so challenging. The tandemists must learn to coordinate their pedaling and coasting patterns, pedaling cadence, and even their body movements, so as not to disbalance the bicycle by leaning in different directions. This takes some time! Steering, shifting gears, and turning corners require considerable skill.
The person at the front of a tandem is called the Captain, and the person in the back is the Stoker. The job of the Captain is to steer and balance the bicycle, and to control the gearing. The job of the Stoker is to provide extra leg-power on the pedals and maintain the balance. If you are the Stoker, the Captain's back will be your view (inches from your face), unless you turn to the side!
The Co-Habitant was a natural captain and could even ride the tandem stretched out from the rear pedals.
I could not, but I was a good Stoker!
One of the benefits of a tandem, is that it can go very fast. Once we got the hang of operating the bicycle, we were flying on that thing, grinning with delight and leaving other cyclists in the dust. Overall, I prefer to ride an individual bicycle, simply because I like the control and independence. But on occasion, a tandem would be so much fun. It's a tandem!