Expectant Waiting

It was luck that did it. Mary, who is superstitious about such things, came across a charm of a tandem couple and bought it as a pendant. “What do you think?” she asked when she showed it to me that night. She had planned to buy us mountain bikes this year – now a tandem was calling out to her. She was surprised when I said yes.

That was March. The first week of April we walked through the doors of Cyclo-Sportif G.M. Bertrand. “We’re here about a tandem.” “Tandem? You must talk to JJ.” JJ (Jean-Jacques) was busy with another customer who had a long list of questions. We had arrived at 9:30; by 11:30 he was deeply apologetic and shaking his head at the delay. “That’s okay,” I said,” that’s why we come here. You’re willing to spend time with your customers to get it right.”

There were some criteria we had agreed on. We only want to do this once. We want a good bike, one that we will not have to upgrade in future. We want to tour with it. For us touring is the best part of riding. We want good components. We both know what components mean. And it must fit both of us.

JJ has some experience with tandems – he and his family are on their third. He has a photograph of himself and his girlfriend on their bike, with their eight year old on a “giraffe” behind and the two youngest in a chariot at the back. The entire train is over 16 feet long.

“Have you ever ridden a tandem?” he asked. No, we had not. “Rent one. Ride it, and then come back.” Hmmm. Not quite what we expected. So we rented a tandem, and spent one hour riding a quiet side street parallel to the canal. It was, Mary said, like relearning how to be married and ride a bike, all at the same time.

JJ had pointed us to two companies: Santana and Co-Motion. Both are good. The rear forks of the Santana are spread wider than the Co-Motion, and so is more rigid. The Co-Motion has the Co-Pilot option, a coupler system that allows the bike to be taken apart for packing, which makes it ideal for traveling and touring. Co-Motion got the vote.

JJ now got serious. “Normally this is something you would do in the winter,” He said. There were quite a few details to consider. The width of the stoker’s handle bars must clear the pilot’s hips; the stoker needs a thud-buster seat post because she can’t see what’s coming. Etc. Hmmm. We hadn’t thought of that.

Over a period of weeks options were decided on. Measurements were taken. All we needed was a price. Since Bertrand does not normally deal in tandems, this meant waiting while Bertrand and Co-Motion talked to each other. And suddenly things slowed down.

The folks at Co-Motion are really nice. Over the course of this exercise we have talked with Pete, Zac, Brian, and Dwan, or about one quarter of their total staff of 17. Each and every one has been unfailingly pleasant, helpful and polite. They have been a real joy to deal with.

It turns out that we had run into a serious difference of styles and culture. Bertrand takes his responsibilities very seriously, and has strong feelings about what a bike’s geometry should be. Co-Motion, who do this for a living, build their bikes using a CAD program and utilize standard measurements. Both parties feel a strong sense of professional responsibility.

In the end, once we realized what was going on, we were able to laugh about it. No, we were not going to have our tandem in time for Rideau Lakes (hence our envy). But we put ourselves in the middle and managed to move things along to the point where, two months after we first walked through the Bertrand’s door (and the day after Kingston), we had placed a firm order.

I think Co-Motion feel badly about how long this all took and have moved us to the front of their line. Pete contacted us for an immediate decision on colours and decals. She's in the paint shop and might be shipped before the long weekend. “It’s like she’s in utero,” says Mary. Oh dear, too much information.

So there it is, that’s what’s happening. Mary says this is the convertible sports car we will never have. Now for the tough part. What do we call her?

10 comments on “Expectant Waiting”

  1. Patrick wrote:

    Thanks for the update Kern.

    This tandem seems a brave move. I find it hard to comment as I can't imagine sharing a bicycle with another person. Name-wise: "Buy one. Go cycle touring, and then agree on a name if you intend to keep it." I'm probably in a minority on the subject of names. A bike is a machine: 'it' (not 'she'). 'The Ridgeback' or 'the Giant'. Enough just to identify it. Of course I might feel differently if the frames weren't mass produced in Taiwan and were lovingly commissioned.

    Sandra's Ridgeback is a good machine but she has trouble getting on when loaded with four panniers. "Sell it and buy another," says I (thinking she'd be better with a Roberts like Hilary's, with a lower top tube). "Never!" says she. She hasn't named it though.

    Back to the tandem. I think you were right going with Co-Motion. It will be a lovely bike and worth the wait. I've seen tandem tourists with trailers going like a road-train. Most impressive. Do you know where your first tour will be?

  2. Hilary wrote:

    Your tandem should be a beauty. I have heard that whatever way your relationship is going a tandem sends it further that way ie if its a good relationship a tandem makes it even better.

    I haven't let Roberta read Patrick's comments on the subject of names! 🙂
    When the QE2 sailed into Southampton for the last time she had some sort of mechanical mishap (I forget the details) and lots of supposedly sane and rational people wrote into the paper saying 'Oh she knew what was happening'. If people can attribute feelings to huge chunks of metal like a ship I have no problem anthropomorphisising (I think thats the right word!) bicycles!! I did have one bike that had no name. It was a Giant, we didn't get on and it was soon sold.

  3. Alan wrote:

    A bike certainly is a machine. Even, arguably, merely a machine. But when a person is pedalling it and all is well, bike + person = cyclist, one physical unit that functions in harmony.

    And a tandem (I've never ridden one) must be trebly marvellous: two people in harmony with each other and the machine.

    I envy you, Kern.

  4. Chris wrote:

    I'd love a tandem. I'm envious too. But I think I'd be too scared to add a trailer – extending the length of the bike that much further than a solo cycle. I would worry about cars going crossing behind at junctions. For the record, none of my bikes has a name as such. And I'm not convinced that even my Dahon Piccolo is a 'she'.

  5. Mary wrote:

    Oooh, you are going to have such fun! My hubby and I are also considering a tandem. we are watching Flea Bay for one. Thing is, he fancies trying one first of course, and we dont know anyone with one. I am even a member of the Tandem Club (UK) and Co-Motion are considered as a very very highly thought of bike. I think he is hoping I will get him up those hills at home.

    I name a bike according to her maker. Hettie – Hetchins and Enid – Enigma.

    She's gotta have a name, its where all the love and personality comes from. (I even pat mine when I leave the shed) Gawd knows what the bike shop must of thought of me last week when Hettie went in to get her gearing indexed. "Oooh, here she is' I exclaimed as they brought her out from the workshop... 🙄

  6. Hilary wrote:

    Mary wrote

    (I even pat mine when I leave the shed)

    Me too! Altho she lives in the hall not the shed. Maybe its a girl thing?! 🙂

  7. Kern wrote:

    Hilary wrote:

    whatever way your relationship is going a tandem sends it further

    My dentist said the Co-Pilot decoupler is a good idea – if things get rough I can just undo it and keep on riding!

    Alan wrote:

    bike + person = cyclist, one physical unit that functions in harmony

    A wonderful phrase that encapsulates the joy that is cycling.

  8. Patrick wrote:

    Kern wrote: Mary, who is superstitious about such things, came across a charm ... Now for the tough part. What do we call her?


    Is that a name? Sounds nice.

  9. Alan wrote:

    "Charm" is a type of "Quark", which apparently is available in red, green or blue: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elementary_particle

  10. Patrick wrote:

    Just looked up 'charm quark'. Gosh!

    And a charm is a magical spell ... that allows the spellcaster to take control of another being ... LOL

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