… upon the seat, of a bicycle made for two…
Well, who would have thought it. A few months back, my dearly beloved suggested we should have a go on a Tandem. Wow, that was a blast of air I wasn't expecting. He has always encouraged my cycling, always been on hand with oily finger nails offering advice, showing me how to remove this bit and that and why I need to do this and that... But I never expected this.
Back in April, though, out came my older mountain bike, up went the seat, and off he disappeared over the Manx hills with his friends out on their mountain bikes too. He would return, sweaty, exhausted and tired... saying stuff like...
"I hate this' and 'How do YOU enjoy it so much' and 'Never again'... sort of comments. But, slowly he has noticed a slight loss of weight (If he cut down a bit, it could be more), and a toning in the leg department, most of all, an improvement in his general fitness, which was the reason for getting out the mountain bike in the first place.
So we thought we would embark on this tandem lark. When I was in Pitlochry, I had a wee go on one with Tina, and amazingly found it quite easy... Dunno why, but I thought it must be really difficult to master, like perhaps a unicycle would be... it isn't, it is different though. So we starting scouting about, looking on tandems that came up on our favourite online auction site. A couple caught our eye, but they were always located too far away making collection difficult and expensive.
I started viewing the internet in my spare moments, and came across the Tandem Club UK. They had some tandems for sale on their website. One looked suitable, but it was in the Highlands of Scotland, too far to visit incase it wasnt suitable. So instead I joined the Tandem Club, and their very colourful membership magazine arrived, the Monday before I left for the Lake District. I really didn't think a tandem would come up immediately that we could consider, but heck... it DID.
Myles was selling one, and he lived near Carnforth, infact, he lived just 4 miles off my route to my brothers cottage. Phone call made, I viewed the tandem on my tod. One of the reasons I was so excited about this one, was that I knew a wee bit about her manufacturer. She is a Mercian Super Tourer. Built in the 1990's and only one owner from new. Cherry Red... WOW. Anyway, her she is in all her beauty and style for you to drool over. She has been very well cared for, maintained and she has seen a lot of the world, having ridden in America and New Zealand!
She was ideal, a price we could afford, close to home as it was possible to get (just 19 miles from door to door on the road, not including the wet bit). And she was big at the front (25" man frame) coupled with a 22" for me behind. Perfect, perfect, perfect.
Chas brought her home on Monday, and on Tuesday this week, we took her first ride to some friends just 4 miles away. We took a chance on this, neither of us had ridden together on a tandem before. Chas used the toe clipped pedals and I used the flat campagnolo pedals supplied and already fitted to the bike. Boy oh boy... Hard work or what.. It is I shall add, quite hilly to Laxey, but I had never worked so hard on a bike before in my life! The four miles home were tough and hard work. My muscles trembled with the effort... 'It shouldnt be like this...' I suggested. As a member of the Tandem club, I've read their articles and some of the forum and they have LOADS of members way older than us, and surely they wouldn't use a tandem if it was such hard slog?? (Not suggesting folk cant manage once at a 'certain' age, but when I say hard work, my legs ached from the 4 mile effort, as did my neck and arms – which they shouldn't have).
A rethink... We replaced her rear pedals for me, with those on my tourer bike. So put on clipped SPD pedals instead. I checked tyre pressure. 700c x 35 (or 7.. cant remember exactly, but they are quite wide tyres), they only had 40psi in them. Whacked in more air to 90psi.
Took a chance to cycle a good bit further than Laxey and rode to the Sea Terminal and back... WE FLEW!
It was fantastic, no longer were my feet being redundant for half the pedal turn, they were not slipping off all the time either, and we covered 11 miles with an average hilly speed of 15.5 mph! That was faster than my Hetchins and I do on our commute to and fro work, where we manage an average of 12 mph even if I am racing the trams home!
Really enjoyed it. Best of all HE really enjoyed it. We are both going to get fit doing this, and with any luck enjoy the time out and about together – for the first time in a long, long, long while, we have something we can do together. I'm not expecting a tour for the time being... but you never can tell...