Riding a tandem certainly isn’t all smooth rolling. As any experienced tandem rider will tell you, riding tandem will either make or break a marriage. But for us, it works.
We didn’t always ride tandem. In fact, though Denise had always liked the idea of a tandem, Jim had never really been interested. Over the years, Jim warmed up to the idea and decided a tandem would be fun to try, so for our 18th wedding anniversary we purchased a used Trek 200 in 2005.
We discovered that riding tandem was fun and we both enjoyed it. We could talk and be in close proximity as we rode. We learned the nuances of riding a tandem: adapting to each other’s cycling styles, movement, jargon, and jokes (she’s not pedaling back there!) We discovered there were lots of others that rode tandems, tandem clubs, and tandem rallies— HOOTS, ITR, MTR, and more. It seemed people were friendlier when you ride a tandem as it is somewhat of a novelty to see. We started riding more often and longer mileages. However, Denise discovered she really didn’t enjoy riding more than 35-40 miles because of discomfort, so we kept to shorter distances or took frequent breaks if we rode longer.
Because our tandem was used and getting older, our bicycle mechanic (Tim) was having increased difficulty in finding parts and making repairs that were needed to keep us rolling smoothly. In July of 2013, we made the decision to purchase a new, custom ordered bike and anticipated its arrival in the fall.
However on a Monday morning in late August 2013, we had a tandem accident. Denise received multiple broken bones, necessitating surgery and a hospitalization stay. Jim, thankfully, was not seriously injured and for you cyclists that are concerned, the tandem was fine—with the exception of the front tire blowout that precipitated the accident! Needless to say, the road to recovery was tough and long. One of the first things that entered Denise’s mind was our investment in the new bike and wondering if she would even be able to ride again!
Our first post accident ride was 4 miles at a very, very slow pace, for it was less than six weeks after the accident and Denise still had challenges to overcoming in the recovery process, plus she discovered she had a new found fear of crashing again—especially on a turn. Our new Co Motion Equator with belt drives and an internal hub arrived several weeks later at Summit City Bicycles and Fitness. It was beautiful! Plus with the professional fit by David, it was comfortable to ride. Unfortunately, at this point our riding time was limited as colder weather was upon us and Denise still had to have two more surgeries to achieve healing of her clavicle.
With the warmer weather of spring we were propelled to try to get back into cycling. We had previously committed to being a part of the commitee for a local MTR to be held in the fall of 2014. We wanted to try and participate in some of the planning rides, the first of which was 40 miles. We cautiously started adding miles, had a second fit with Barry to adjust the bicycle for Denise’s new shoulder geometry, and were amazed at how good it felt to ride. It was not pain free— your seat needs to get accustomed to riding increased miles and Denise struggled with numbness in one foot for several years after the accident, but in general she was amazed at how good bicycling felt when you have a bike that has been professional fitted for you. We increased our miles and enjoyed (most of) them!
Nate, another one of the guys at the bike shop, had shared with Jim his love for a trail system that ran from Pittsburgh to Washington DC. We started cycling with the goal of riding that trail in mind: we increased our mileage, rode longer miles on back-to-back days, rode with added weight and in September of 2014 completed the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Towpath. Cycling 351 miles in 6 days. We rode self-supported with our luggage packed in panniers and loaded on our bike, but “credit carded” our way, staying in hotels or Bed and Breakfast establishments and eating in restaurants. What a sense of accomplishment and great time we had! That trip led to more trips….
- The Katy Trail, Clinton, MO to St. Louis, MO, May 2015, 344 miles.
- Cycling to MIracle Mountain Ranch, Churubusco, IN To Spring Creek, PA, May 2016, 370 miles.
- The Idaho Panhandle, July 2016, 370 miles,
- The Natchez Trace Parkway, Natchez, MS to Nashville, TN, March 2017, 506 miles.
In addition, in 2015 we became aware of the National Bike Challenge through the local cycling club, 3RVS. The Challenge is a country-wide contest to encourage outdoor cycling. Points are awarded for each day you ride and also for the number of miles ridden. Suddenly we were motivated to ride every day for the team! It’s amazing how the miles add up when you try to get out on the bike every day. Our mileage increased each year:
- 2014 2500 miles
- 2015 3850 miles
- 2016 5000 miles
- 2017 6000 miles
Suddenly, riding across the country on tandem didn’t seem so crazy after all!