Last week we paddled together, and I must say, we got along together quite well. Today we go for a tandem bicycle ride. It’s going to be a very different experience.
This time, I’m the one up front. You get on the back saddle and keep your feet on the pedals. Pedal. That’s all you do.
“Ready? 1-2-3-GO!” I’m the one who selects the most appropriate gear to use. There are twenty-one gear options to select, depending whether we’re going up-hill or down, slowly or quickly. There’s a lever on each side of my handlebar. Braking: disc brakes, front and rear. Levers are also on each side of the handlebar. I work the brakes, front and rear.
“Can’t I take care of one of those for you?”
Because both sets of pedals are inter-connected by a common drive chain, the rate of pedaling has to be identical. The rear set can’t freewheel.
On the front handlebar is a cycle-computer, a handy device that informs the guy up front of current speed, average speed, time elapsed, distance covered and time of day. Oh yes, the temperature too. You can’t see it from back there, so I’ll tell you what you have to know. I have a bell on my handlebar too. That’s to warn the pedestrians we’re approaching from behind.
“So what do you want me to do?”
“Feet on the pedals – and pedal.”
The guy up front has to clearly announce every action he is about to make: “Coasting!” “Up-shifting!” “Braking!” “Turning left!” “Stopping!”
By now, both you, the reader, and the stoker must be thinking, “That guy up front is a dictator spelled with a capital D!”
Sorry folks, it’s nothing liked the equal sharing that goes on in paddling – and in a good marriage. In tandem biking, it’s a male-dominated, sexist, front-seat dictatorship, albeit a benevolent and necessary one. I’ve never seen it to be otherwise.
If you ride with me, it’s just “Sit on the saddle, keep your feet on the pedals – and pedal. Unless I tell you otherwise, it’s just, ‘Ready? 1-2-3-GO!’”
Before our next ride together, if there is to be one, I’ll drop by the bike shop to see if they can add a bell to the rear handlebar. That’ll give you a voice, a means of getting my attention, so you can plead, “Can’t we take a break?”
Hmm, maybe you’d rather go canoeing.