Why riding a tandem bicyle is like riding a roller coaster


One day long ago, my brother pulled into Bluffton in his aging Volvo, a bike carrier on the back. On the carrier was a tandem bicycle that suggested his trip wasn’t as easy as usual. He admitted that passing trucks in the hills of VA and West VA was a bit on the dicey side.

But bless his heart for taking his chances. He and his wife, my beloved SIL, had decided that tandems were not made for riding the hills and valleys of Virginia, especially when one’s house is situated on a stone road that is well beyond the “End state road maintenance” sign.

So they gifted us with the tandem. We, of course, were happy to take it on. Little did we know what this meant.

Recently, we pulled the tandem out of storage for its spring induction. You would think after all these years that I would be ready for this first ride of the year. Nope.

This is also a bigger deal than you might imagine. For starters, it is completely unsafe. Not the bike. The ride. Because of the difference in weight and strength, the husband sits in front. This leaves me to the back seat where I am essentially there for balance and and to serve as chief navigator, which means that I look behind us to make sure it’s okay to turn. 

So when people stare and say oooohhhhh….ahhhh…doesn’t that look like fun, little do they know about the turmoil churning through my body. Every time we set off, I am certain this will be the day my life ends. I can only compare riding with my husband to taking a ride on a roller coaster that has no person at the controls. He inches our way down the driveway (it’s on a bit of a hill), looks both ways — BRIEFLY — and we’re off! The intersection is just 10 seconds from our house (by bike) and we sail through or swoop into a turn. My stomach is somewhere back there on the road by this time. Just about the time my heart returns to its normal rate, we reach yet another intersection and with a quick glance to either side, we’re moving into another gut-wrenching turn.

It goes on like this until he runs out of steam, for which I am truly grateful. Then we slowly meander through various housing developments, down the entire length of Main Street, and sometimes even venture to the country.

Then there’s this other problem. It’s hard to explain except, well, the seats aren’t the most comfy. We’ve developed this little routine. Since I’m on the back and am at the mercy of his pedaling (or not), I have to tap him on the shoulder and say “stand up break”. This means that my you-kn0w-what is numb and I have to stand up which means he has to coast for awhile. When the numbness hits him, he just quits pedaling which essentially indicates that it is time to coast for a bit.

All of that aside, riding a tandem is fun. Some of the time. Most of the time. And I am so thankful that the bro and SIL were generous enough to give it to us. Just remember this. If you see me wearing bike shorts next time, it means I have learned my lesson.

One other thing. Helmets are essential. Well, helmets with bikes are essential anyway, but with a tandem — at least when riding with he-who-thinks-he’s-a-race-car-driver, they’re more than essential. Besides, if we don’t wear them and the local bicycle expert-cum-postmaster sees us, we’re in trouble. And who wants to be on the wrong side of the postmaster?

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6 responses to “Why riding a tandem bicyle is like riding a roller coaster

  1. I would have guessed his “you know what” would have been numb, not your how would I know I’m a guy.

    • Yeah James, you wouldn’t know about mine. But you’re the one who griped about it when you and I rode it together. I just never told you that mine was numb too.

  2. Mary! Go to the nearest bike shop – and get yourself a larger gel-pack bike seat! They either are replacement seats or are covers for your current one.
    Makes all the difference in the world – whether yours is a delightful bicycle built for two or an airdyne at home. Let Fred fend for himself…..

    • Jean, I have good seats on my other two bikes, and every year we say we’re going to buy new ones for this bike. But we never seem to get that done. Some day…

  3. Mary, I’m glad our $50, or whatever we paid for it, brings you something to blog about but I’m sorry it also brings you “turmoil churning through your body”. Enjoy oh sister-in-law-of-mine. Next time I come to visit you and I must take a joy ride. Yes, you might want to invest in some gel seats.

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