In this post, regular Rutland Cycling Guest Blogger, Frank Burns tells us about how his wife never learned how to ride a bike as a child but also tells us how that doesn't stop the two of them regularly clocking up the miles on their tandem. Read on for more...
When Jenny and I got married, I was already hooked on two wheel transport, but Jenny had never learned how to ride a bike as a child. Reason: she was born in Buxton, lived on a steep hill, and bikes just never featured in their lives. She guessed, however, that marrying me might see a change to that.
I got her a bike and began running miles behind her holding onto her saddle...but no joy. She could always sense when I let go. We even found a big pair of stabilisers...but still no joy. We tried every trick in the book, but her innate sense of imbalance became an impenetrable barrier. Until, one day, some new friends introduced the idea of riding a tandem. They had a rather expensive hand-built machine, but Jenny was allowed a try-out as stoker on the back (but not with me as pilot!)...and within less than 100 metres, the air was suddenly filled with the delighted squeals and whoops of a child who had found a new toy. Well, that was the beginning of the rest of her life...in a manner of speaking.
So we invested (cheaply, at first) in an ancient 1930s Rudge tandem, complete with foot brake, and took the trials further, even completing a couple of 40 mile rides, before we replaced it with a Peugeot, and then latterly with a Dawes Discovery Twin (purchased from Rutland Cycling).
Most of our rides are local, reaching distances of 20-40 miles, and always with a decent cafe stop, sometimes a lunch stop.
On one occasion, after work one summer's day, we climbed on the tandem to do a circuit of Grafham Water, stopping for a light picnic half way round. What Jenny hadn't expected was that I'd filled one of the water bottles with red wine...I tell you, the second half of the ride was almost entirely pain-free!
Over the years, we have been a little more ambitious. We once spent a week tandeming in the Alsace and the Black Forest, at the time when there was a tea advert on ITV with two chimpanzees riding a tandem (see below).
Climbing a long, 12km hill in the Black Forest, someone from behind shouted out in broad Yorkshire: �Well, can yuh ride t'tandem then?�.
Other rides have included several two and three days rides, staying in a B&B en route, multi-day rides with both the CTC and Tandem Clubs, and on one occasion we headed off in the hope of getting Jenny to complete her first century ride. The imperious intrusion of the saddle won the day, however, but we did complete over 80 miles... and for someone who simply can't ride a bike on her own, that is a huge achievement.
There is a surprising number of people who cannot ride a bike. If you are one of them, don't lose hope. If you have a partner, persuade him/her to go for a trial ride on a hire tandem and discover for yourselves the delights of riding a bike together...and always staying together (for better or worse!!!).
See you down the road!