Our first tandem ride! Yay!
Lesson One: Stoker can ride no handed.
Lesson Two: Pilot ought not to belch.
Lesson Three: Pilot's descriptions of the road ahead need to be less 'sight-seeing' and more practical.
Lesson Four: Stoker works harder than me.
Aidan and Lynn have kindly lent us their well-loved and cared-for tandem for a little while. We caught a bus down the Lanchester Valley from Durham to meet up with them. After a bit of fettling, Aidan took me for a test ride; him as Stoker and me as Pilot. He taught me how to balance while the Stoker gets comfortable, how to set off and how to stop. All straight-forward but I was nervous before he showed me. Once we were riding he then showed me what happens if the Stoker decides to throw their weight about - I had almost no control over where we were going!
Next it was Carol's turn... balance and push off... we're rolling. This is easy! She is so much lighter than Aidan and already knows exactly how to remain balanced neutrally (experienced gained on horseback and riding pillion on a motorbike). We did a minute or two up and down the cycle path before thanking Aidan and Lynn for this chance to try a tandem; and then we were off!
Our first ride on the tandem was a modest 12km along the Lanchester Valley Cycle Path back to Durham. Firstly on the hard-gravel-packed route to Langley Park, then onto the cycle path beside the A691 to Witton Gilbert and finally uphill to Durham and back home. This was a blessing of a route as it was fundamentally flat and straight - not too much required in terms of technical negotiation of corners and traffic.
Carol slowly found herself relaxing a little by little. At one point she took her hands of the bars and sat up - no handed - and there were shouts of glee from behind my back. I passed her the camera for evidence purposes. It was weird having her voice right behind my ear. I turned and looked back at her: aargh! you're so close!
Clearly her view ahead was restricted, and I needed to inform her with a running commentary of what was happening in front. Apparently I'm useless at this - she doesn't want to know about the interesting post box, or good view... she wants to know about bumps, when I'm going to make a sudden move, or change gear, or brake. She needs to know what's ahead because I'm in her way: I hope to get better at this for her.
At Witton Gilbert we took a breather at the Traveller's Rest; pint of beer / glass of cola-drink. Onward again and we had the only uphill gradient, the gentle climb from Witton Gilbert to Durham. I burped and Carol was surrounded by a cloud of beer-breath. Oops.
We selected a gear and I found that I couldn't talk and pedal, I had to concentrate hard to pedal in time with Carol. Once we reached the top of the hill and the road flattened a bit we joined the road proper and changed up a few gears... and really started to fly along! We reached 25mph, without even trying, and sped along past the fire-station and back into Durham. Motorists gave us a massive space, which surprised us both; perhaps the 'lumberjack' shirt Carol was sporting / and long flowing red hair was intimidating.
Carol's pedaling was like an electric motor, the bike had an energy of it's own, as I was whooshed along by my Stoker putting some effort it. Brilliant!
45 minutes to cover 12km: not record breaking, but absolutely wonderful. I think it would have taken longer on two solo bicycles; we got a good head of steam and Carol was encouraging me to change up gears quite a lot. I'm sure she gained confidence the longer we rode, and apart form one moment when we both checked over our shoulders at the same time, and drifted right... apart from that we seemed to work well together.
I needed to get some dinner... and grabbed my road bike to nip to the shops. I stood on the pedals to climb the short road to the shops thinking that it would feel lighter... only to discover that nobody else was pedaling and I would have to do all the work myself! How quickly I have become lazy. Tandem riding - absolutely brilliant... can't wait to go out for another adventure with Carol.
Addendum: "The view from the back"
First impression - not happy. I didn't like the lack of control, I didn't like being wobbled about. As we talked to Lynn and Aidan, I grew in confidence that this was going to get easier...after all, others ride tandems; it was time to give it a chance.
As we rode further and started and stopped, I grew in confidence; but the cycle path was so dull. (Something we both agree on) - and on top of this I couldn't see beyond Graeme's broad shoulders.
I noticed that Graeme's three back pockets would be handy to keep sandwiches and a flask of tea in. Perhaps something to read.
I was surprised how easy it was to get going, and how easy to stop. We found some good communication but I had to keep reminding Graeme that I was in charge of the pedals.
I felt we could go faster and wanted to change up - but Graeme kept saying we were going as fast as he was comfortable for a gravelly cycle path - so once we hit the road I wanted to go a bit harder. I really didn't feel we were going fast at all, but Graeme says we were doing 25mph - it really didn't feel like it.
I felt happier on the road on this tandem than I do alone; I felt safer with Graeme, I felt that we could have gone faster! I want to do it again!