10 Awesome Things About Riding A Tandem - Total Women's Cycling

Latest news, reviews and features for women who like to ride.

Share

Lifestyle

10 Awesome Things About Riding A Tandem

This remarkable rider and writer in her 60's shares her love of a bicycle made for two

Ever thought of giving a bicycle-made-for-two a go? Jackie Winter is a writer and rider who has been sharing paired-up rides with her husband, Allan, for the last forty years despite never having ridden a bike solo.

Jackie certainly knows her way around a tandem. Here she shares with us her ten favourite things about riding in a pair… 

I like to think that friends and family generally consider us to be delightfully eccentric.

The tandem saved me from a lazy life

I never learned to ride a [solo] bike as a child and I still can’t ride one now.  So if it weren’t for the tandem, I’d have missed out on forty years of great cycling and I might even have turned into an idle couch potato.  I enjoy people’s incredulous expressions when I tell them that despite being unable to ride a bike, I’ve cycled more than 100,000 miles.

Two minds but a single thought

When Allan and I wake up on a sunny morning, there’s never any disagreement about how to spend the day.  We both want to go out on the tandem and the only possible cause of a dispute is who makes the sandwiches.  And Allan always loses that one.

Togetherness

Riding a tandem keeps you together. After all, there’s no getting away from each other on a bicycle built for two.  I sometimes see couples out on solo bikes and the woman is trailing behind, probably because her partner is physically stronger. If they both enjoy cycling, a tandem may well be the means to problem free pedalling.

Jackie with the tandem in the late 1970s

Plenty of time to chat

A tandem is good for a couple’s relationship.  There’s something very satisfying about being in the same rhythm and knowing that with a different cycling partner, the pedalling wouldn’t be nearly so effortless.  It’s easy to talk, except in the teeth of a headwind when a chat might turn into more of an amicable shouting match.

Allan and I see and hear the same things and can point out anything of interest. If we were on solo bikes, the deer might well have disappeared into the hillside or the cuckoo stopped singing before the less observant rider knew anything exciting was happening.

The Ups and Downs

Tandems freewheel much faster than solos. When cycling in a group, we’re always in the lead on a descent and sometimes doing an eye-watering speed. Even now, in our bus pass years, Allan and I frequently hurtle downhill in excess of 40mph.

But tandems do tend to struggle going uphill. Many hills are potentially rideable but when confronted by those that are definitely not, there’s no alternative but to get off and walk.  Allan doesn’t seem to mind pushing the tandem,  he never complains anyway.  So I’m left to amble uphill delightfully unencumbered and even able to walk backwards if the mood takes me, admiring the view.

Just the one job

Because I’ve never ridden my own bike, I don’t mind having no responsibility for steering, braking or changing gear. And because we’ve cycled together for forty years, I have absolute trust in Allan’s ability. I have only one job, which is to pedal hard and not wobble or make any jerky movements. Nose blowing, bum wriggling and the unwrapping of barley sugars needs to be done as quickly as possible and preferably on a straight, familiar stretch of road.  Otherwise, I am free to enjoy the passing scenery, that is not totally obscured by my husband’s bum, which is a popular but mistaken assumption.

10 Best Tandem Bikes For You And Your Valentine

I always smile back, though sometimes through gritted teeth if I hear Allan being informed that “she’s not pedalling on the back.”

Protection from the worst of the elements

This is a huge advantage.  It is the unfortunate front rider who is directly in the firing line for the full force of lashing rain, freezing north easterly winds and hordes of nasty little black flies.

In sickness and in health

After I had surgery for bowel cancer in 2007, it took me many months to recuperate.  Riding the tandem definitely aided my recovery as it helped restore my confidence and gave me the incentive to get fit again.  The assumption that my husband does all the work while I just sit there with my feet up usually makes me indignant but at that time, I’m sure Allan did more than his fair share of hard pedalling.

Getting noticed

I like the fact that riding a tandem is unusual and attracts attention. People generally smile as we cycle by and I always smile back, though sometimes through gritted teeth if I hear Allan being informed that “she’s not pedalling on the back.”

When I go off to buy an ice cream or a bar of chocolate and leave Allan with the bike, I nearly always come back to find him chatting to someone. There seems to be something rather endearing about the look of a tandem and people are intrigued.

The couples son on a ride

I’ve always enjoyed astounding my friends by telling them how many miles we clock up on a ride and now I’m older, this has an added relish.

Being out of the ordinary

Most women in their sixties don’t cycle at all and very few ride tandems. We live in a small village and I think we’re generally known as “that couple with the tandem.” The first question neighbours ask is invariably something about the bike.

I’ve always enjoyed astounding my friends by telling them how many miles we clock up on a ride and now I’m older, this has an added relish.

I like to think that friends and family generally consider us to be delightfully eccentric. Since in every other respect I can’t claim to be anything other than plain ordinary, I can’t help but feel this is rather a gratifying achievement.

Jackie Winter has written a book called “Life In Tandem: tales of cycling travels” which is available from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback.  

Share

Newsletter Terms & Conditions

Please enter your email so we can keep you updated with news, features and the latest offers. If you are not interested you can unsubscribe at any time. We will never sell your data and you'll only get messages from us and our partners whose products and services we think you'll enjoy.

Read our full Privacy Policy as well as Terms & Conditions.

production