I went to a tandem cycling clinic today, and it was great fun. It’s so much different to riding a single bike – practically everything that you do automatically on a regular bike you have to alter: who would have thought that you have to concentrate and think about braking? I’ve never had to think about which foot I put down at the traffic lights; evidently it is my right foot.
We rode to a coffee shop and then rode back – on the way there I was on the front of the tandem, and on the return I was on the back. I rode with one of the instructors, Hab, because I hadn’t done the beginners course. When we were heading back Hab got me to shut my eyes while we rode for about two minutes to get an idea of what a visually impaired feels on the bike, and it was the oddest feeling. I felt sure I was hanging completely off the side of the bike, like on a speedway sidecar“. I had to open my eyes for a half a second a couple of times to re-orient myself, because my brain couldn’t process it. I was talking to one of the other instructors, Adriana, later and she said that when she lost her sight she felt the same way on the bike – it was if they were riding in circles, like a dog chasing its tail.
When I was on the front of the tandem it was quite odd. I first went out alone just to get a feel of the turning circle of the bike – which is huge! The Titanic could make a smaller turn! Then I went out and we did a circuit in the Technology Park with Adriana on the back. Starting out was weird. Do you remember when you first learnt to ride and someone was holding the bike behind you? That’s what it felt like. And I bet it looked like that too; wobbled about like a bladder on a stick. We pedalled for about 20 metres or so, stopped, and started off again, with a hell of a lot neater technique, stopped after about 20 metres and then set off for the third time and this time we looked vaguely competent!
Braking was something else. On the road I was with Hab, who is about 90+ kilos. So adding to that my weight of about 72, plus the bike weight of about 15-17 kilos, we were a 180 kilo braking machine. Downhills. Are. Fun. Uphills were a bit of a bitch, but that’s no different to riding by myself, really.
So that was tandems. They want me to come out on one of their club rides on my single bike to ride with them and get an idea of the speed that they travel and see if I want to have a go as a pilot rider. I don’t know. It’s fun to ride for a short while, but I have to decide whether I would feel confident enough to do it for a long ride. It might help if I went out on a longer ride to get the skills to feel as natural as riding my regular bike. The ‘tandemness’ is something that you have to be absolutely comfortable with, I think.