A while back I participated in an event where folks were asked to do basically a show and tell about one of their hobbies or interests as a way of demonstrating the breadth of diversity that exists within the ‘group’ of which I was a member. So, I figured I bring a couple tandems in and set those up, but somehow that really didn’t capture what has always struck me as the spirit and attraction of tandem cycling . So, I ransacked our friend’s Flickr account and built a PowerPoint slide show of photos they had taken of us over the years at various tandem rallies, club rides and other gatherings… noting they have been GREAT about taking photos. In fact, if they didn’t take photos we’d have no photos…
Anyway, I converted the slide show into a compressed video which, unfortunately, pretty-well wiped out the image quality. However, even with fuzzy photos the Carolina Blues soundtrack by Blues Traveler and images convey why we ride tandems… and more importantly, why we seek out other folks who ride tandems at the aforementioned rallies and other ‘events’: it’s all about the friendship and relationships. Again, this is just my view, but if anyone owns a tandem and has never gone out to ride with other folks who ride tandems, you’ve missed about 90% of the “fun” and friendships that come from being a member of the tandem cycling community.
As for why I thought to post this up today, we just returned from an off-road tandem enthusiast rally held at Asheville, North Carolina called A.O.R.T.A. – Appalachian Off-Road Tandem Adventure . It was a great event and I’ll post more on it later this week. However, last night Alex Nutt of MTBTandems.com (the event host), Sherwood Gibson (the man behind Ventana Mountain Bikes, USA) and I found ourselves shooting the breeze in the Bent Creek Lodge‘s great room from about 10:00pm until 1:30am and I was reminded that the catalyst for having this particular weekend gathering of off-road enthusiasts was a post I made to the Forum For Off-Road Tandem Enthusiasts (Double_Forte) back in June 2009. The purpose of my June ’09 posting was a feeler to see if anyone might be interested in buying our custom, 2002 Ventana El Conquistador de Montanas off-road tandem. When asked why we were selling it the answer was pretty simple: we weren’t riding it; from a follow-up posting:
Our ’98 Cannondale is what fueled the creation of Double Forte and our first Ventana ECdM saw a lot of miles back when off-road riding was something we did all winter long and on select weekends during the summer.
However, aside from a 50 mile event down in Florida, a couple of epic rides up in Pennsylania around Blue Marsh lake, the wonderful DF weekend at Tsali a few years back, one day on the trails at Pisgah Nat’l forest, a few outings with Teams Hunter, Nutt and half a dozen visits to our local trails our 2nd Ventana that we received in June ’02 just hasn’t seen a lot of use. So, all told I’m guessing the mileage is somewhere around 400, maybe a bit less.
Now, contrast that with the 3,500 – 5,000 miles a year we put on our road bikes and road tandems… and it becomes pretty clear why there’s only a little bit of time left for the off-road. This also explains why I tend to simply administer the DF forum vs. being a more active participant.
Of course, the really tragic story is the Marble Peak single MTB that’s only been used once in 9 years. I wore out two MTBs from ’91 through 2000, but just stopped riding solo off-road once we bought our ’98 Cannondale. I’d hoped the Marble Peak would rejuvinate my interest in riding solo MTB but it just turned out that if there was any time to ride off- road it was on the tandem. And, well, as our off-road riding partners moved away — Mike & Ginny first, followed by the Hunters — we just opted to do all of our weekend rides from the house instead of packing up the car and making the 25 mile drive to the local trails.
Cest la vie. Like sailing, alpine skiing and track days on my sport bikes, off-road riding MAY become yet another chapter that’s coming to a close. I say MAY, only because this entire exercise MAY inspire us to give it a go “just for old-time sake”. However, because of my still mending broken ankle, any trip to the trails is several months away, lest I do something stupid that un-does 19 weeks of what is probably a 30 week recovery process.
Anyway, to make a long story short: What made off-road tandem riding so enjoyable for us was riding with other couples and the pinnacle of that fun occurred first for us in August 2001 when we met David Lee and several other couples for the first ‘Bent Creek Lodge’ tandem weekend, aka, the 2nd Western North Carolina Off-Road Tandem Weekend. It was only 6 couples and we filled every room in the Bent Creek Lodge as they didn’t finish the basement with it’s four additional rooms until 2002. We didn’t have another gathering until October of 2004 when 9 or 10 teams stayed at Lakeview at Fontana for three days of socializing and riding at the Tsali National Outdoor Recreation Area.
However, as noted in my reply to the forum, it had been 5 years since we’d had a gathering like that and we just weren’t riding. Alex immediately began to formulate a plan for a return to Tsali and announced in Oct. ’09 that he’d be hosting just such an off-road tandem gathering in the spring of 2010. So, we held onto our Ventana… and boy, are we glad we did! More to follow.