Here’s what I’ve come to “think” I realize: I do tandem rallies like I drink water, soda or anything else. Instead of taking it one sip at a time and savoring the drink while taking-in the surrounding social situation, I simply gulp it down. To me, drinking serves a purpose: washing down food, getting refreshed, or getting relaxed.
In retrospect, in more recent years we’ve ended up doing the same thing with tandem rallies and group rides. Instead of showing up at an event ready to savor and extend social interactions, I tend to focus on “getting to the end” of whatever it is: the meal, the social event, the ride as well as the rally. I saw it all in spades this past weekend, even before the event started… which made me wonder if I simply haven’t lost some of the passion that I’ve had for tandem cycling, because I know we used to “do it right” back when we first started some 16 years ago.
So, here’s just two of the things I realized while reflecting on our trip to and from Cullman, Alabama and what we may do about it.
Realization #1: If we want to ride with other tandem teams, we’ll need to learn “how” to ride with other tandem teams.
1. We’re certainly not the fastest team: Having attended over 50 tandem rallies and ridden with hundreds of different tandem teams, we have no grand illusions about our fitness, focus and training when it comes to cycling: we are lacking in all three when it comes to being an A-Team. If we’re able to ride with any of the A-Team big dogs at tandem events, it’s because they’ve simply decided to “play nice”. But, since being an A-Team has never been a goal of ours, it’s no big deal.
2. We’re not the slowest team either: It’s also fair to say, we’re not exactly casual riders and are in better than average shape for a couple of 50-somethings. So, the decision to ride with all but the really strong teams at a tandem event isn’t usually limited by our on-bike performance. We can typically hold our own with most of the B-Teams on rolling to hilly terrain, even if struggle a bit on the dead-flat roads.
3. So why do we end up riding alone so often: I have my suspicions, but ultimately it comes down to positioning ourselves so we have the opportunity to ride with other teams. Being loaners off-the bike certainly doesn’t change once you’re on the bike. Arriving just in time for ride starts, skipping SAG stops and leaving right after rides instead of participating in the post ride meals also doesn’t lend itself to being part of any group. Moreover, riding through the pack and moving past teams who are riding at a slightly slower pace or being aggressive on those always-enticing fast descents and long or steep climbs also tend to work against any desire to stay “in the group”.
Solution: Make a more significant time commitment to tandem cycling events: clear the calendar when it’s time for rallies & events, stay-in-touch with our tandem-riding friends so we know “what’s happening when” and plan to arrive early and stick around for the social activities that follow events. At the rallies, know the “plan for the day” for the given group we’d like to ride with, be on-time for the start, fall-in behind the group at the start and maintain the group’s tempo. Don’t “attack” on the hills or push the pace when taking a pull. Get off the bike at stops and hang-in there until everyone’s ready to go, and try to stick to the “plan for the day”. And, by all means, contribute to the conversation and social nature of the group by engaging the other teams through the ride. Off the bike, don’t be too clique’. Search out the folks who we don’t get to see that often and look for opportunities to meet new teams.
Realization #2: We enjoy tandem rallies and events, but we don’t enjoy the travel or lost time associated with the travel to get there.
1. We still enjoy riding tandems: Given the choice between riding a tandem with Debbie and riding the motorcycle, I’d probably choose the tandem. Yup, I still get the thrill from tandeming with my sweetie. She’s my riding partner, best friend, soul mate and #1 fan of the world’s smallest fan club. As much as we enjoy riding the motorcycle, the sense of accomplishment and physiological surge we get from cycling trumps the big bike. So, no worries about tandeming becoming “something we used to do”.
2. Travel by motorcycle beats travel by car: Given the choice between making a trip in an enclosed vehicle or by motorcycle, hands down… the motorcycle wins. By the way, that’s also Debbie’s view now that she’s joined me for some road trips on the motorcycle and “gets” why I ride a motorcycle to work or just about anywhere else I can. It’s just an entirely different experience that turns an otherwise mundane trip into something far more enjoyable and satisfying.
3. Driving to tandem events ain’t fun: What we both dislike most about tandem rallies and even the monthly PEACHES rides is the time lost traveling to and from the event. I suspect some folks actually enjoy the long drives or find ways to use the time to plan future events, talk about life in general or other useful activities. However, for us… it’s just lost time.
Solution: If we can figure out how to transport our tandem and cycling gear to and from events via motorcycle, we’ll be able to have our cake and eat it too! Riding to a ride, then riding at the ride before riding home simply sounds wonderful to us. Yes, it might mean getting caught out in “the weather” during a trip, but we do that all the time when we’re motorcycling: it’s not a big deal. So, if we can find someone to either buy our Harley-Davidson Wide Glide or take it in trade for a Harley-Davidson “Ultra” touring bike that can pull a small trailer, we’ll be well on our way to giving this a try. As an interim test case, we may be able to fit a trailer hitch to our Road King (eeek!).
There were a few other things, but I’ll spare y’all the gory details. Most pertained to some of my subtle and not always so subtle character flaws. How Debbie puts up with me remains a mystery!