Tandem Rallies; I Think I Forgot How They Work!


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!


About TG

I've been around a bit and done a few things, have a couple kids and a few grandkids. I tend to be curmudgeonly, matter-of-fact and not predisposed to self-serving chit-chat. Thankfully, my wife's as nice as can be otherwise we'd have no friends. My interests are somewhat eclectic, but whose aren't?
This entry was posted in Bloggishnish, Tandem Rallies, Whimsical Or Entertaining. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Tandem Rallies; I Think I Forgot How They Work!

  1. Kevin Vinson says:

    Mark, you bring up some very valid points in your thoughts regarding tandem rallies. With that being said, the rallies that Linda and I have attended in the past where you and Debbie were in attendance, you were always interacting with people. I think you might be your own worst critic. You are one of the most helpful people when it comes to sharing your knowledge with other tandem enthusiasts. You are always the first to reach out to people that are having problems with their tandem or just have questions regarding tandem cycling. During the times I watched you at past rallies, you went above and beyond in making share you shared your time with others. You and Debbie were also kind enough to hang back with Linda and I during the 2002 STR in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. Don’t be too hard on yourself. I consider you a “gentleman and a scholar” when it comes to the tandem cycling culture. You and Debbie are wonderful ambassadors for the culture. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with all of us. You take care and give Debbie our regards. You two have a great week.

    Kevin & Linda

    • TG says:

      I’m humbled and thanks for the very kind words. However, that was then and this is now and I fear that like Alice in the 2010 “Alice in Wonderland” film, we’ve lost a bit of our tandem cycling muchness. The STR trip this year made that abundantly clear so we truly do need to do something to get our muchness back, or at least find a new normal way of engaging at tandem rallies. So, we’ll see what happens over the winter as we begin to look at our limited vacation opportunities and plan future adventures on both the big and little bikes.

      Looking forward to when our paths cross again. SWTR is actually on one of our “recovery plans” for tandem cycling, so you never know!

      Best to you and Linda…

  2. Wayne Thais says:

    It is no problem pulling a trailer with a tandem or even a lightweight motorcycle on it. We had a Honda Goldwing and we pulled a trailer with it for several thousands miles. I even used a small harbor freight trailer to tow my Sherco trials bike to the dirt riding club.


    • TG says:

      I like it!

      We had a friend from down on the Gulf mention they had an older Howling Dog sitting unused, and while I initially dismissed it… and having looked at the current offerings … I’m thinking it may be the ticket. Just attach mount for the tandem and a Thule roof top case and we’d have plenty of storage for our cycling gear.

      • Hank Holcomb says:

        Roof top case also available.

      • TG says:

        Might be taking you up on that offer…

        Investigating my options for hitches with two different firms and may be borrowing a SportsRig here in the local area to see how it pulls behind the RK….

  3. Shirley says:

    Jeff Carter and his wife Patti of HOOTS in Indiana rode their motorcycle to the Midwest Tandem Rally in Ann Arbor a few years ago and pulled their tandem on a trailer behind. They, like you two,
    enjoy both kinds of two- wheeled fun. You can contact him at the HOOTS website since you are
    also members. He also has a great You Tube video having his mountain bike on the back of
    his motorcycle on his way from Indiana to the CIBA boot camp week in Venice, Florida with
    stops along the way to ride his bike on trails.
    Whatever your mood, Mr. Geek,we enjoy your company and spending a little time together. After over 25 years in tandeming and with a motorcycle to ride as well we understand the conflict when you have little time to enjoy the ride…when you retire it will all be so much easier!
    Stoker D

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