Our Life on the Tandem Comes To Another Fork in the Road

When we’re out riding and come to a fork in the road it’s no big deal since we usually can decide which way to go based on any one of a number of different factors:

  • We’ve ridden this road before and know our way
  • We’re following friends who know the route
  • We have a friend who described the route and think we  have it figured out
  • We are following the ‘Dan Henry’s’ painted on the road that show us the way
  • We have a cue sheet and for a change the road has a sign with its name
  • We’ve programmed the route into our GPS
  • We just have a gut instinct about which way looks best

Unfortunately, the metaphorical “forks in the road” can be a bit more daunting and son-of-a-gun if we haven’t found ourselves at another one.

firsteventOur first metaphorical tandem fork in the road came just a few weeks after we bought our first tandem. One path would simply take us to the same cycling events I had been attending substituting the tandem for my single bike and sharing the experience with my wife.  The other would take us to “the tandem lifestyle” where tandem cycling events and riding with other tandem teams would become our default.  We chose the tandem lifestyle and it truly opened up a new world to us.

Group Photo by the Koep's and hosted on www.tandembicycling.com

A few years later we hit another fork, where one road was paved and the other was not. In fact, the alternative route was not only unpaved, it was narrow and gnarly.  Making the decision to take up off-road tandem cycling also meant giving up a little time with our road tandem friends but also opened up new doors to new friends, events and experiences.  So, on one hand our tandem cycling world got a little bit larger, but it other respects it also created a little more distance and reduced the amount of time we’d have with our original tandem friends.

4784645778_c760ce482c_bAs our time on the tandem and circle of tandem cycling friends continued to grow, the same was true for the other “Usual Suspects”.  Therefore, in some respects we probably all took slightly different forks in the road that put us on different paths… not so different that we completely lost touch but enough that the frequent weekend rides and closely coordinated trip and event planning became something of a fond memory vs. a current practice.

As time went by we all stayed on those slightly different vectors and all ended up in slightly different places with different circles of new friends on and off the bike. While I’m fairly certain that none of us have any regrets about those different paths — we all seem to be enjoying what we’re doing and who we’re doing it with – I do occasionally find myself longing for those Sunday rides and the motivation it provided to get us out of the house for a good workout so long as it was “above 40*F and not raining”.

saturdaybanquetSo, where are we today?  Over the past few years we’ve been plagued a string of unrelated injuries and medical challenges that have limited our ability to cycle as often or with as much energy and enthusiasm as we had in the past.  Tandem rides have become something we do when can find the time, energy and weather conditions that my wife (and I) don’t find objectionable.  Tandem rallies are only of interest because it gives us a chance to visit with friends who we wouldn’t otherwise get to see.

STR 2012 041That there are opportunities to ride for 2 or three consecutive days is nice, but it’s not what draws us to the events.  Of even less importance is the location and “perks” as “closer” is always better and, Lord knows, we can always do with less structure when we’re trying to relax and visit with friends: the last thing we need is a “schedule of events” that fills our day.   But, that’s just us, as we know the majority of tandem rally fans enjoy being tourists and having full days.

All of this brings me to our latest fork in the road: do we find a local weekend training ride to create the motivation we need to get up early on a weekend morning for a good work-out, search out the local rides like the Cartersville & Beautiful Back Roads Centuries and try to get back into the “the tandem lifestyle” and see where that takes us?  Or, do we begin to close the chapter on tandem cycling as the centerpiece of our social and recreational life?  It’s not like it would be the first interest that I’ve closed the book on.

hobieI used to be serious about cycling early in my life, I also raced sailboats nearly every other weekend while living in Southern California, enjoyed speed skating and spent most of my winters skiing until I was in my 30’s.  However, I haven’t touched a tiller on a sailboat or strapped on skis since moving to Georgia in 1991 and will only occasionally strap on my now antique speed skates for a little bit of exercise when I start feeling too fluffy.

cheryl_tom_TEOSo, the option of simply looking to the tandem for exercise and possible cycling-related vacations as we try to get out, see the country and visit some of the tandem friends in distant places whom we’ve met over the Internet during the preceding 14-years is certainly a viable option: again, it’s no longer the centerpiece of our lives the way it used to be.  And, that’s OK.  Life is always about moving on and having new and different experiences.  Even for someone who’s as OCD as I am!

trailertrashHowever, since I’m not sure we’re completely burned-out on tandem cycling, we may give the cycling revival approach a try.  Riding with single bikes isn’t a bad thing as it will make us work harder on the climbs and push a harder pace.  We can also combine our love of motorcycling and cycling around Dahlonega , Helen & Chattanooga by trailering our take-apart tandem behind the Road King for day trips that bookend a good tandem ride with a nice ride on the Harley: we just need to find that back way up to Chattanooga!



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?
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5 Responses to Our Life on the Tandem Comes To Another Fork in the Road

  1. Gabe Mirkin says:

    This could be our story.
    We moved from Washington, D.C. to The Villages in Florida because of the wonderful tandem couples and rides.
    A month ago, we crashed on a group ride and Diana broke her hip, pelvis, upper arm, and wrist.
    I was not hurt. She had to have steel rods put in her.
    The results are devastating.
    She cannot ride, let alone move in bed without feeling terrible pain.
    We cannot ride together and we cannot dance, two of our main pastimes.

    Every time we have fallen, she has broken bones. She has severe osteoporosis.
    The next time we fall, it could be much worse.

    We have decided to buy a recumbent tandem tricycle that is close to the ground, ride much more slowly and try to keep our tandem friends.
    I am 79, Diana is 72.

    Gabe and Diana Mirkin

    • TG says:

      God love you both.

      I read that in your weekly updates and was heartbroken when I’d read the details of the fall. I sometimes worry about my Debbie as she has also been told she’s at a very high risk for fractures, which makes both our interest in cycling and motorcycling something I don’t take for granted, and which has also kept us off the mountain tandem.

      Good to hear y’all have a plan that will allow you to continue enjoying the camaraderie of that wonderful collection of friends you have in The Villages!

  2. Buff & Diane says:

    We don’t have that much drama in our lives (thankfully) but the years are starting to make choices in our ride selection. The one-week sagged camping trips have been an annual event for the last 15 years. Now we are starting to adjust because 24,000′ of CEG is more than we want on the tandem in a week. I suspect we will move toward easier multi-day rides in the future.
    Our ages are 74 & 73.

  3. Shirley DiLorenzo says:

    As always I enjoy reading your thoughts and this time they were pretty deep and enough to keep
    me awake past my bedtime along with the Mirkin’s news.
    Having been tandem riders since the 1980s we have also had changes in attitude as well as
    ability and interest. It has indeed become more about socializing instead of the mileage for us while our younger tandem friends (or newer at tandeming) still feel they must include their mileage and mph in each email or write a detailed blog as if what was accomplished was for impressing others. What we need changes. We have prioritized our events in retirement and over the past couple of years have found that smaller group rides or with another couple or just the two of us on our own has been more enjoyable and less hazardous than following a pace line or pack of riders. We have nothing we wish to prove,having done cross country rides and the century efforts years ago. The Whittier Hill Climb, The Solvang Century, Tour de Tucson, were fun when we were new and training was so important then. However, we are now enjoying setting our own pace stopping to tour places of interest or take pictures, tandem vacationing for more than just a long weekend and no more driving many miles to participate and then home again on Sunday! We want to be fit enough to enjoy the riding of course, but training to go faster, farther, longer just isn’t a priority anymore. For most aging tandeming couples it’s about having the experiences and making memories with the Captain and Stoker…and sometimes it’s about sleeping in, taking a swim,or sitting still and talking because all in all we are still there for each other as long as our time together lasts. It’s about us…not about the bike. So if today is a good day to have breakfast out, dance instead of ride, ride the motorcycle instead of a bike, so be it…set your own pace and place…you are together and that’s what’s fun!
    Stoker D

    • TG says:

      Hey Shirley…

      Always so good to hear from you and Richard. Yup, it’s about being together and having fun. If it ain’t fun, figure out why and do something about it!! Here’s hoping our paths towards fun cross soon!

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