Because I would soon be moving away from Cambridge, where my team mate lives, we needed to concentrate on getting his first tandem ride out of the way.
Richard Loke, of Circe tandems, Airnimal folding bikes and Blueyonder tandem hire, kindly lent us a Circe Helios. This is likely to be the same bike, or very similar to the one we’ll be riding at the event. It has drop bars, Avid mechanical disc brakes and 2×8 gearing. This particular one is a hire bike and has an advertising board and mudguards which we’ve already decided we’d have to remove for Revolve24.
Although there is a possibility we’ll get to borrow Circe’s new prototype 26-inch wheeled tandem, for the moment we’re on 20 inch wheels. Generally, the smaller the wheel, the rougher the ride. For Brands Hatch we don’t have to worry about potholes because it’s smooth. Steering shouldn’t be an issue either as the track is wide and even Druid’s hairpin has quite a lot of space to get around.
For this test though, we were on regular Cambridgeshire roads. We started at my house because I live in a quiet Cul-de-Sac. I’ve had a bit of experience riding tandems as a pilot (the rider on the front) with British Cycling. BC run tandem sessions at Lee Valley, both on the track and on the outdoor circuit, for visually impaired and other riders who wouldn’t be able to ride a bike by themselves. I’d done a bit of volunteering for them and had quite a few laps on their tandems and learnt how to ride with an inexperienced stoker (the rider on the back), so my team-mate Ian was in good hands.
We started off with me holding the bike steady on the front. Once we’d got the seat height right, Ian got on and put both feet on the pedals. There’s an option here for an inexperienced rider to hold onto the pilot’s waist or shoulders to prevent them from pulling on the bars and unsettling the bike. Ian chose to stick with the bars. The stoker sets the pedals, in my case I like the right pedal at about 2 o’clock. From there the pilot steps up onto the pedals and gently sits as the stoker gives the bike momentum.
Straight away we were fine. We went through the things I would need to point out like gear changes, braking, potholes, stopping pedalling, setting the pedals, putting one pedal up to go around corners and starting pedalling. Ian wasn’t very comfortable on the supplied saddle so we just did a short loop. We didn’t go as fast as we expected, considering it was a flat loop. But maybe that’s just as well, because we had two car drivers pull out on us from side turnings.
We got back to my house in one piece. Ian was happy because I managed not to crash. I was happy because Ian had trusted me and kept his feet on the pedals when I had to hit the brakes. We’ve decided to take our own saddles and asked for proper bar tape on Ian’s bars. He really didn’t like the foam handlebar grips. I think ultimately, riding a tandem isn’t that different from riding a solo bike if you have quite a smooth action. In fact I think riding a tandem has helped me to think more about using my core and stabilising my upper body so the bike doesn’t move so much. All that wiggling side to side is just wasted energy on a solo bike, but on a tandem it can make for an uncomfortable ride for both riders.
Apart from doing as much riding as we can, that’s it for a while. I’ll try and post something just before the race about the equipment we’re taking and how we’re planning to manage the 24 hours.
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