It Takes Two

You may call it a “tandem”, whereas I call it a “divorce mobile”. Oh, I’m not being cynical–well, maybe I am–but I am frequently told stories about couples getting into enormous arguments while riding on a tandem bike. Of course these are the same couples that are constantly pushing me and my husband to borrow their tandem…as long as we want.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that there aren’t couples who actually enjoy riding together in this fashion. In fact, there is actually a group of them called COWS (couples on wheels) right here in Wisconsin. They get together for occasional rides including an enormous annual meet-up. I also know that rides like RAGBRAI in Iowa and SAGBRAW in Wisconsin pull these riders out of the woodwork. And of course I have to mention the event that Bike Winter Milwaukee is putting on for Valentine’s Day. Couples will ride down to Juniper 61 in Wauwatosa for “date night” at 5:30 to have dinner. For more information about the Valentine Tandem Date Night, scroll down to the Milwaukee events on the Bike Fed’s Bike Winter page here.

When working together, these couples can cruise by a solo rider like a locomotive train. I’ve ridden with several of these couples and I can feel them barrelling down upon me–especially when going down hill or on flats. Uphill is another story. This is about the only time I can seek revenge on them.

Marie and Jeff Matous

So what’s my big hang-up with tandems? Well, I see them like canoes. If one person isn’t pulling their weight or has a different “style” or “technique”, it completely throws the other person off. First, one of the the two must be comfortable with giving up control (I have a sick “not me” attitude with this). Second, the person up front has to trust that the person in back isn’t slacking. This isn’t like dog sledding where there’s a driver with a whip keeping everyone in tow. Third, one of the riders will always have an obstructed view (again with the “not me” attitude). I admit it, I’m a back seat driver, which doesn’t work when cycling. I always want to pick my own line and pace.

So getting back to the canoe analogy. There’s a story behind this…
Before my husband and I were married, I thought it would be “fun” to go canoeing down the St.Croix river together. No portaging, moving with the current…what could go wrong? Of course my type A driven self chose bow. In past canoe trips I always liked the monotonous push without having to perform all the “J” and “C” strokes. Anyway, it didn’t take long to realize that solo kayaks would have been a better choice. We survived–and still got married–but always knew we couldn’t be tethered to each other.

Our 10th anniversary bike tour through Wiscosin

This doesn’t mean that we don’t like riding together. On the contrary… we LOVE riding together! We go on the country rides as “dates” and will often ride downtown for concerts or dinner in the summer. Some of the most joyous experiences I have had with my husband revolve around biking. We even spent our 10th wedding anniversary riding Wisconsin top to bottom and finished the last few blocks hand-in-hand. We just know our limitations.

It takes a very special couple to be able to ride tandem regularly. I thought it would be fun to include some pictures of folks I know that do so and with a smile on their face. I’m wishing them and other couples that bike together a very happy Valentine’s Day! A special shout out to David and Mary Pramann that not only ride tandem but also raced tandem for many years…now that takes guts.

For those that are interested in COWS, check out their website www.couplesonwheels.com

About Kierstin Kloeckner, Bike Fed Board Member

Kierstin is a personal trainer who lives and bikes in Madison and a board member for the Bike Fed. She writes guest posts for us here, but you can read more of her thoughts on how cycling fits into her life at her personal blog Two Wheels From Home

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