People seem fascinated by our bicycle. We get a lot of questions about it and a lot more curious stares. For some reason, the first thing that comes to most inquisitors’ minds is whether or not Mary is doing her fair share of pedaling. This proposition is usually delivered in a humorous form such as “You just going along for the ride or do you help him out?” or “How do you know she’s doing anything?” Few people seem to understand that our pedals are connected by a chain and if one of us pedals, the other has to pedal at the same speed.

So, what’s it like to ride a tandem? Kinda awkward at first. I compare it to driving a semi truck. It’s long and slow to accelerate and it requires some coordination between the two riders. The most significant advantage is that it evens out the differences between two riders. We don’t have to deal with one of us being slower than the other. Any extra energy one rider might have on a given day is automatically added to the other rider. Less significant advantages include less wind resistance than two separate riders and easier communication while riding because of proximity.

Disadvantages include the need to communicate to Mary when I’m going to shift gears. This is necessary because you can’t be pedaling hard when you shift and if I don’t tell her, Mary would still be pedaling hard. Another disadvantage is that tandems are slower on the uphill. I really don’t know why this is but every other tandem rider I’ve talked to confirms that this is the case. This disadvantage is partially compensated for by their phenomenal downhill performance. With the weight of two people but the wind resistance of one, we regularly attain speeds of 35 mph on modest slopes of 5%. A single bike will probably top out at about 25 mph on the same hill. Then again, to Mary this downhill speed would be in the disadvantage category. She regularly shouts “slow down!” to me on descents.

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