N+1 Strikes Again

Regular readers may remember that a short while ago I wrote about my ‘new’ classic road-racing bike – a locally made original hand-built ‘Henry Burton’ dating from approximately 1960 which my husband was going to rebuild, the frame being a better size for me than my French made classic road-racing Motobecane bike. You can read about the project here. Progress has been rapid and it is now reaching completion. The photograph below shows it on the bike work-stand for the brakes to be fixed. The photo isn’t very good as it is taken indoors, however once the refurbishment is finished I will take a better photo outside so you can see it in all its glory.

Henry Burton bike

You may remember I had decided to call the bike ‘Bertie’, acknowledging that it is a Burton bike. Most of my bikes have names. Now, however, with the complete change of colour scheme the bike looks far too feminine to call Bertie so I am considering a name change. The suggestion so far is ‘Henrietta’, but the jury is still out. I’ll let you know.

Meanwhile, back to the N+1: We have just bought another tandem! Our original one, a French made Gitane, was bought fairly cheaply on e-bay for a bit of fun. Although we are not sure, it probably dates from the 1960’s or 70’s, has been well used prior to coming into our ownership and, it is fair to say, we have had one or two mechanical problems with it – all sorted now.  It is also a little on the big side for us.  However we have had some great fun with it and we have found it comfortable to ride, we have even done a couple of 40 mile rides on it. Interestingly we have never actually given the tandem a name.

Last week, however, we saw  a tandem advertised in ‘Cycling Weekly’ magazine. The bike was in Stoke-on-Trent, not far from where we live. It is a Longstaff, hand-built by George Longstaff in 1997 and has seen very little use so is in exceptionally good condition for its age and is built to a high specification as a touring tandem. Longstaff’s was and is a highly respected Stoke-on-Trent bike builder and they still have a shop there, although it is now (as is Henry Burton’s in Stafford) a shadow of its former self. They were especially well thought of as builders of fine tandems and my husband has always fancied one made by them. So now we have one! Photo below:

Longstaff Tandem

When we tried it before buying, it soon became apparent that the gears were not working properly. The bike had been kept in a garage and had been unused for some time. However a short period of fiddling with the tandem on the work-stand soon had the problem fixed. and after a little more fine tuning we tried it out properly today on a short ride, a 9 mile loop out from home and back. It is a little lighter in weight than the Gitane tandem and a very comfortable ride so we are well pleased.

We will eventually sell the Gitane, so if anyone is interested in buying a tandem to have some fun with you know where to find one!

 

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Cycling Challenge

Cycling challenge badgeWe did it! A week ago yesterday my husband and I completed our 45 mile cycling challenge in aid of our local hospice on our tandem. This is to date the longest distance I have cycled.

I have to say, I have discovered there are one or two advantages of being on the back of a tandem: 1) You don’t get so many flies in your face and 2) You can hide behind the driver when you come to a hill so you don’t see how steep it is or how far to the top!

We were well ‘rugged up’ to start with as it was a bit chilly. After about a third of the course it (and us) had warmed up and the route passed a short distance from our home so we took a diversion for a drink and the chance to strip off a bit before re-joining. A short while later we came to a local hill that has always caused me problems. I have never previously got up it and usually try to avoid it. That said, on the few occasions I have tried it I have managed to get a bit further up each time before getting off to push. Hiding behind the driver on the back of the tandem this time I/we did it  – not that it has ever caused my husband a problem. (I am also pleased to report that a few days later we tackled it again on solo bikes – and I got all the way up it!)

We did have one or two minor mishaps along the way; we broke three spokes and the dog jumped out of his basket! Okay, I’ll explain. The first broken spoke we mended at a canal-side café, where we took the opportunity to have out packed lunch followed by an ice-cream. After our experiences in Spain last autumn, when we broke seven spokes, we now carry spares. When we completed the ride we found we had also broken another two. Hubby has since checked the wheel thoroughly, thinking there must be a reason why the spokes keep on breaking on the same wheel. He had had the spoke tension checked and was told it was fine, but has now decided that they probably need to be tighter, being a tandem, so they have all been tightened up and we will see what happens next time we ride out.

Setting off on our cycle challenge

Setting off on our cycle challenge

As for the dog jumping out of his basket – well we have a small basket on the front of the tandem (see picture) in which a small soft toy dog travels. He has our front light strapped to his wrist. On the way round while going along a bumpy country lane he flew out of the basket and landed in the middle of the road – he hadn’t been wearing his seat-belt! We stopped, I went to fetch him and we fixed him more firmly in his basket with a bungey-cord as a seat-belt. A group of other cycling challenge participants caught up and stopped to ask if we were all right. “Yes, thanks.” we said, “we lost the dog!” We all laughed and one lady confided that her husband had a soft toy seal in his bicycle panier!

The last couple of miles were probably the worst, I was just about ready to stop! My knees ached, my thighs ached, my wrists ached, my shoulders ached and I didn’t want to see another hill for a long time to come! Interestingly though, when we finally stopped I was fine and the next day bore no lasting effects.

At least I can now feel confident that I will be able to complete the Pedals de Clip classic road racing bike rally in Spain in a couple of weeks time. This will be only a mere 46 km on my Motobecane road bike ‘Captain Beaky.’ Just don’t remind me about all those hills!

La Pedals de Clip

That’s it, I’m committed now, signed up and paid my entry for La Pedals de Clip, a classic road racing bike rally in Spain on 20th/21st May this year. I have my matching outfit ready. This is what all my recent pre-occupation with cycling has been about.

Pushing Dad at Pedals de Clip

Pushing Dad! (picture from Pedals de Clip website)

Last year my husband did the event with our daughter (see photos) who you may remember lives in Spain. He had two classic road race bikes, a Freddie Grubb and a James Fothergill for those in the know. Both were in need of some renovation which he did in time for the event and we took them over, giving the James Fothergill to our daughter. At the time I had asked if I could do it too but was told that we hadn’t another bike of the correct era, so I had to be content to watch, wait and take photos!

After the event our daughter suggested that as they had the bikes they should do it again this year and I insisted that in that case I was going to do it too. Hence, when we returned to the UK, we began to search for a bike for me. I had hoped to find an English ‘special’ like the other two but to buy one of these was way above budget, so we settled for my Motobecane (French bike) which I have called Captain Beaky and which I have written about before. This was in excellent condition for its age, having had one previous owner, and although on the top end of what was a reasonable size for me was relatively easily modified to a better fit.

The requirements for the Pedals De Clip are that the bike should be pre-1987, should have toe-clips not modern clip-in pedals, all cabling exposed not hidden in the tubing and gear shifters on the down-tube not modern flipper-type. In other words nothing modern on the bike. Captain Beaky is circa 1980 so just squeezes in, the Grubb and the Fothergill are mid to late 1950’s so the advantage to me is that I do have slightly better gearing capacity – this should help me on the hills which are my bug-bear!

Talking bikes at the finish

Talking bikes at the finish

There is a choice of two routes for the rally. The long route is 72km, but we have opted for the short route of 47km. For our daughter this is an easy day out to spin the legs between her usual endurance races but for me this is a major excursion. My usual regular rides are only about 10-12 miles with the odd 13-16 mile ride thrown in every now and then. Over this winter I have hardly done much at all as the roads and weather have not been very inviting and now I am slightly worried that I have set myself too big a challenge, after all I’m still on the border-line between bike rider and cyclist (see my previous post on this topic here). I am assured though that plenty of participants got off and pushed up many of the hills. The route finishes with a very steep climb up to a castle and, yes, plenty of people walked much of it then mounted up to ride through the finish, but that option does not appeal to my competitive nature (though I’m sure I will probably end up doing some pushing).

As you may have read here before I did buy a winter bike, which I recently replaced with one that is a better fit, hubby having taken over the first, and I have been out as much as my ‘fair-weather cyclist’ attitude will allow but fitness has inevitably fallen off. However I am now managing to get out a bit more often again and fitness is picking up at last. The winter bike has more gear options than Captain Beaky so I will soon have to start some more serious training using the classic bike if I am to be ready for the event.

As part of our preparation we are planning to do a local charity fund-raising ride at the end of April. This  will be a 45 mile route so quite a bit longer and if I manage that hopefully I should manage the 47 km Pedals de Clip (which will no doubt have more and steeper hills). We had thought to do the 20 mile option for the charity ride but that is off-road and for MTBs and we want the road riding practice. Hubby fancies doing it on the tandem though, but I’m not 100% sure about that as part of the route is along the canal tow-path and this, I think, will be slightly challenging on the tandem – there is a risk we may end up in the canal! On the plus side the route will take us almost past our house and we have the option to make the slight detour for a quick cuppa before re-joining for the rest of the ride.

To find out more about La Pedals de Clip check out the website at www.lapedalsdeclip.cat

Meet Lola

Bike 'Lola'A couple of week s ago I posted about the number of bikes we have between us (you can read the post here) and I mentioned that I had a Raleigh Capri One bike, with only a few miles on the clock, belonging to our son’s girlfriend as she had no room to store it at home, having borrowed a mountain bike from our son. She gave me permission to ride it while it was here, which I did, but only the once since it was almost brand new and I didn’t want to spoil it.

The bike (pictured) fitted me as if it had been made for me, the only adjustment needed was the saddle height. The frame is actually XS size! I found it very comfortable and easy to ride and I said at the time that I would be reluctant to give it back. It is specifically designed for endurance/sportive riding with a more comfortable riding position than an outright race bike so is well suited to my needs. Well, now my son’s girlfriend has decided it is not the bike for her and offered to sell it to me if I wanted it. Did I want it? You bet I did.

To be fair I love my Forme bike, ‘Fifi’, which I only bought last autumn as a winter bike to save going out on my Motobecane classic road racing bike ‘Captain Beaky’ when the roads are wet and muddy, but it is on the top end of the correct size for me and we did have to make quite a few changes for it to fit me anywhere near correctly. It too is a lovely ride but having bought the Raleigh I didn’t really need it anymore. So to cut a long story short, my husband has decided to take it over as it fits him well and will make a good winter bike for him.

The interesting thing is that I asked my son if the Capri One had a name and it turns out his girlfriend had called it ‘Lola’ which, as it happens, is the name I had seriously considered for the Forme instead of ‘Fifi’, so ‘Lola’ it still is.

Ready to Ride.The day I handed over the money was a cold day, but fine and reasonably dry, so we decided to celebrate by going out for a ride, me on Lola and my husband on his newly commandeered Forme bike, Fifi. Here we are, all ready to ride and rugged up against the cold – except hubby forgot his gloves and had to go back indoors for them!

Now however, this has upset the balance – instead of five-and-a-half bikes apiece (the half being the shared tandem) I now have only four-and-a-half while he has six-and-a-half. Then again, he is thinking of parting with his most recent acquisition, the full-suspension mountain bike. He has offered it to our daughter-in-law, but it fits me quite well and if she doesn’t want it I may commandeer it for myself – it’s good to keep these things in the family!

Tandem Touring

Okay, so this is not quite as the title suggests. We have just returned from almost six weeks of touring through France and Spain but I have to admit that we weren’t actually touring on the tandem – we were in our motorhome with the tandem on the back so that we could go off for rides on it at various locations along the way.

Motorhome and tandem

Motorhome with tandem, Valencia, Spain

One of the drawbacks with a motorhome is that you have no alternative transport and if you want to go anywhere you either have to drag the lumbering thing with you, use public transport or take a bike. (Some people actually tow a small car but one of the reasons we swapped our caravan for a motorhome was in order to avoid towing.) So we decided it might be fun to take the tandem.

The first tandem excursion was a couple of days after we had arrived in France on the overnight ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe. We had stopped at an Aires in the village of Montville just north of Rouen. The plan was that we would cycle into Rouen and visit the cathedral. Hubby reckoned this would be a round trip of about 12 or maybe 13 miles. In the event it was more like 25 or 26 miles, was extremely hilly, alternately cold then hot then cold and took considerably longer to get to Rouen than we had envisaged, giving us only about an hour in the town before our return trip. I have to say I wasn’t overly impressed with the cathedral but have since learned that there are two in Rouen and I think we went to ‘the wrong one’. Maybe next time!

We then spent a few days with some friends who run a B&B near Alencon before moving on south so it was about four days before we got on the bike again. This time we were at an Aires called La Petite Gare at Uzerche, an old railway station. The track has been removed to create a public amenity and cycle path. It was a lovely gentle and flat ride! It was hot and we were in shorts and t-shirts. This was to be our last ride for a while as we wended our way via a visit of several days with my cousin near Toulouse and a few other overnight stops plus two days at Carcassonne – lovely medieval city, could have done with longer here – until we arrived at our daughter’s some 45 mins drive inland from Tarragona in Catalunia, Spain.

We stayed here for about a week and as we had no intention of driving the motorhome up and down their lumpy, bumpy, rocky, narrow track on a regular basis the tandem was our transport of choice. On it we made trips into the local village and to the nearest town, Mora D’Ebre. I have to say it was colder here than I had expected and we were glad we had packed some warm cycling gear. On one ride we nearly ran over a large snake that was thrashing about in the middle of the road. I wondered if it had been knocked by a tractor that went down the road ahead of us. When we returned down the road a short while later it had gone so can’t have been badly hurt.

Husband and tandem

My husband and tandem,
Peniscola, Spain

Then we discovered that we had six broken spokes in the back wheel! Why the wheel didn’t collapse we will never know. We tried to get some replacement spokes from our daughter’s favourite bike shop but they didn’t have the correct size. It was a few days before we managed to get any and by then we had moved on to a campsite near Peniscola, north of Valencia. We bought ten spokes so we had four spare. A few days later we broke another and this was to be the pattern for the next several days. We bought another six spokes in Oliva, just south of Valencia, when we only had one spare one left. The next day another broke. My husband had not been convinced when we bought it that the tandem had its original wheels and when the chap from the bike shop in Oliva looked at the wheel he said the spokes were not of good enough quality. Now we had replaced all the ‘inside’ spokes in the back wheel with stronger ones and checked their tension. Fortunately we had no further trouble.

Snow over the Mountains

Over the Mountains

The bike next came out in San Sebastian after a horrendous drive over the mountains from Pamplona in the snow! (After two days of almost continuous heavy rain) This is not what we went to Spain for. Once the snow and rain had stopped we had a gloriously sunny day, though cold, and rode the tandem through the town and along the sea front. What a lovely place – though riding a tandem through town with all the roadside furniture and pedestrians drifting around over the cycle track does not make for easy riding. Maybe we would have been better with solo bikes! Every time the pilot slowed down without warning it jolted through my body as I tried to peddle against sudden resistance, being unable to see ahead too well to anticipate!

Your truly, San Sebastian. Where did I leave the tandem?

Your truly, San Sebastian. Where did I leave the tandem?

Our last tandem ride of the trip was around the old city at La Rochelle, France, again a very interesting place. There had been a marathon earlier in the day and although the event had finished when we got the bike out the place was still heaving and again a tandem was not really the ideal bike for the stop/go conditions. After that it was back to our friends near Alencon before returning to the UK, it was pretty cold and frosty so the bike stayed on the back of the motorhome.

It was great fun to have the tandem with us but in retrospect taking the solo mountain bikes might have been a better idea – easier to get around towns and less likely to break spokes out in the rough countryside.

Now the tandem needs a thorough overhaul – especially the back wheel! Will we use it again over the winter? I don’t know but if we do I’ll be sure to tell you all about it.

 

Public Spirit!

Tree on grass triangleAs I have mentioned before, our house is on a corner plot. On the corner itself is a triangle of grass, separated from our plot by a footpath which runs diagonally across the corner. On the triangle of grass there grows a tree. Actually it could well be a tall shrub as it has multiple trunks and the foliage starts low down, plus it isn’t all that tall by tree standards! I don’t know what species it is.

Because the corner is north facing the tree/shrub grows at an angle leaning out towards the road in order to grab what afternoon sunlight it can. This means that the branches, which at this time of year are laden with bright red berries, dangle over the road, not only obstructing the view round the corner for traffic trying to turn out of our road but also very nearly touching cars, cyclist and other road users as they turn in.

The triangle of grass with the tree belongs to the council and they mow the grass several times a year but they never touch the tree, so each year I go out and do my public-spirited bit by pruning the tree. Over the last few weeks I have been looking at the tree and, noticing that it had once more stretched out over the road, I had been thinking it was time to do something again.

So, yesterday afternoon (in the morning we had been out for a ride on our tandem – this is irrelevant but I add it so you know that the tandem hasn’t been abandoned in the shed!) I took my wheel-barrow and tree pruning tools and lopped off the offending branches. I try to prune only just enough to alleviate the problem. I took the picture at the top of this post after pruning, showing the that the turning is now clear. I’m sorry I forgot to take a ‘before’ picture to show the difference.

Tree branch and berriesThis second picture is a close up of a berry laden branch from a tree of the same species which grows in our garden. Our tree is growing up beside the remains of a stump of another tree that had already been chopped down when we moved here. I believe this one to be self-set, possibly from a berry dropped by a bird from the tree on the grass triangle just over the hedge. There are several such trees in the neighbourhood at varying stages of growth so I think it probably self-sets very readily. If any one can tell me what it is I would be very grateful.

A Tandem Tale

We have just had a few days away with our motorhome and tandem in the Delamere Forest area of Cheshire, not very far from home but with only a few days of decent weather in the forecast and the fact that it is a great area for cycling it seemed a good choice. Before we set off my husband put the pannier rack over the rear wheel so that we could carry panniers should we wish to pack rain gear, shopping, picnic lunches or whatever while out cycling. We also bought a new OS map as we didn’t have one of the area.

Tandem deraillierWe arrived just after lunch on a hot Tuesday and in the afternoon went for a short ‘shake down’ ride of approximately four miles, complete with one pannier as we were going via the local shop where we hoped to buy some Marmite, having forgotten to take any with us. Unfortunately they were out of stock. On the way back to the camp site the driver (hubby) changed up to top gear – the chain seized up and the pedals would not budge! A short stop by the roadside showed that the small nut that held the pannier rack on was obstructing the chain on the offside which had then become jammed. With some slight difficulty it was eased off and top gear declared out of action. The derailleur was adjusted to make it impossible to attempt top gear. A full repair will have to wait until our return home. You can just make out the small offending nut near the top right of the photo.

Snack break

Snack break

The campsite was right on the edge of the forest, which consists mostly of pines interspersed with a few deciduous trees. A short stroll on Tuesday evening showed us that riding the tandem through there was probably not the best idea. On the next couple of mornings we took ourselves off on a couple of  approximately fifteen mile routes out into the lanes of the surrounding countryside, heading west along the only proper road through the forest on Wednesday and east on Thursday. The terrain was fairly hilly, quite steep on occasions but very scenic. The worst hill was a very long slow drag in full sun on Wednesday, which was not helped by the fact that it was a busy major road. We had to stop for a blow half-way up but made it without getting off to push. On the plus side, most of the cyclists we passed during the ride greeted us cheerfully and checked if we were okay on the odd occasions we stopped to check the map.

It so happens that our campsite was next door to the railway station where there was a well recommended café that also sold a locally made ice-cream with the wonderful name ‘Snugburys’. We decided to stop to sample this as we passed on our way back on Wednesday. However when we got to the station we discovered that neither of us had brought any money! We disappointedly made our way back to the campsite for lunch and after changing out of our sweaty cycling gear walked back down to the station café for our ice-cream – it was delicious.

Forest Rest

Resting in the forest.

Our route on Thursday caused a slight additional problem in that it took us off the new OS map on to the adjacent one and matching them up was slightly tricky as there was no overlap, plus the second map was quite old and there was some variance in the colours used for the roads. One hill was a real ‘kick-up’ and I did have to bail out and walk the last bit, my legs not having recovered from Wednesday’s long drag. We stopped to check the map several times and invariably someone stopped to offer assistance. On the way back this time we decided to risk riding a track through the forest to avoid a five or six mile hilly detour if we continued on the road. The loose stoney track, which dipped, climbed and swirled round tree routes was a bit hairy when you are on the back seat and can’t see where you are going and at one point I got off to walk.

On both days the weather was just too hot to consider an afternoon ride but having enjoyed our ice-cream on Wednesday we decided a repeat was in order and returned to the railway station on Thursday. We sat on the quiet platform while we ate, determined to see at least one train. Chester was two stops up the line one way and Manchester some way off in the opposite direction. Eventually a train came along from the Chester direction and I was interested to note that there was a special carriage for bicycles. Not so long ago bikes were very unwelcome on trains but there is obviously now a change of heart, especially as the Delamere Forest is widely advertised as a cycling area – at least for mountain bikes.

The weather changed on Friday; cold wet and windy. This was not a problem for us as we were returning home anyway. Fortunately we had put away our awning and put the tandem on the motorhome bike-rack the night before so we had a leisurely start to the day before heading off, arriving back home in time for lunch.

Next time we visit this area we will take the mountain bikes so that we can ride the forest trails more easily. Meanwhile we have discovered a few teething problems with the tandem, but nothing that a few hours in the workshop can’t cure. As I mentioned in my previous post about the tandem (here ) the driver operates the brakes and gears. The tandem has three brakes, normal centre-pull calliper brakes on the front and back wheels plus an additional drum brake on the back wheel. This means that one brake lever operates two brakes and this makes for very hard work, especially when controlling speed down-hill. My husband has decided to ease his load by setting it up so that the drum brake is operated from the stoker’s (my rear seat) handle bars. It will be interesting getting used to the new set-up. Then we will plan our next adventure!

Outing No. 2

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about our tandem, you can read the item here. Since then my husband has spent some time fiddling and tweaking the set-up. Yesterday he decided it was time for another outing so he quickly replaced the pedals (a necessary item!) and off we went.

When we bought the tandem it came with mud-guards and carry racks on both front and back. These he had removed but now he replaced the front carrier so that he could take a small box of tools with us in case of need. Since the route we planned was in a slightly different direction from our usual cycling routes, using some lanes with which we are not very familiar, we also had a local map in case we got lost – back lanes are notorious for having no signposts – in a drawstring back-pack which I carried.

Shortly after leaving home we had to stop at traffic lights on the main road that runs past our house to negotiate the road-works where some new housing is being built (always a problem as I hate feeling that I am holding up the traffic!) before turning down our first lane. This lane is well-known to us, we call it Strawberry Farm Lane, which is not its real name but there used to be a pick-your-own strawberry farm at the top, alas no longer there. Here, rolling down the hill, we overtook some joggers. This reminded us how noisy the brakes are, (something else that needs attention) but at least the joggers heard us coming and called out that it was better than a bell! A short stretch along another main road out of our town and we were on yet another familiar lane, this time uphill.

At the crossroads at the top we saw signs for a ‘Cycling Event’ and worried about getting swept up in it! However we saw no other cyclists at this point and have no idea what the event was – perhaps a time trial for a local club. Straight over the crossroads, down the lane opposite and along to the next crossroads, over another main road and we were onto unfamiliar territory. A short distance along this lane my husband decided that the gear lever for the back chain ring was slipping and he had been having trouble engaging the gears. The tandem has two sets of gears, three on the front ring and five on the back making a possible 15 in all. We pulled over. Out with the tools while he tightened up the lever.

We had only just got going again when we were stopped by a van asking for directions, their satnav had taken them to the lane but could not identify the isolated property they were looking for, so off with my back-pack and out with the map! The property was marked and they had passed it. A short while later we had to pull over so that they could overtake us as they returned down the narrow track.

After another mile or so, having turned onto yet another unfamiliar lane, my husband decided the other gear lever was also slipping so it was out with the tools again. After that we had a long slow drag up a steep hill, which we managed since neither of us wanted to admit defeat. This lane brought us back onto yet another of the main roads through our village (small town) so all was plain sailing as we were to follow this one home. It is galling, however, when two people on one bike get overtaken by a solo cyclist! To be fair we were out for enjoyment and only travelling at cruising speed whilst the over-taking cyclist was going at race-pace. Passing through the centre of our town we passed another group of cyclists going in the opposite direction, all waved and bid us ‘good morning’.

Once back home a check on the map showed us that we had done about 10 miles in roughly an hour (including stops) so we hadn’t actually been breaking any speed records! We also reflected that it had been a good job we had decided to take tools and the map.

Chipped paintwork

Now my husband has taken the bike to bits yet again and has taken the front forks to a paint merchant to match the paint so that he can touch up some of the paint chips (see photo above). If he can find a source of replacement Decals (below) he may repaint the whole frame. Either way it looks as if it will be some time before we go out on the tandem again.

Gitane Decal

Made for Two

TandemFor several years now my husband has been thinking it would be fun to buy a tandem. Last week he finally bought one on Ebay. On Wednesday we drove up into Yorkshire to collect it, a two-hour drive each way. We had to take it to pieces to fit it in the car for the return journey.

After re-assembly we needed to set it up to suit. It came with drop handlebars and my husband found that the ones on the back interfered with his peddling action so he took them off and put straight bars on. Then he discovered he couldn’t reach the brakes too well on the front so he put straights on there too. However this resulted in not being able to operate the brakes properly at all as the levers touched the bars before being sufficiently depressed, so he put the drops back again.

Meanwhile I hadn’t got a lot of leg room at the back and a trial run up the road demonstrated that my knees kept knocking the handlebars with the constant resulting bump affecting the driver. The obvious answer would be to raise the handlebars, however this was when I learned that the handlebars were attached to the front seat post and couldn’t be raised without raising the seat, which hubby didn’t want to do!

We adjusted both seats, moving the back seat further back and the front one further forward to clear the bars and then put the drop handlebars back on the back position as the straight bars interfered more than the drops when rounding corners. With the front seat further forward the original problem was resolved.

Off we go!With the bike now seemingly set up we risked a ride up to our eldest son’s house on Saturday, a 7.5 mile round trip, with a coffee break of course. This was a bit scary but great fun, with questions such as “are you peddling?” coming from up front. We developed a pattern of verbal instructions to keep us in synch. “1, 2, 3 go” to push of, “roll” to freewheel, “pedal” to resume peddling and so on.

It was our son’s birthday and we had taken his present with us in a rucksack which hubby carried on his back – not ideal, it was rather in my face! While we were there our youngest son also arrived and the boys tried out the tandem with great hilarity, especially since they are both a bit big for it.Tandem boys

The bike is constructed so that it is smaller framed at the back and obviously this is intended for the smaller of the two using it, generally speaking the female. Traditionally the front rider is called the driver and the rear rider the stoker. Since the word stoker implies the one providing the power it seems a little strange to say the least. The driver has all the controls – steering, brakes and gears, while the stoker just sits there and pedals. Believe me it takes a bit of getting used to that you can neither turn the handlebars to go round corners nor apply the brakes to control downhill speed. Also it is rather difficult to see where you are going when you can barely see over the driver’s shoulder. I suppose it is some compensation that I was allowed to give hand signals.

By the time we got home again we were beginning to feel we were getting the hang of it and foresee some fun in the future. There is a little more work to do on it and I think I need my seat a little higher. It could also do with some new tyres and these are on order. The tandem, a French made Gitane, had sat in the previous owner’s garage for many years. We think it probably dates from the early 1980’s so we should be eligible to take part with it in some of the classic bike rallies. Often for these events people dress up appropriately and I wonder what we should wear. Strangely the words of an old Music Hall song come to mind…

“Daisy, Daisy give me your answer do,
I’m half crazy all for the love of you.
It won’t be a stylish marriage,
I can’t afford a carriage,
but you’ll look sweet upon the seat
of a bicycle made for two.”

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