Gosh! – was all Jonathan said as we slowed down riding into East Meon. He repeated the word several times before resuming a stunned silence. A keen runner who has taken up cycling, I’d offered to take him out on the tandem. It would give me more riding time on our new Orbit Lightning and Jonathan and I could ride along together catching up – that’s the joy of a tandem – you can never drop your riding partner.
However, I’d forgotten how far my regular tandem partner and I had come as a team. Descending upwards of 50mph is a regular occurrence. There’s a hill nearby where we do our hill reps. We grind our way up, turn round tuck up and fly down. If we get the line right we hit a maximum speed of 55mph – easily achievable on our Orbit Lightning. Unsurprisingly, after doing it a dozen or more times each week for several months we have become quite good at descending in all weathers.
However, to a newbie stoker it can be a bit of a shock as you have no control over the speed, braking, choice of gears or line on the road – you simply have to trust the captain (the person at the front) to get it right. Add into the mix pre-dawn darkness and damp roads and it can be a terrifying experience for the uninitiated.
It was a reminder that tandem riding is all about teamwork – learning how to ride really well together – taking risks that both people are comfortable with and knowing how to optimise your performance to match that of your partner. Its what makes tandem riding such an intensely rewarding experience. I was lucky; Jonathan chose to see the experience as a real buzz and is coming out again with me soon, but next time I’ll invest a bit more time in building up his confidence.