Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Great (Tandem) Adventure - 112k

Al and Yours Truly near the finish of the Great Adventure 112k
Anyone who's viewed my prior blog entries has heard of my friend Al.  I've been riding regularly with him since January of 2006.  Meeting up with Al was by pure chance.  I had just picked up a new road bike with the intention of doing some long rides.  Up until then my riding of late was mostly commuting, riding to the gym, and running errands.  I was using a 14 year old aluminum bike and I was always riding alone. I'm out on this new bike just a couple of miles from home when I see a rider coming the other way on a sharp looking Giant.  We both wave as we pass by.  Given that I didn't really have any particular place to go I think maybe I should turn around and see if I can catch up to him.  I execute a quick U-Turn and amp up the speed.  In about a mile I pull alongside.  We start a conversation and I learn he has just picked up his bike recently.  We had similar agendas for the day and decided to ride together for awhile.  We toured through the Sourland Mountains and much of the surrounding area.  Before going our separate ways we exchanged numbers.  That would be the beginning of thousands of road miles shared with Al over the past five years.  At first he was reluctant to do the longer rides keeping to 50 - 75 miles as an upper limit.  After a time he joined me on a century.  Eventually, he would move up to 200k's.  In 2010 he earned an R-12.  Some of the rides he completed were the hilliest routes in the region.  And, some were done in extreme cold, others in extreme heat.  He's a complete rider and regularly participates in road racing and time trialing in addition to his randonneuring pursuits. 

Recently, Al and I were riding a 200k permanent with a group of local rando's.  Two of the bikes on the ride were tandems.  While watching the tandem riders efficiently work their way around the route I mentioned to Al that maybe we should be riding one of those.   I'm not sure I was even serious when I said it, but somehow we both kind of got interested in the idea.  Two weeks later we were at a tandem store in southern New Jersey taking test rides.  We came back that day with a bright red Burly tandem.  After a few rides of distances up to 40 miles we became more acclimated to this new style of riding.  We were comfortable trying something a bit longer so we decided to ride the Great Adventure 112k Permanent. 

We started out at 10am the Friday of President's weekend.  Katie would join us on the ride with her single bike.  The day turned out to be one of the warmest of the year with a high temperature close to 70 degrees.  We managed to make it to Jackson and back with time to spare.  It was only the second time the route had been ridden since being approved as a permanent.  We were 10 minutes faster than the first time.   Although, we would both have some aches and pains to show for it.  I always find that any new bike requires some getting used to.  However, the tandem seems more challenging than most.  Despite that there were times we were flying along the flat route.  At one point Al and I stopped at a bike shop while Katie continued to ride.  After stopping for twenty minutes we managed to catch back up to her in about ten miles.  We were managing over 30 mph on flat road some of the time.  Not unlike my prior recumbent experience the tandem has its strong points.  On flats, down hills and light rolling terrain it is a lion.  But, rather timid on steep up hills   We are quickly discovering the nuances of the bike, having become more efficient at starting, stopping and standing in unison.  For sure there is much potential for fun and accomplishment.  As a first step we are planning on a tandem 200k brevet in April.  With a goal of a sub 10hr finish time.  Besides that there is no long term goal other than to enjoy the experience. 

Katie cruising on the return from Jackson, NJ on the Great Adventure
The stoker's view

I see tandem riding as an exercise in team work requiring communication, coordination and cooperation from both riders.   Male tandem teams are somewhat rare.  Mel, the owner of the shop where we purchased the bike told us most are sold to couples.  I clearly remember the Lon Haldeman, Pete Pensyres US crossing record that was set over twenty years ago on a tandem.  That record still stands today.  It seems efficient to me that two guys who set out on the same long ride, intending to ride together, do so on the same bike. 

Stay tuned!

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