Getting back in the saddle(s)
After taking last year off from the Tour de Cure, Alicia and I were looking forward to doing it again this year. There’s something about planning for this that always gets me excited. The training, fundraising, team building and comraderie, logistics, exercise, and the feeling of doing something for more than just one reason… it just makes sense. With sixteen month-old Milo now old enough to wear a helmet and ride along in a bike trailer , I thought I could pull him along for the ride. So, we signed ourselves up and planned to both ride our bikes some reasonable distance with a bike trailer… maybe 10-25 miles.
As we got closer to the tour event, it became more and more evident that we weren’t getting enough riding time, training ourselves and also Milo to sit in a trailer! He’d much rather run around than sit still for an hour (or even 2 minutes!). But we were committed to show up for the ride, so we decided to leave him with his grandparents for the weekend, and combine our strength by riding the tandem Double-Take once again, as we did in 2007. Our logic was that both of us only needed to be marginally prepared to be able to ride 50 miles using our tandem effort.
So, I began with “blowing the dust off” of our eighteen-wheel-equivalent of a bike, which was buried somewhat in the garage, behind of all things, other bikes (yes I have a fetish for all things spoked). Once I got it clear and in the open, I stood back and tried to recollect what kinds of adjustments or modifications, if any, we wanted two years ago, which was the last time we had it on the road. I knew that Alicia had wanted a little better seat angle, with more support in the lumbar area. I also remember my shoulder and neck being pretty sore after our 50 mile ride, which I usually don’t have an issue with on my regular road bike. Spy photos show that while my stem choice was cool looking, it was not ideal for a long ride by an amateur. So I swapped out the stem for a more upright position, and also added some lumbar padding in the recumbent seat for Alicia. A little air in the tires, and I was good to go!
After dropping Milo off with his grandparents for the weekend, we set off for Napa. He loved walking up and running down their steep sloping driveway
At check-in, it was obvious that the turnout was low, either due to the weather, or the slow economy. There just wasn’t the usual buzz of activity and chaos as I remember. Maybe because everything was hidden under tents to keep dry, but I’d usually never find a spot to lean against a tree like this.
At the start, we met up with Mike, Patricia, Ross, Jane, and Peter – and hit the road! The rain was falling, but only in a Seattle-like drizzle, so it wasn’t too bad. The toughest part was following too close behind another rider, would give you a spray in the face as water gets kicked up from their rear tire.
This was pretty much the story for the first half of the ride, just trying to keep water out of the face, and wondering if I had enough energy to do the entire 50 miles. The rain DID stop after the first 30 minutes of our ride, but the ground was still very wet, so we were still getting wet from the road spray, from each other, and also the passing cars. We had our first mishap while pulling in to the first rest stop. I mis-judged the slope of the driveway we were pulling into and the bike stopped sooner than I had expected. Although I was able to un-clip from my pedals nd put my feet down, it wasn’t enough time for me to straighten the bike and plant my feet, to keep the bike from leaning over. So…. poor Alicia got flopped over on her side, without any warning. Fortunately, her gymnastics and yoga skills allowed her to keep from totally hitting the ground, by doing some splits and contortions. I deserved whatever complaints she muttered at me as this happened, because i was kind of in a daze – it had been so long since I had ridden the bike, with all it’s complexities of handling, shifting, and braking, I had just capzised my crew. Thankfully, there were no injuries to speak of.
The second mishap occurred shortly after we left the first rest stop. in the form of a flat front tire. With the help of the team, it was not a long pit stop, and we got back going quickly.
The other oddity that surfaced once we got going again, was a loud, regular, squeaking sound coming from the bike. I couldn’t tell exactly where it was coming from, which was very annoying to me (and I’m sure everyone following us). Normally, if I hear a sound coming from my bike, I can still ride while trying to decipher the cause. but with this tandem, I had no ability to decipher anything other than the road in front of me. Steering this bike requires 110% total concentration. It is all due to the fact that our two ranks are of different gear ratios and phase. Our ability to pedal independently makes the bike twist sideways in a strange non-cyclic pattern. Normally, when a regular bike twists under pedaling load, it is predictable to the rider as power is input. But combined with an additional pedal input from behind, I have no feedback from each of Alicia’s pedal strokes. The result is the bike seems to voluntarily sway to the left three times for every sway to the right 2 times, but never the same pattern. Sometimes, i try to anticipate the pattern and steer against the sway, in an effort to keep the bike in a straight line. This often backfires, as the bike might not sway, so my correction causes the bike to steer. The optimal technique so far is to just let the bike sway back and forth at will, and allow some movement. but on average, we will move forward. Every now and then, a strong correction and turn of the handlebars is needed, but never predicted. It’s an insane philosophy, especially when the road gets narrow, and the bike is meandering all which way, but thus far, it’s the only way to ride this bike. So it requires a lot of my attention, and I had to ignore the squeak.
Because of the wetness, we didn’t bring out the camera until the second rest stop at Sterling Vinyrads, when the roads were finally dry enough to enjoy the ride, and snap a few shots.
One of the great features of this bike is the ability for the stoker to carry a camera and get a rare glimpse of our team from the road.
There’s always a headwind somewhere in Napa valley, and we found it around mile 42. It was an east-west wind, and we hit it head on. It was tough, but short enough to have forgotten about soon afterwards, especially because we hit the last leg of the ride, a 4 mile stretch with a superb tailwind. I think we were in our top gear headed home, and it felt great. I was totally pooped, so it was a total free ride home.
We pulled it in to the cheers of cowbells and teammates, Paul, Stephanie, and Jon,
who had already finished the 25 mile route (and sipping sodas? where’s the Cytomax!).
It was a great ending to a ride that always reminds me of how valuable it is to have friends to ride with, share stories, and push each other to do more than we would have on our own.
I raised over $2,200 in my campaign, thanks to my sponsors, and more importantly, the Wheely Cool Velo Club raised a team total of over $9,400 – that’s no small change! We really appreciate the support of our sponsors, and glad for the opportunity to ride in the fight against Diabetes.