It takes two to tandem

This weekend, I did something a little different for a change: a three ride for tandems called the “No Frills” Tandem Weekend. As you know, Michael has a tandem and when we first met, he talked me into riding on it with him as “stoker” (back seat). Since then, I’ve admittedly become a bit hooked. It’s certainly a nice change up from riding on my own as in tandem riding, two sets of legs are better than one, especially when both sets are quite experienced on their “single” bikes. (“Single bikes” and “half bikes” are how tandem cyclists refer to regular bicycles.)

Some people ask why I–a woman of the 21st century–do not want to take the reigns and ride in front. To be perfectly honest, the responsibility of it terrifies me. I also think Michael would get really annoyed at my Nervous Nelly driving (read: brakes a lot down hill). I would worry too much about doing something stupid and causing him (us) to fall. Let’s just say, it’s much better for me to command my own bike and let the braver half of team Mars/Michael serve as captain. Besides, I seem to excel at stoking–it’s my only job and I do it well. Let my little legs spin like crazy.

Anyway, Michael brought up this ride a few weeks ago. I will admit that I was reluctant, but only because I didn’t want to spend another weekend, so soon, away from home and in hotels. Plus, I had a friend’s kid’s first birthday party to attend on Saturday and I’d already promised myself to attend since I missed said kid’s baptism party and I don’t want all my friends to write me off me as their childless grump-bucket friend. Well, at a bored moment at work (every hour of every day), I visited the No Frills Tandem’s website, which is linked off the ABC website since the ride is, in theory, jointly run by ABC and the Orrville Cycling Club, and I discovered to my great surprise that this ride required no out of town travel–all the rides were starting from Seville. With Michael living in Rittman, this seemed the perfect ride to fit into all weekend.

So we decided to do it almost last minute. I’m glad that we did. I had a real blast meeting a bunch of other tandem riders and enjoying the camaraderie of this unique type of cycling. There is a different attitude with tandem riders… I can’t quite put my finger on it. It’s more casual, in a way, than regular cycling. At the same time, you have the usual spread of fast verses slow teams that you would with regular cycling. It’s just, I think, that the dynamic of team work puts people in a different mindset.

As a side note, I noticed the general trend as far as teams go is men who love to ride but want to get their wives/significant others out with them. Michael and I do not fit this trend as we are both fairly strong single bike riders. We ride the tandem as a change up to our normal cycling activity. (Confidentially, I tend to pick rides for the tandem that I think would either be really scenic or fast.)

Even though I stayed in town all weekend, relatively speaking, I still feel the same level of refreshment as if I’d left town. I was in and out of a world of cycling, broken only by the Saturday afternoon first year birthday party I attended, which seemed kind of weird because I was in “cycling weekend” mode. It was like you’d gone out primitive camping for a weekend, but spent an evening out in civilization, and then returned to the tent and smelly clothes after a few hours. It was like I had to switch my mind back and forth abruptly between two mindsets while hopping between activities.

Overall, I had a great weekend. The weather was not quite as warm as I would have liked it, but I didn’t end up wet on any of the three days, and both Saturday and Sunday were blissfully sunny without a threat of any bad weather. As I’m not filled with the desire to go through each day in painful detail, I’ve decided to just provide a brief synapses and pictures… (okay, turns out it’s not really so brief…)

Friday: The Warm-Up
Friday’s 20 mile warm-up ride met at 6:30pm (after work) and involved a nice casual ride around Seville along the great, mostly-empty country roads of Medina and Wayne Counties. The temperature at start time was probably around 75 degrees under sunny skies. It was the first evening in a few days where I did not feel a chill in the air.

However, about five miles from the end of the ride, we noticed the sun was slowly becoming obscured by threatening dark thunder clouds. “But,” I sputtered to Michael, “it wasn’t suppose to rain until after midnight!!” Thanks, weathermen, for once again proving that we humans don’t know jack about Mother Nature.

The clouds inspired some urgency in our pedaling and we pushed a pretty hearty pace back to Seville. Fortunately, we were probably about a half hour safe from the impending rain, for it did not actually rain until we were all safely inside The Acorn restaurant in Seville. Whew! Crisis averted! (Which, I hear, was not the case for some friends of mine cycling in Hinkley just miles miles away — oops!)

Skies threatening rain and t-storms over Seville.

Saturday: Overton Valley & “Outer” Wooster
Saturday’s ride had two options: a 57-mile ride from Seville to the outer reaches of Wooster and a 40-mile ride from Burbank to the same location. I wanted to do the longer ride, but I knew I would probably be pushing it on time if I did the longer ride, and then tried to shower and leave quickly for my friend’s kid’s birthday party at 3 (to which I ended up arriving forty-five minutes late anyway because I had to pick up a card on the way).

The Overton Valley is one of my favorite destinations for riding in Wayne/Medina Counties. There are some tough-assed hills there that I’m absolutely afraid to attempt, but there are also some decently challenging ones and some longer ones with slowly climbing grades. Besides the difficulty of the hills, the Overton Valley is much less trafficked than the Cuyahoga Valley. The roads are less than perfect, but the scenery is great. I always welcome a ride into the Overton Valley.

Saturday morning was a tad chilly. I’d optimistically neglected to bring arm warmers or tights because the weather was supposed to get to 75. I keep forgetting that in Ohio in May means that all the days start out chilly. Being over 1,000 miles so early in the season keeps causing me confusion, too, because normally at that mileage, it’s July for me. We left Seville in a slight fog. By the time we drove to Burbank, it was slightly warmer. But I kept my jacket on until we started our first climb.

We took Overton Road all the way through the valley and had a nice gentle climb up Silver Road, which Michael and I had taken down on our last TOSRV training ride. It was a nice climb that really got my legs stretched. Here’s a picture of us at the top of it. Yes, that’s an outhouse in the background.

Here is a shot of some of our tandem comrades finishing the last of the climb. There was one rider on a single bike who came with us all weekend. I never caught her name (or I just don’t remember it) but she and another girl switched to ride as stoker on the back of Mark Lange’s tandem (middle bicycle) for half the ride. It was the tag-team tandem on Saturday as Mark’s wife Joyce had to attend a baby shower and could not ride. Mark and Joyce, by the way, are the leaders/organizers of the No Frills Tandem Weekend–very cool people!

I got a shot of some of the tandem teams preparing to depart from our rest stop at the park at the top of Silver Road.

We ate at the Country Harvest Restaurant on Firestone Road in the country wilderness west of Wooster. I shamefully ate a “Hillbilly Dog”–a coney dog with coleslaw–and some fried mushrooms, washing it down with a cappuccino. I know, I know.

From the restaurant, we took Firestone Road which gave us a nice steep but short climb on which Michael and I showed off our skills by standing on our pedals up the last half. We proudly dropped several people. I don’t think I would have done so well on my single.

The rest of the ride was really pleasant, taking us on roads that Michael didn’t even know. So it was pretty nice. I was bummed about not doing the longer ride, but relieved that I didn’t have to rush to get to my friend’s house for the party.

Sunday: Rogue’s Hollow & Canal Fulton
I was excited about Sunday’s ride because I discovered Rogue’s Hollow last year on the ABC ride. It’s a pretty neat area–scenic and sleepy. I can only imagine the ruffians that once occupied the place to give it this spooky old western movie type name. Supposedly there are a lot of local legends there including something about a phantom train and Cry Baby Bridge where you can allegedly hear a ghostly baby crying. It is really a place that would be great for a Halloween ride.

I also love Canal Fulton. It’s a big attraction in Ohio because it was an old canal town with a really nicely preserved section of the canal along the towpath which will someday continuously connect all the way up to the towpath through the Cuyahoga Valley to Independence, Ohio up near Cleveland. Again, for road riders, Canal Fulton provides hilly entrances and exits into the town.

Sunday morning was even colder than Saturday morning. Of course, I was under-dressed. Having all the time in the world this day, Michael and I rode the tandem from his house to the starting point in Seville to gain some of the extra mileage we lost from the day before. It’s a little over 5 miles to Seville from his house, so we’d gain an extra 10 miles for 59 total for the day. Unfortunately, he broke the computer on the tandem while trying to reposition it after he’d heightened the handlebars, so we couldn’t top off our miles to an even 60 at the end of the ride.

It’s ironic, too, that the route to Canal Fulton from Seville actually went right by Michael’s house. So we passed it again on our way out of town.

We climbed the famous wall on Wall Road. That was interesting. I’d done it once on my single bike with Michael so it was again further proof that anything we could do on our single bikes we could do better on the tandem. We sure seemed to move rather quickly up it–quicker than I remember crunching up it. Maybe it was just the lack of air to my brain making me think that, I don’t know. Fortunately this wall is as short as it is steep.

We went through Silver Creek Park in Norton where Michael and I stopped for a potty break and photo op (below). I was still chilly. It took a long time to warm up on Sunday.

We took a different road through the Rogue’s Hollow–a Galehouse Road which lead to Clinton. It was a really cool, treelined road you can almost picture a horse and carriage traveling through. I probably should have stopped to take a picture or two. Oh well.

Once we reached Clinton, we did stop to take some pictures at the park where the towpath starts. It was very nice. Below is a picture of Michael in the park.

Ducks, geese, and, to our surprise, this “big bird”–Ohio’s own pride, a blue heron (below).

A shot of downtown Clinton. A sleepy little Ohio town. I love cycling through these.

The tandem leaning against the park sign. Isn’t it such a cute bike?

It was only a few more miles to Canal Fulton from Clinton. We ended up on Fulton Road, which is the road on which Northwest High School is located, where the 75-mile route of Roscoe Ramble begins.

The Century House Restaurant was our destination. It’s located in town right along side the canal. I snapped a picture of Michael with the tandem on the patio where everyone parked their bikes. What did I eat here? A delightful homemade cinnamon roll–I couldn’t resist and it was well worth it–and a egg muffin sandwich. No cappuccino, just a regular coffee.

Leaving Canal Fulton involved some climbing. But most of the road was nicely rolling, which is great for tandems because we, being heavier, gain great speed on downhills that push us practically all the way up the next hill. My legs were in great form and I just felt like nothing could make them tire. That’s a good situation to be in for riding. I wish I could feel like that every day.

I got a picture of Mark and Joyce climbing a small hill on Black Diamond Road. They, on the other hand, were claiming that their legs just weren’t feeling it today.

I captured some shots on my camera phone over Michael’s shoulder. This is a tandem team (whose names I didn’t learn) and a guy who had rode on Saturday on a tandem with his wife but had rode with us out of Canal Fulton through Marshallville on his single bike on Sunday.

Another shot over Michael’s shoulder of the same three riders in Marshallville.

Michael and I finished the ride pretty strong. There was a horrible headwind most of the ride which affected us during the last half of the ride since the route was on open roads that were not protected as much by trees as the first half of the ride. Regardless, Michael and I managed to put a good five minutes between us and the rest of the riders to finish in Seville first. Not that we were racing. I think we may have been at an advantage because I was having a good day and Team Lange was having a down day because I’m sure Team Lange could have kicked our butts. They ride regularly with the Orrville Cycling Club which is nortorious for being speed demons. Still, I felt comforted that we descent tandem team. I’d been worried that we might be slow compared to the rest, but we seemed capable of keeping up for the most part.

It was a great weekend over all. The weather could have been a little warmer, but at least it was sunny and I think I’m starting to get the “biker’s tan.” I’m now even more inclined to join a tandem rally sometime to see even more tandems riding together all at once. And maybe, just maybe, I’d be willing to ride the tandem on TOSRV sometime…


4 thoughts on “It takes two to tandem

  1. <>I<> can polish it up for Fred. ;)

    (Read: fastidious writer doesn’t want someone else changing her work.)

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