Tandem Cycling - RABRAI and other week-long rides; are they worth it?
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10-19-03, 05:13 PM
My wife and I have enjoyed several week-long rides (7 days, 75-120 mpd) on singles over the past several years. We are about to order our first tandem (CoMotion Speedster) and we are interested in riding more of these rides on the new bike.
I have read several posts regarding the RAGBRAI, the associated conjestion and the questionable attitude towards tandems. Is this ride really the place for a tandem team that likes to go fast as much as enjoy the scenery? Will we be constantly dodging 5-abreast riders moving at 10 mph and making enemies as we pass them at any higher rate of speed?
Iowa looks very interesting to us, as we have never visited that part of the country, but if the ride is more oriented to slower moving cyclists and large packs of leisurely riders that dominate the road, perhaps a different ride would be better for us.
Any thoughts would be much appreciated.
10-19-03, 06:14 PM
I haven't done RAGBRAI on my tandem, but I plan on using the tandem this year. Of course, I would love to give you a warm Iowa welcome and encourage you to join the ride. It is truly heaven for cyclists.
There are 10,000 - 15,000 cyclists on the road, so I cannot speak for every minute of the ride. But generally, when I ride, it has been very tandem friendly.
This year was hilly, and worse than most years. Most congestion would happen at the top of hills. Most (some) riders ride to the right when they are slow, but not everyone. You have to pay attention with the tandem, because it's a little harder to negotiate through packs of cycles.
I know of two couples that tandem, and they both love to crank at times. They never have had a problem, but they do say they worry about pacelines forming behind them. Usually, they could pick up the pace, or slow down, and that takes care of the paceline issue. You ride your own ride and ride at your own pace.
There have been more and more tandems showing up on rides like RAGBRAI and TOMRV.
10-19-03, 06:15 PM
Oh, and there is virtually no auto traffic along the route.
10-19-03, 10:06 PM
My better half and I have ridden RAGBRAI on our tandem 3 times and have thoroughly enjoyed it. There is absolutely nothing that can compare to looking back and seeing 30 riders sucking your rubber!!!! What a rush when you reach a town and they all come up and thank you for such a great pull!!
Don't throw caution to the wind though! At RAGBRAI there are all levels of riders. The last day is the time when you must really watch the other riders.
We tried to get out early (0730-0800), we still managed to mingle with the crowds and see all the neat things to see everyday, but miss most of the riders that are there mainly for the party and might not be super bike etiquette minded with their riding skills.
We recommend RAGBRAI, it is great fun and a super experience, but keep your eye on the traffic and your wits about you.
10-20-03, 01:13 AM
Long distance touring really defined why I cycle..Go the distance.. I do not get tired of multiple days, but I look at the map and see how far I have come and I am ready for more. The challenge in going further.. I crossed Nevada, not Iowa..Probably similiar for lack of traffic. It was great and added to my sense that this is why I cycle..
It is very rewarding.. Dream is to cross some continent, not just a state.. That is the real challenge.
What size Speedster did you decide to order?
10-20-03, 06:05 PM
We have made an appointment in November with Tandem Cycle Works in Denver. They have assured us that they will have all the necessary Co-Motion sizes on hand to properly fit my wife and myself. We just have to make the 8 hour trek and we will order our new Speedster from them after the final size verdict is in.
I'm pretty excited about the whole thing and I think we will get the fit right as TCW sells nothing but tandems and is the world's leading seller of Co-Motion tandems. I have spoken with Pat (the owner) and he works very closely with CoMotion to ensure that the fit is correct.
I will keep everyone posted as to the final outcome. Then it's ride time! I can't wait to show up for the standing weekend ride. This group loves to go fast and my wife has never been able to keep up. She is always last and gets discouraged when we all have to wait for her (no one but her minds, but I can understand always feeling like you are the weakest rider, riding by yourself when it's supposed to be a group ride, etc). It will really be fun actually riding WITH her and smoking a few of the regulars at the same time. This is going to be a blast!
Thanks again for the frame advice and I'll let you know how it goes!
11-11-03, 09:17 AM
My wife, children and I completed 2003's RAGBRAI on 2 tandems. I had reservations pre-ride about the entire event on a tandem based on the wording used in the information booklet sent to registered riders - as well as some of the things that you mention. Those reservations were mentioned and discussed on this forum at the time.
In retrospect, I had nothing to worry about. Everyone was polite and with our calling out of all the moves, turns, etc. we would be making on the tandem - everything went quite well. However, I can only report RAGBRAI from my own experience on a tandem which was not a husband/wife duo, but parent/child duo on a tandem which meant slower speeds (due to children and riding on 26" wheel/tires), more frequent stops as well as enjoying the scenery and each pass through town a little longer than the average adult experience. Tons of tandems on the RAGBRAI ride. As well as tons of recumbents.
Outside of the first day - I never, ever left with any of the early groups that head out in the 4 - 7:30 AM time zone. Simply not possible with children, so I cannot comment on the rider traffic throughout the day for those that leave at times like that. We were with the "afternoon and early evening arrival in the next town" section of riders. The only day we faced heavy rider traffic was the first day when we pulled out about 7:45 AM with thousands of others. I didn't like the congestion and since we were trying to ride 2 tandems within in 30 yards of each other to travel as a family - we just left later each day following that and never hit congestion again. That put us in with the more serious ride and party crowd, but it was never a problem. In fact, we got to hear lots of good music and meet all kinds of interesting folks.
From what I have seen and heard, you can ride your own ride and pace on RAGBRAI. We had riders on our team that would get up early and do the day's ride in 4 hours or less. With children (age 8 and 10), we were more in the 7 - 9 hour pace (the type of riders you probably hate), but saw lots of pace lines as well as fast moving tandems. The road is wide and offers plenty of opportunity for everyone to co-exist regardless of pace. Everyone is good about calling out if an oncoming car is approaching so unless one is deaf, getting out of the way if riding to the left is simply not ever a problem.
<i>Is this ride really the place for a tandem team that likes to go fast as much as enjoy the scenery? Will we be constantly dodging 5-abreast riders moving at 10 mph and making enemies as we pass them at any higher rate of speed?</i>
We found that most of the abreast riding was more like 2 abreast when encountered. It all depends on when you take off in the morning. If you leave fairly early - you'll have the full lane. If you leave 8AM or later - you'll also find plenty of room. If you leave with the main group in the 6:30 - 7:30 AM time frame - you will find more congestion. With all of the hills encountered this year, you would have encountered a high number of participants that were not maintaining 10mph on the climbs. You would have seen my son and I trying to get up to 50mph on a few downhills though. ;-)
12-30-03, 10:36 PM
Howdy from Tucson!
Congrats on the Co-Mo Speedster choice! Just 'retired' our custom Co-Mo with only 57,000 miles on the odo; they build a great tandem!
Never did RAGBRAI but have ridden rides with 1000s of riders; have ridden in Iowa and NO, it is not all flat corn country! A bit dicier on a tandem.
However we suggest doing tandem rallies . . . all tandems (OK, a few half bikes too) check out Tandem Club of America or your local tandem club for more info.
12-31-03, 08:25 AM
:D Nice choice in a tandem, we just bought our Speedster about 2 months ago but only got in three rides on it (never ridden a tandem before) before I crashed on my single. I am laid up with fractured ribs for another few weeks but can't wait to get back on the tandem. What color scheme did you choose? Hopefully you have ridden a tandem before and weren't like us, just ordering one and never having ridden one--what a first experience. Would love for you to post a picture once you get it--have fun!
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