Tandem Cycling - Our First Tandem Rally (NWTR)
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05-31-04, 06:29 PM
My stoker and I just got back from our first tandem rally-- the Northwest Tandem Rally held this year at Lacey, WA, at the St. Martin's College campus.
We showed up on Friday night to stay in a dorm room. It rained several times on us on the drive up, so I was happy that I took twenty minutes to split our Bike Friday "Q" in two parts and packed it inside our '98 Ford Escort instead of using our roof rack. It was also unclear if we would have inside tandem parking at the dorms, so I might have also left it in the car overnight. As it was, we did have inside parking, and we assembled it Friday night and rolled it in.
Bike Friday tandems were surprisingly popular at the event. Of the 450 teams there, maybe fifty or more were BFs. Here's a group shot of BF owners on Saturday morning. We're the third team from the left (me in yellow, my stoker in blue):
05-31-04, 06:33 PM
On Saturday morning, it was gray but not wet. We pigged out at the college cafeteria breakfast, did a final check over on the "Q," and rolled over to the mass start at 9:30 a.m. for our first ride of the event. My stoker was more than enthused for the start-- and I was relieved. Our training was really wrecked for this event, with his broken wrist and my sickness even last weekend. The longest we had done on the tandem was 18 miles, and here we were at the start of a 30 mile ride. Ugh!
Here's what the mass start looked like from place in line:
05-31-04, 06:39 PM
As it was, the gray skies drizzled on us Saturday, but it never really showered or rained. We rode to the lunch stop at Wolf Haven (and yes, saw wolves), and found our selves somewhat cold because the sun never made it through. On the return route, my stoker was surprisingly strong, helping us hold around 16 mph for five miles. But then it happened-- despite the large lunch, he had a slight bonk on the last five miles. So we stopped for a break and some more fuel, and then took it easy on the last five miles. We finished strong and happy with 31 miles for the day (my stoker's longest ride ever). After some rest, we drove to a theatre to see Shrek 2, and then got back in time for the Ice Cream Social that night. Quite fun.
On the way out of the mass start, an event photographer got a shot of us (and our extremely pale northwest legs). And, yes, everyone was excited to get going:
05-31-04, 06:55 PM
On Sunday, we weren't so lucky with the weather. After another big breakfast, and fun mass start, the skies opened up on us for the first half of the ride. We got drenched on the first 12 miles to the rest stop at a lake, but my stoker held up fine. He didn't like the mud on his legs (no, we don't have fenders yet), but soon got into singing Beatles tunes to get us through (lyrics modified to have insect facts). Surprising what a seven year old can do.
The rain dropped off on the return trip. On both days I saw lots of flats, and 4 miles from home we had one as well on the rear wheel. My stoker seemed less than confident in my patching skills, and wanted to say "yes, yes, yes" to every offer of help as other teams passed by. I think he would have been happy to have 10-15 teams stop and help... :)
After a perfect patch, we rolled on to home. My stoker admitted he was stronger Sunday than Saturday, despite the rain, and we got in 26 miles. Throughout, he had a great time, and once noted, "Everyone is so friendly! They're cheering us on!" Sunday afternoon we cleaned the bike, went out for ice cream and coffee and cocoa, and then relaxed with Kim Possilbe on DVD on a laptop. That night we attended the Banquet before turning in.
Monday, after a too big of breakfast, we got in one more 8 mile ride as others left, and then packed up and took off ourselves. Mission status: super success.
Two main realizations about this tandem rally:
1) This is truly a family event. The teams with children (infants to adolescents) outnumbered the hammerheads 3:1. There were some serious couples, but I was amazed by how many familes I saw camping, and riding triples, and triples pulling trailers or trailer bikes, etc. I felt like we fit right in, eventhough we did the short rides each day. Next year, when the event is held in Bend, Oregon, I hope we can do at least one medium ride.
2) I shouldn't feel guilty about spending as much as I did on the "Q." It's cost was below the median of the cost of the other tandems I saw (Co-motions, Santanas, and customs). Serious bucks in tandems, recumbents, triples, and tandem recumbents at this event. Also, Opus Counterpoints were well represented. The carbon fiber Santanas in the expo hall were definitely drool-worthy. Overall, I was surprised by the very high percentage of Co-motions. I think I saw more of them (many with soft-ride systems) than Santanas. (On the East Coast, it seemed like Santanas ruled supreme numbers wise).
I read somewhere that tandem rallies were the perfect way to really get a young stoker enthusiastic about riding. This experience definitely supports this recommendation, and the cost of the event was really affordable. For details, see http://www.nwtr.org.
Parting shot of stoker and machine:
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