The Tandem Bike: One Man’s Ascent to Awesomeness

With the late summer sun shining on my back and my wheels smoothly running over the gravel trails of D-park, I was feeling good. For years I had been spared the long walk from campus to D-park for frisbee practice by riding my bike. I grinned as I passed my teammates slowly trudging on; their feet struggling to complete the next step. While grinning smugly to myself, I felt a jarring crunch. I felt my chain lock up and I heard the unmistakable sound of metal grinding against metal. I looked down to see my rear derailer firmly lodged between my spokes and my chain winding and curling in impossibly complicated knots. Not again. The piece responsible was a small, modest piece of aluminum that attached the derailleur to the frame. The piece is designed to break, better that than my nice, road bike frame. Yet, that fact didn’t make me feel better. Instantly, my thoughts leaped to bike rides that I would miss, and the long lonely walks to frisbee, that I had originally scoffed at. A replacement part to come could take week; weeks where I would be missing the brightest part of my day.

For a few days my life was just as miserable as I predicted. Now I was the one walking on the sidewalk as people zipped by me on their bikes, not even conscious of their freedom to go places. That week, working in the CSE office, I went to the basement of Kaufman to retrieve a student’s bike for them. In the dimly lit basement some chrome fenders stuck out like a shining star. The Tandem: a two person operated machine of awesomeness. I had never ridden a tandem bike before, only looked on in awe at the general coolness radiating from its riders. To ride a tandem bike meant to throw off societal norms about who or what can ride a bike. It meant turning the normally solitary act of turning a pedal into the most proven team building exercise known. I immediately knew, that I had found the perfect alternative to my broken bike.1

Still, my first ride was a tale of regression. It didn’t help that my chosen partner who was one of my largest friends who made it immediately apparent that there was an ideal size for tandem riders. Without enough initial momentum, travelling straight was incredibly difficult. Narrowly avoiding a parked car, we began to speed up enough to make a controlled turn. But ever since that first emotionally-wrought turn, my riding skills have only gotten better. Now, here I am, riding the tandem for a few weeks now, and in that time I have been part of many memorable and unique experiences.

My primary tandem partner has been Alec Schwartz, my friend, who for years I had ridden alongside, but never on the same bike. He has even started to arrange his day around riding the tandem. He would rarely go to breakfast before his 9 AM class, but after learning that I biked to breakfast he would be outside his door waiting to be picked up at 8:15 AM prompt. Going to frisbee practices used to be a rare occurrence for him but the tantalizing prospect of riding the tandem over was enough to convert him into a practice fanatic.

The most indelible ride on the tandem was the post biology presentation Chipotle run. Exhausted and hungry after imparting valuable knowledge on our biology class, Alec and I decided to quickly stuff burritos into our mouths before his ALLARM meeting. All in an hour. Desperate not to waste any time in our busy days, I took the driver’s position while Alec called our classmates trying to rally an impromptu class Chipotle trip. This normally dangerous activity is rendered safe by the active and passive roles while biking on a tandem bike. By the time my burrito was sitting in front of my face there was only fifteen minutes before Alec had to be back. I ate half of it in three chews and mounted the rear seat while Alec took over the steering. Biking back to campus whilst eating a burrito was a (surprisingly) new experience for me. With burrito mid chew, and wind in my hair, I took in the Carlilian sights around me. 2

My new favorite part of every day is biking across campus and seeing the range of looks I can attract. Most faces are smiling when they see, and the rest are curiously surprised. Yet, none are ever upset. How could they be when they see two grinning fools cruising by?

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