Tuesday, October 07, 2008


Domestic bliss.. or not

Or: How to get what you want with a tantrum.

On Saturday morning we were back to the family tandem riding. (Nothing like last minute training for the kids for the 100km ride next weekend!) With the Triple, and the Cannondale tandem, we have this eternal dilemma as far as the older two kids are concerned. Riding on the triple with Dad rates much more highly than riding on the other tandem with Mum. Yes, Dad is a better rider.. goes faster... etc. etc. (Nothing like feeling like the loser prize in a 'drawing the short straw' contest - my lot in life, I'm afraid.. *sigh*)

We've tried to make it so the girls can take turns, but the reality is that Ms 15 is (and has been for more than the two year age difference) a better stoker than her younger sister. Put Ms 13 on the back of the bike with me, and we go as slow as a wet week, and I get... frustrated. We can't keep up with the triple.

But it's not just her... she just seems to compound an issue I've had with this bike ever since we got it. I've never liked it.

Hoo-boy... You have to be game to say that about a $2000 bike. (Bought because I was a wee bit envious about how he got to ride the sleek and beautiful CoMotion Triple. Needless to say, Himself has, thus far, pretty much dismissed my grumblings as the ravings of a lunatic. (Or a spoilt brat.) Never mind that Ms 15, who has so far been my partner on all the long rides we have done on it, has always agreed with me.

From the beginning we knew that I was going to have trouble with the frame size at the front. We thought we'd solved it by putting a shorter stem on the headset - to bring the handlebars in closer. The problem with that was it always seemed to make the bike more twitchy to steer, and I've never felt truly comfortable with it.

We had problems with the gears - (the chain falling off and snapping at one point...) He put new derailleurs on it. And a new chain. And new other stuff that I can't even remember. Like new shifters.... Sheesh, how much stuff have we changed on this $2000 bike?

Still, Cait and I always reckoned that it felt slow and cumbersome.

That's impossible! he would cry. It's so light! Just because the tubes in the frame are bigger - they have to be because they are aluminium. But that's what makes it lighter! And you actually do get it moving along. You've just forgotten what the old tandem was like.

It doesn't feel better.. we'd mutter. But what would we know?!

In June he put the old stem back on the headset, and rode it himself on dirt with Other Women (*mutter mutter*) in that crazy adventure race he did, and thought it was great. As did they. They raved about The Cannondale. More proof that Cait and I were just stupid. (Never mind the fact that Cannondale are actually not considered, among serious tandem owners, as being 'up there' with the leading tandem manufacturers.)

Back to this weekend, and the first time I'd ridden it since then. Stokers were swapped - Cait's turn for the triple, in the interests of fairness - and we set out on the early morning community ride.

From the outset I got cranky. When I tried to use the top few gears on the middle chain ring, it would rattle like crazy. Unusable. (So I couldn't use the very gears I most prefer to ride in!) Changing to the big ring all the time made my thumb hurt on the shifter, and we were sloooow. I felt like throwing it into a ditch.

The triple got well ahead of us, and as we passed them going the other way on a loop, I yelled out to him "This is a piece of sh*t". Not the first time I have called it that, I confess. I am classy like that at times.

We took a bit of a short cut on the loop to try and catch up with the group we were riding with... it was a few kilometres later that Marc and the triple caught up with us. (They'd doubled back, but missed us when we took the short cut.)

Why don't you answer your bloody phone? I felt my back pockets for my phone. No phone. Must have left it in the car. One way to put him in a good mood. Not.

He was cranky. I was cranky. He accused me of exaggerating. OK, I did exaggerate.. a little bit. I said I couldn't use the whole middle ring. OK, then half. (Reality... top 3 out of 8). I accused him of not understanding. 'Domestic' time, out there on the streets.

Finally I pouted, I've never bloody liked it.. and I don't want to ride it this weekend. Cait and I will ride our singles.

May as well sell it then. Says He.


(Oops, he didn't expect that. Stalemate. )

The "conversation" continued once we got home, in a slightly less aggressive tone. We did agree that unfortunately, Alison just wasn't as good a stoker as her sister. She lacks the intuition that Cait and I have as stokers.. she rides to her own beat, and so you never feel in harmony when you ride with her. And I just don't have the power to 'carry' her. We would always be slower, and the triple would always be impatiently waiting for us to catch up.

He agreed to "fix" the gears, but Cait and I told him we'd still rather ride our single road bikes. He couldn't fathom this at all, never mind the concern that this would spell the end of our family tandem riding. But you'll be slower! and I may as well just sell the triple as well then.

I suggested that he was jumping the gun a bit - he could still ride the triple with Alison and Zoe, till Alison was capable of riding a single for some distance, and then he could ride the Cannondale with Zoe. (Seeing he thought there was nothing wrong with it.) Stalemate.

We discussed buying a different tandem, a less 'mountain-bike' one -a 'small' road tandem. But you couldn't guarantee not having the same problem, plus there was the question of my strength in captaining a road tandem.

Stalemate again.

OK. Can you PLEASE explain it to me. I need something concrete to work on here.

How to explain the ethereal to Mr Practical? We needed a thesaurus to find words for the indescribable. (Think Dr Who with his 'wibbly wobbly, timey wimey stuff')

It's like riding an elephant. But it's light as! OK, an inflatable elephant! It's like paddling an inflatable canoe. Sure it's light, but it just doesn't...go. It's wallowy. It's ponderous. (Caitlin looks at me with a raised eyebrow: "ponderous?") You feel like you are wallowing along.. your pedalling effort just doesn't translate. You feel all... blobby wobby.. or something... You feel like you are boinging along in a jalopy.

Never mind the issue with the steering.. and my reach. I couldn't see how that was fixable. Let's face it, I just don't fit the bike.

I don't care if you sell it, I said. Riding a tandem is meant to be fun, and the truth is we just do NOT have fun riding this. We would have more fun on our singles. We might be slower at first, but we have room for improvement. With this? We just don't feel like we can get anywhere.

I left him to ponder this.

My husband, once he gets over his initial frustrations (and he can be a bit on the impatient side at times - where I feel like killing him, and he, no doubt, feels like killing me) - is a genius.

He decides it has to be 'in the wheels'. They are the only thing on the bike in contact with the ground. And then , just *like that*, he produces another stronger, wheel - one which would flex less - from out of the shed. Replaces the back wheel. It was one he had bought for the previous tandem, but not got around to using. As you do.

He also finds a different seat tube which doesn't right angle back. It will bring me closer to the handlebars without the twitchy issue.

I change the actual saddle for good measure.

Cait and I ride around the block, and we cannot BELIEVE the difference. It grips the road. When we pedal we feel as if you are making headway. No more jalopy-style. It DOES make a difference.

And so we went for a 50km ride yesterday. Cait is resigned to riding with Mum... (she will milk it, I am sure.. for having to put up with the warped consequence of being the better stoker..).. but we proved to ourselves that we can get that baby moving. Definitely faster than the two of us on singles. Which is what a tandem is meant to be.

Family crisis averted.

The moral to the story?

Tantrums CAN get you what you want. Just make sure you have back up - especially when you are dealing with an impatient but clever man.

And.. what a difference a wheel can make.




Yay - I love it when a domestic gets results!!!
I'd have gone to bed and pulled the covers over my head.

Paul and I have never spoken the same language when discussing something that need fixing or changing. I'm convinced it's all HIS fault. *grin*

Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?