Stoker Life

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What will stoker life bring, I wonder, with the impending arrival of our belated wedding present tandem? I’m one of those people that pumps imaginary brakes when someone is driving too fast and not slowing down as soon as I think they should. This makes me wonder how I will handle relinquishing my control of braking and steering on a bicycle. Having the drag brake should help a little with my control issues… and I have to admit I am looking forward to the extra help on those big climbs. I think 66% Justin and 33% Bina is fair. Just take a look at the slope of our top tube and those percentages will make sense. Don’t ask me where the final 1% went to, I don’t know who will be providing that.

I’ve ridden a tandem a few times, mostly with my father when I was a little kid. We did some more tandeming (yes, it’s a real word!) when I was a young adult, hung-over, and lacking the energy to ride a single. These excursions earned me the honorable nickname of “liquor legs”. Oh, and by "young adult," I mean last year. Other tandem rides with my dad included a jaunt through North Philadelphia. If you're familiar with Philly, then you know the magnitude of this adventure, tandem or not. Yet another notable tandem ride involved getting dumped off the front of a Bilenky Viewpoint by you guessed it, dear old Dad.

Unfortunately, I have never attended a formal panel on the effects of tandems on relationships, but I imagine there would be two points to argue: First, tandem riding could be viewed as a race-pace divorce machine. You are stuck staring at your partner’s back for hours and best of luck if your hubby’s training diet revolves around Tex-Mex. You are forced to ride at their cadence and you better hope they are ready to take a break when you see that cute coffee shop or that irresistible barnyard animal that needs petting.

My romantic self prefers the other side of the debate: Tandems provide amazing, anaerobic couple’s therapy, strengthening relationships with each mile. It solves the problem of one person leaving the other in the dust. The more you ride together, the more in sync you will be with each other’s cadence, gearing and power. And if not there is always the option of independent gearing (thanks DaVinci Designs!) If you add couplers to your tandem, then voila! – marriage counseling that is transportable!

If you are passionate about cycling (which I know you are if you are reading here), sharing a self-propelled machine with the person you are passionate about just makes sense. I apologize if this piece is a little sappy, but we are only 2 weeks from Valentines Day, and tandems are foremost on my mind.

A few words of wisdom from Stephen Bilenky (Dad) on introducing yourself and your partner to the world of tandems:

  • 1. Find a knowledgeable friend or specialty store where you can demo a decent tandem.
  • 2. Initially buy a used tandem to get to know what works for you; then put the investment in a quality tandem that fits your size and cycling style. Try before you buy!
  • 3. Make sure it has reliable components and adequate gear range and braking for the terrain and conditions you plan to ride.
  • 4. The stoker must have trust and a go-with-the-flow attitude.
  • 5. The captain must always think of each move from the stoker’s perspective. No excess leaning of the bike during mounting and starting, for example.

You can snag a look at the baby blue and maroon marriage mobile at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show in Denver. Our booth will be the one radiating with awesomeness. And beards. (Not me).

P.S. Check back with me in the summer after we have been riding our love machine for several months and see if I still feel the same…



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