Tandem notes: “She’s not pedaling!” Seriously?!

As you may already know (since I really like to talk about it), Felkerino and I met on a tandem first date and we’ve been riding together ever since. Riding tandem with Felkerino was my first exposure to this family of freak bikes, but at the time I don’t remember thinking much about it.

Tandeming on Skyline Drive

Now that we have been doing this for a while (since 2004), I’ve figured out that lots of people do think about people who ride tandem, and they like to share those thoughts with us when they see one ride by.

I understand that a tandem is an unusual sight. Seeing a single bicycle on the road is not that common of a sight, either. Add an extra cockpit to the bike, and it’s noticeably freaky. Freaky in a good way. I get it.

Take my picture. I’m on a freak bike!

However, I am not clear why the sight of a tandem engages some people’s “let’s say something weird” side.

Like many people, I love it when people wave at cyclists or ask about our ride. Being acknowledged in a positive way when you’re on the road is a great feeling.

However, I am shocked by the number of people (generally men; sorry, but it’s true), who love to shout out strange things to us. In particular, “She’s not pedaling!” is at the top of the list of weird things that get my goat.

What is this about? Do people exclaim this because they truly believe that I am not pedaling? Do they think it’s funny? What?

When I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, I like to think they say “She’s not pedaling,” because it is their way of trying to connect with us and share a moment with a beautiful tandem. Little do they know that it is backfiring miserably.

When I am grumpy (say, after 150 miles of “not pedaling” or a stressful week at work) I conclude that it is a sexist comment made by people that have no appreciation for the strength, abilities, and partnership of women.

Look, I’m pedaling! (c) Bill Beck

Am I overthinking it? Maybe. But please, if you see a tandem on the road do NOT say anything about whether anybody is or is not pedaling. That’s right. No matter how much you might be just exploding inside with the desire to shout out those three little words.


Don’t do it! That tandem might be pedaled by Felkerino AND ME, and trust me, I have been pedaling. My legs are very strong and you don’t want to make me angry. As they say, you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry. (Blog bonus points if you can name that quote.)

And on that note, let’s go ride our bikes! It’s the WEEKEND!


  1. Isn’t that from the Incridible Hulk series…yes I’m that old. I promise I will never shout at a woman cyclist in any way from a car. From a bike maybe.


  2. If I were riding tandem, I’d find that comment irksome, too. Do you think they would say the same thing to Felkerino if you were riding up front?


  3. Ah, Bill Bixby, RIP. I say that all the time.

    Now for some really weird comments, try riding a recumbent. Although I must say the most frequent comment usually from little, little kids is “AWESOME!”


  4. It is a completely sexist comment! When I was stoker I heard it allllll the time. (I would quip “OMG I’ve never heard that before, how original”.) Now that I’m captain and my stoker is male I haven’t heard it since. For some unknown reason, girls are only along for the ride when they are in the back….

    Rest assured I will NEVER say that to you! More than likely I will comment “why are you doing all the work?”


    • Thanks, Katie! And funny (funny odd, not funny ha ha) how no one says it to your male stoker… it answers Lisa’s question.


  5. deer mg

    my not freaky. my very purty. my think comotion handsum. my like pictere of comotion. my sis rans screamer is freaky. my am not freaky. very hard to tipe with wheel. no spel check either. thank yu.



  6. Bruce/David Banner.

    “…[W]hen David Banner grows angry or outraged, a startling metamorphosis occurs.”

    That’s a wonderful reminder of a misspent youth.

    “Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”

    Now, we shudder to think of the consequences for the commenter fool enough to repeat those three deadly words.




  7. Thanks for all the comments! AND the empathy (except for Kelly!)! I had forgotten that he was Bruce Banner in the comic books. Thanks, Will! The quote is from the character David Banner (the Hulk), who was played by Bill Bixby (nice job, Rootchopper). I LOVED that show when I was little; it taught me a lot about life, ha!


  8. I think people fundamentally misunderstand the nature of a tandem bicycle. I suspect they think it’s like the tag-alongs for little kids where the kid on the back has pedals but they’re more for decoration than anything else.

    I don’t think I could ever do a tandem in part because I’d want to be in control, so I couldn’t be in the back. Also, I think I’d be somewhat afraid of the speeds you get up to going downhill.


  9. Exactly. We got one of those on saturday (only one tho!). My usual response is something along the lines of ‘actually Im pushing him up this hill’ – but they generally just dont understand that.
    Stephen’s more tolerant than me about it tho. He says they just want to comment because they want to say something, they just dont know what. Tho from kids we get ‘woah a double bike’ – that’s right NOBODY in England knows what the name for a tandem is anymore


    • I think Stephen is right. People want to somehow make themselves part of your experience, or to make you part of their experience or something. We get the “double bike” comments, too. It’s surprising how many people don’t know that it’s called a tandem.


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