When people see Felkerino’s and my bike, they often comment and ask us questions. These comments range from funny or insightful to head-shakingly odd or irritating.
One of the comments I’ve heard, not infrequently and only from the mouths of men, is some version of this, “How do you like your tandem? I’m thinking about getting a tandem for me and my wife/partner.”
Felkerino and I are wise to this question now and our immediate response is to ask if the person’s wife or partner rides. Nine times out of ten, this is what we hear in response:
“I like to ride, but my (wife, partner) doesn’t. So I’ve been thinking about getting a tandem.”
This comment used to roll off of me like water off a stoker’s back, but over time it’s seeped under my skin. If someone’s wife or partner doesn’t currently like to ride a bike, why would a tandem bike change that?
It also makes me feel that the person is somehow inferring that the reason I’m riding a bike is because I’m out with Felkerino on our tandem.
Further, just because a guy can get himself down the road without incident does not mean that he would make a good captain. Hmmm, perhaps I should start administering some kind of tandem captain suitability test.
I would love to see more women cyclists, but I don’t think that the purchase of a tandem is a gateway drug to regular riding for most people.
When I met Felkerino, I was already commuting regularly, had completed RAGBRAI (the cross-Iowa bike ride), participated in multiple century rides, and I was training for a flèche (a 24-hour ride of approximately 225 miles). I was a daily transportation and weekend sport touring rider when we first began riding together.
I’ve definitely done a lot more cycling since Felkerino and I started hanging out, but it isn’t because we bought a tandem. My life was going in that direction, anyway. In fact, it was one of my female cycling friends who encouraged me to ride more, showed me good bicycling routes in our area, and introduced me to randonneuring.
If somebody wishes his partner would ride, a more thought-out approach would be to find out why she doesn’t in the first place. Is it fear of traffic? Is she intimidated about bike maintenance? Does no one else in her social circles ride? Is the bike just not her thing?
Perhaps this tandem chatter is more male-driven wishful thinking than anything else, but to assume a tandem will make a person suddenly want to hop on a bicycle (and ride with their partner on it) seems misinformed to me.
Only in the rarest of cases will the simple attainment of a tandem convert a non-cyclist into a rider. More commonly, couples will end up making a big investment that ends up as an unrealized dream sitting in a shed somewhere gathering dust.