The simple machine known as the bicycle remains the most efficient form of transportation on the planet. Although people may congregate into groups and ride together in makeshift pelotons, there is something inherently individual about biking. Riders rely on their own power for propulsion and are rewarded with independence, freedom, and all the sights, sounds, and smells of their surroundings that they miss when encased in their cars.
Sometimes you want to share your cycling experience with a friend or loved one – not always an easy task. Different levels of fitness or comfort with speed can quickly turn a for-fun excursion into a bickering hell – especially when married partners are involved.
Jennifer Schwartz recently wrote about her parents’ experience for the Boston Globe magazine. After failed attempts at riding together, they found a solution to this age-old problem: The tandem bicycle. The bicycle-built-for-two ensures that the two riders remain together, for better or worse.
I joined them on my bike for one of their first tandem rides. At stoplights, they were horrendous: He’d lean to one side, she to the other. He’d stand up to stretch without warning; she’d buckle her knees. They’d clip out opposite feet and knock themselves off balance. Yelling and frustration (and eye rolling on my part) ensued. But soon, sharing a cadence, communicating the next move, and working as a single entity turned them into a machine that could beat me in any sprint. They assigned tasks (she’d signal, he’d steer), learned bike jargon ("Car back!"), and developed a method, however boilerplate, to take off when a light turned green ("One, two, three, go!").
It is no exaggeration that in the four years since the purchase of that bike, my parents’ life has changed. They finally share an equally enjoyed hobby. My mom is in better shape, and my dad is less competitive. They have a whole new set of "tandem friends" with whom they ride and go out to dinner. In September, they’ll take the tandem to Italy. I rarely see my parents happier than when they’re on that bike. The jabs and jokes are still around, but now the effect is far more endearing.
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- Green Streets’ Monthly Transportation Party
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- For Car-Free Family, Biking Replaces Bad Habits