A tandem. It’s called a tandem bicycle.
And I have never set bottom on one.
My husband has, though, of course: my husband has done most things. He can add it to the experience of eating ice cream in Saddam Hussein’s crazy oversized palace, and learning to fire a Kalashnikov, and using confederate soldiers from some Sealed Knot-style dress up re-enactment company to demand money for charity from large inebriated crowds. And leaving an inflatable gorilla on the stairs when we went away, to frighten off burglars.
Once upon a time when we were still young reporters, the office loudmouth had an idea.
He was a loud person by nature: brash, rude, outrageous yet still, somehow, likeable. He eyed up the charity cycle ride which traversed three counties. And with his news brain rather than his commonsensical one, he settled on cycling the entire way for some charity or other.
But not alone.
He needed a sidekick: someone to talk at along the way. A mate, because lone charity efforts are tedious and solitary, whereas if you’re together you have someone with you when you stop at some thatched country hostelry for a pint and a pie.
He settled on Phil. The pair approached the thing with jovial humour. They cadged a charity tandem from the local worthy cycle seller, and turned up at the starting line with bluster.
The weather had bluster, too. It was not a kind day. And a top cub reporter is not always the most tolerant of tandem partners. It is not a ride Phil remembers with affection. I remember seeing the photograph, taken by the office photographer and developed in our own dark room: Phil stationed at the back, looking glum.
I am fortunate to have the low-down on a tandem ride without ever having ridden one: because my friend Jan, from Mainly Fair With A Chance Of Rain, gave it a full review.
After that, she said: never again. She’s a seasoned cyclist, never happier than riding a bike.
Her accounts so often leave one giggling: read hers here. The main problem, from what I can gather, is that while you are putting in all the hard graft of pedalling to get up hills, if you are sitting on the back seat, you can’t see a thing.
All the rewards of a cycle ride are absent. The sense of being in control, the gorgeous views, the satisfaction of manipulating a machine so it is in tune with one’s wishes.
Instead, the second set of handlebars has nothing- no brakes, no bell, not even the ability to steer.
You are just a pair of useful legs.
Added to which you can’t see what’s coming; and so are completely dependent on the driver at the front to shout warnings and other useful information. Not only is cycling at the back of a tandem tedious, it’s powerless.
I feel a great big fat metaphor coming on.
Is it just in Britain that we all know the old music hall song, “Daisy, Daisy?”
Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do;
I’m half crazy, all for the love of you;
It won’t be a stylish marriage; I can’t afford a carriage.
But you’ll look sweet, upon the seat of a bicycle made for two.”
Now: Daisy. Before you consider this gentleman’s proposal, remember to ask: which seat will he be requiring?
Because I’ll wager he’s not thinking of taking the back seat, with no view, and no earthly idea of where he is going.
No: I’ll bet he’s thinking of driving, in which case you, with your pretty dress, will be stuck in that service role, pedalling for grim life. The pretty dress, Daisy: it won’t stay pretty for long. And you’ll be left in someone else’s shadow, pedalling just to stay on your seat.
It’s called a tandem. And one person goes behind the other.
Me, I prefer enjoying life alongside someone else: I leave the tandems to other people.
Written in response to Side View’s weekend theme: “A Bicycle Made For Two, for One” which you can find here
Image source here