A Bicycle Made For Two

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


56 thoughts on “A Bicycle Made For Two

  1. Brilliant – just the sort of things going through my mind as I was mulling over Sidey’s theme this week. Now I will have ot think of something else as there is no way I can better this. Well done Phil also

  2. I’ve been doing some research into the bicycles made for 2, and there are definitely cases where the need for t least a view are catered for.

    I’m too much like you, I’d not be happy at the back with no power. Maybe a knitting needle affair that can poke the front rider would help?

  3. I’ll be humming this all day long now, Kate.
    Tom and I have, on occasion, looked at a tandem, hemmed and hawed and then said “nope”. His six foot four lean frame to my 5 foot three round one just don’t cut it, besides which he would not want me to steer, nor would he want me at his backside. Me? I’m with you. Something cool on the side of the road watching.

  4. *looks round furtively* My idea of heaven – a back seat driver who can’t see enough to pass comment!
    Glad the gorilla got straightened out – I was having strange visions.
    There was also a humorous version of ‘Daisy’:
    ‘Daisy Daisy the cops are after you
    If they catch you they’ll give you a year or two
    They’ll tie you up with wire
    Behind the black mariah
    So ring your bell and pedal like hell
    On a bicycle made for two.’
    We had a celebrated murderess in South Africa, Daisy De Melker, and the version which went round then was on the lines of ‘… if they catch you they’ll give you what is your due They’ll tie … And you’ll go plop, on a six foot drop, and then that is the end of you.’ She was, in fact, duly hanged.

  5. Fabulous. I’ve only ever seen tandem bicycles in pictures, and they make good pictures. But had never thought about the nitty-gritty of it. I’ll take my own bicycle, thank you. 🙂

  6. I’m with you, Kate – I want the experience of turning my bicycle into another appendage. One couple who tried tandem riding thought it would eliminate his always having to wait for her. The new set of issues encouraged her to give up cycling with him period!

    Our “summer” is so cold that the weatherpeople are beginning to name the cold fronts!

  7. Morning Kate. I’d been saving this for a Sunday morning read and hey presto, I’ve even got a mention 😀 That’s a good metaphor you got yourself there… and oddly enough I’ve just blogged about cycling in a dress! Have a lovely Sunday 😉

  8. “Daisy, Daisy” is the extent of my knowledge about these contraptions. I think I’ve seen one on rare occasion, from a distance, but that’s it.

    1. Hi Madhu! Lovely of you to leave a comment 😀 Thanks! I think your recollection just about beats all: riding the wall in China….At least you got views to the side! Lovely image…

  9. What a great perspective to share! I never thought about what the experience would be to sit “behind” on a tandem! We were involved in a wedding yesterday and the toasts made by all the groomsmen included comments about the new bride now being “in charge.” Everyone seemed in agreement that it’s the woman who rules the roost…I much prefer the position you’ve proposed. That sounds like a happy agreement! I don’t want to be in charge, but I love to co-lead 🙂 and silly me! I thought Daisy, Daisy was an American tune. LOL! Debra

    1. A lovely Wikipedia passage about the song,composed in 1892, Debra: When Harry Dacre, an English popular composer, first came to the United States, he brought with him a bicycle, for which he was charged duty. His friend (songwriter William Jerome) remarked lightly: ‘It’s lucky you didn’t bring a bicycle built for two, otherwise you’d have to pay double duty.’ Dacre was so taken with the phrase ‘bicycle built for two’ that he decided to use it in a song. That song, Daisy Bell, first became successful in a London music hall, in a performance by Katie Lawrence. Tony Pastor was the first one to sing it in the United States. Its success in America began when Jennie Lindsay brought down the house with it at the Atlantic Gardens on the Bowery early in 1892.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s