Monday was an awesome day. I met up with my new found friend - 'Roger'. Roger was a top guy who happened to be totally blind but that didn't stop him from being a keen cyclist. Better yet, Roger owned his own tandem - 'The Beast'. Roger and I had spoke via phone and communicated via text and email but this day was our first meet. Not only did I meet Roger, I was also greeted by his adorable guide dog 'Ollie' and his lovely wife 'Margaret'. After a quick chat, I got to meet The Beast - a beautiful red coloured custom built Longstaff tandem (with Reynolds 531 tubing no less).
Now this wasn't the first time I had ever been on a tandem. When SJ and I were on honeymoon in Xi'an, we cycled tandem along the city walls. The tandem we rode in China was a real doodle to operate and had flat bars and wide tyres. Aww, how nice to look back on those days...
The Beast had relatively fat tyres for a cycle but skinny compared to the Chinese tandem and this bike had drop bars too. It was almost as if The Beast was waiting for me because I didn't need to change saddle height or anything, it was set up just perfect for me. Roger gave me a quick briefing and off we went. I can't really describe the first 5 or so minutes on this bike. It was terrifying but exhilarating at the same time. Steering was so difficult and the bike didn't respond like expected or how I wanted it to. I felt I had a duty to keep Roger, bike and myself safe. This bike felt (and was) real heavy and cycling with such a load behind me was certainly a new experience. Cycling this tandem was like learning to drive!
After a while, basic principles were adhered to and cycling became less terrifying and dare I say, a little easier. Such principles (or rules) included things like counting 1-2-3 when we 'took' off or stopped, remembering left foot down when stopping and right foot up to take off. Turning was difficult and the turning arc was much larger than my solo bikes. Gear shifting was initially hard but became easier. The gear shifters were located on the bar ends. It took me a while to comfortably take my hand off the bars but once I was able, changing gears went relatively ok. I only changed gears on the rear cassette (right shifter) and remembered it was up for a lower gear and down for a higher (strange logic). I never used the left shifter for the triple chain ring on the front - maybe next time?! The Beast had 27 gears in all and 2 very long chains. My chain (i.e. the front chain) was to my left which felt somewhat unusual. Equally unusual were the brakes. I had control of front and rear v-type brakes. Roger had control of another rear v-brake (so 2 sets of rear v-brakes in all) and a rear disc brake too. Roger would not use his brakes unless I needed him to (not required on this adventure). Between us we decided that it was best for Roger to indicate left or right.
|Track log of our first tandem adventure
|Roger and The Beast
After fuelling up we headed back. Roger was like a living GPS unit and despite being blind, knew the roads well. Rogers headspace could be likened to a huge map which really blew me away. My friend Jamie said 'with your navigational skills Tim, it really was the blind leading the blind'. We made a few navigational errors on route but this was largely down to communication - I would take a turn at the Y-junction rather than the T-junction or similar. A few of the roads we travelled were familiar (and included part of my commute), Roger appeared to be familiar with them all. Oh, except for a short 'extra value' section when I attempted to take us to Knowle.
It felt strange when we finished. Strange because it felt de-real. I could not believe I had cycled over 60k on a tandem with a blind friend. Is rare I even spot a tandem around Birmingham and yet here I was this day, cycling one. I felt truly blessed to have met Roger and felt very privileged to lead him out on his tandem into a great adventure. So very nice to meet Rogers wife too. At then end of journey we spent a period of time discussing our day with Margaret over a cup of tea. I can't wait to meet up with Roger, Margaret, Ollie and The Beast again!
Despite being off work for the week, I only managed to skip on 2 occasions. I would liked to have skipped at least 3 times throughout the week but that didn't happen. Continued to have rope troubles, despite having a new rope. Will discuss more in a future blog post.
Skip = 2 x (4 x 90)
Took my MTB out for a spin on Wednesday. Ron accompanied me on his road bike. It had been a while since I had last pedalled with Ron and longer still since I had used this bike. In fact, this was the first time I had cycled my MTB this year!
|With so many bikes, I need to think about storage options...
Not being one to get my
Ryley rode quite smoothly. It felt strange using gear shifters that were attached to the down tube. These shifters reminded me of The Beast as they too were indexed and 'different to the norm'. The gearing on this bike appeared to be more race orientated as there were no real low gears. Maybe that's how bikes were back in the 80's?!
Ryley was fitted with a new saddle - a Brooks Cambium. I have not cycled long and far enough to give a proper review as yet. However, the saddle looked amazing! The saddle was made with vulcanized natural rubber which made it sound like it was from a Start Trek set. An organic cotton canvas covered the saddle. Watch this space for a more in-depth review.
A further new addition this week was my shoes. Since my decision to equip my audax bike(s) with SPD's, I required new shoes. For that purpose, I purchased a pair of Specialized MTB Competition shoes. Is not-so strange to use MTB shoes on a road bike and that was a deliberate intention of mine. My shoes were tested on my adventure with Roger and on my Ryley ride. The shoes were comfy as soon as they were placed on my feet and required no 'breaking in' or 'settling in' period. The shoes were considered by some to be a wide fit, to me they were a fine fit. Cycling shoes are generally on the narrow side in my humble opinion. Shoes look great and the locking system worked fine too.
Completed the week with a run. One of my more irregular runs, up the Slough and back. Am pleased my running has continued into February and hopefully it will continue into next month too.
The above was the reverse side of a rather funky postcard that Rapha had sent out to me for completing the Rapha Festive 500 challenge last year. I liked this challenge and now that I had received a small woven roundel and a lovely postcard to match, it made those cold winter treks worthwhile. Have now completed this challenge twice to date.
|My lovely roundel
|A side of post card