That is a guest blog by Ruth Brooker, a cycling mad journalist and photographer for the likes of MBUK, Bike Radar and Cycling Plus.

That is a guest blog by Ruth Brooker, a cycling mad journalist and photographer for the likes of MBUK, Bike Radar and Cycling Plus.
I’m taking her on a cycling tour of London next week. But not on a tandem! You can check out more of her lovely stuff at Ruth’s Website
Thanks Ruth!

Ruth and Ben’s tandem has been providing fun to romantic and non-romantic pairings for decades

For reasons I have yet to fathom, tandem bicycles are Just Not Cool.

You don’t see many of them around, but those that do appear tend to be pedalled by flocks of elderly bearded tourers, which probably doesn’t help counteract its slightly nerdy image. But really… what could be more fun than a bike for two?

This blue beauty is currently dominating our shed.

It was bought in 1969 by my dad whilst at university – him and a mate used to rag it around the steep hills of Bristol to blow away the boredom of being chained to a desk during exam time. They must have had strong legs though because it’s only got 5 gears and weighs a ton.

I have hazy memories of this bike from my childhood. Dad used to take me out on jaunts – I could barely touch the pedals and mostly had a view of the jumper on Dad’s broad back… but I loved the thrill of whizzing around with him, never knowing when we were about to turn corners and having no control over stopping.

Sadly, as the years wore on, the bike ended up slumped in a corner of the garage behind a stack of life’s junk. I found it covered in dust, rust and cobwebs, with flat tyres and the chain hanging limply – a proper sorry state. Its destiny at the dump was sealed.

There are already far too many bikes in my house, so it wasn’t particularly practical to adopt another one, but I had to rescue it. Somehow, on my own, I managed to shovel it into the boot of my car and drive back home for a couple of hours with a dirty wheel buffing my head.

I’d like to take credit for its Cinderella-like-transformation… but it was my partner Ben who cleaned it up and gave it a mechanical overhaul. Apart from its new shoes and handlebars, it hasn’t been altered and still has its original drum brakes.

A visit to Argos Cycles – to check the frame was safe – revealed that it dates back to the 1930s… so it’s already had a long history of adventures before we started pedalling it.

Its rebirth ride on a sunny Sunday afternoon was strangely a little bit emotional… breathing life back into a bike that was made to fly around the streets made my heart sing. We also received some amusing reactions from people. They stop… point… stare and shout out at you: "hey! … a tandem!.." The bike seems to break down normal social barriers.

Unfortunately it’s not the most comfortable ride – it’s very upright and the handlebar on the back is too close to the saddle… Lord knows how big men rode this. And the brakes are sketchy… you need to use your feet to slow it down at junctions. So it’s now a pub bike that goes out for giggles occasionally. It’s even been off-road in the woods… which was ‘exciting’.

What I’ve learnt though is that riding a tandem is incredibly sociable – you can babble to the stoker in a way that you can’t on normal bikes. And it’s a much more efficient use of two people’s power. So when we get around to crossing continents, I would seriously consider buying a modern tandem.

Just need to watch out for those tight corners…

May 01, 2020