Karen Etchells writes about experiences she and her husband, David, share with their enthusiasm for tandem cycling. As active 40-somethings, aspects of parenting and family, eating well, and maintaining good health are common topics.
It was very exciting this last weekend because we were able to ride on our new tandem bicycle! It's a previously loved Co-Motion Speedster -- about 4 years old -- in a very pretty blue color. We found it on Craigslist and we drove to New Hampshire to get it.
We rode with the Thread City Cyclers on it Saturday morning. Before the ride, I asked David to consider if he would be comfortable riding 50 miles on our new bicycle, seeing that we had not been fitted for it yet. He was confident that he would be fine. Ron Manizza led the B ride (Average speed of 14-15 MPH) for the TCC group. He had a fairly hilly route planned to Stafford Springs from North Windham. I really had my doubts about whether it was very smart for us to tackle this particular ride on our new tandem for the first time.
In spite of the fact that our new tandem is 10 pounds lighter than our old one, it was truly a struggle to climb those hills. Our ride leader, Ron, coached me for more effective pedaling. I had heard it before in Ron's spin class, "Keep your heels down and pull up on one leg while pushing forward with the other."
I don't know what it was about that message and the motions, but my legs were screaming!
Also my butt hurt a little too!
We stopped at a neat little coffee shop in Stafford Springs. It felt really good to get off from the bicycle seat. But my leg muscles were still very, very achy.
We ordered a small iced coffee and a freshly baked blueberry scone to share. I jokingly said that I could use a pain killer...
A big thanks to our fellow TCC club member, Dave Fournier for sharing his Motrin.
The return ride was far more comfortable for me. When the Motrin kicked in, I felt a whole lot better.
However, my David had issues. Turns out, the stem on his handlebars was too short. And his bicycle seat had settled down, and his knees were just about were coming up to his chin when he pedaled!
He was so uncomfortable.
A few of our fellow club member friends offered to help us with spare bicycle parts they had on hand, but afterwards we stopped to relax for lunch, and we later visited a bicycle shop for professional advice.
We wish to extend another great big thank you to Steve and Kim at Niantic Bay Bicycle Shop. Steve generously switched out Dave's stem for a longer one. We returned the favor by buying ourselves two new matching jerseys.We plan on wearing those to the Eastern Tandem Rally coming up in early August!
Although I make efforts to keep busy and do things, my mind is
preoccupied when this time of year comes by. The weather is so
beautiful, but the thoughts and memories associated with what happened
to us on a bright and sunny Memorial Day in 2010... that part is so very hard.
We were on a group cycling ride, Dave and I were riding our tandem, enjoying the company of friends. The day seemed absolutely pristine - with warm sunshine and cool springtime breezes. One of our cyclist friends was even singing as we pedaled along: Karen Carpenter's Top of the World song. It was a picture-perfect day -- until we reached approximately the 70 mile point of our ride.
We had set out that morning to do 100 miles. It was in preparation for us personally, to get ready for The Flattest Century ride put on by the Narragansett Bay Wheelmen every September. That would have been my first century ride.
My cell phone rang at the 70 mile point. I answered it because Dave does the steering in the front of the bicycle, so I can usually talk briefly-enough to let the caller know that we are out riding. But this call was different. It was my 19-year-old daughter, and she was telling me of a motorcycle accident -- news that reached her through a series of coincidences -- coincidences unusual enough to have made me a believer in a superior plan that is set forth for each of us. Most people just call it "fate".
The news I received had us immediately divert off route, departing from our group ride -- as we were at that moment in time, actually nearer to the hospital than we were to our van. That in itself was too much of an unusual coincidence.
As we pedaled frantically to reach the hospital, we did not realize the seriousness of the accident my son was involved in. I imagined, but did not know for sure what the next few moments, or hours, or days, and months ahead of us would be like... And how nothing would ever, ever be the same.
On this Memorial Day I recall that day in 2010. I will forever cherish the years I was given to be Geoff's Mom. I was so proud of the man he became.
I will continue to ride for my love of being on two wheels, because my son wouldn't have wanted me to live on the rest of my days not really making the most of my days -- just as Geoff always loved the feeling of being on two wheels ~ although he preferred the motorized kind.
Remembering my first-born son, Geoff. A son, a husband, a brother, and a friend to so many. He was a skilled carpenter and a talented mechanic. His work reflected his passion for perfection, always doing things "the right way." He was a member of The CT National Guard. He was also a father. But he was never able to meet his baby son, who is named after him, and who looks so much like his Daddy. His wife was expecting when his accident happened. His child is a bright star amidst the darkness. This little life has brought us a glimmer of hope.
We took a ride to New Hampshire over the weekend to follow a dream. It's a dream of a new tandem... in spite of the fact that we don't yet have enough money to buy one.
We met up with a really nice couple about our age who own two Co-Motion bicycles. They had taken two touring vacations with their sons in recent years, with the Mom serving as Captain on one bicycle, and the Dad on the other. (One very cool thing to note is that now that they are again riding with each other, rather than each of them pairing with a son, the mom has become the Captain of their couple team! We have yet to meet another couple where the female takes the lead ~ Yay to her!!) They had quite an adventure flying their two tandems to Montana and cycling with their sons.
Now that their boys are growing older, they no longer have a desire to ride bicycles with Mom and Dad, so the couple has one of their tandems up for sale.
The decor in their home reflects their great affection for all kinds of cycling -- in fact, this couple had met through a bike club (20 years ago!) and incorporated a tandem bicycle ride into their wedding day, just like we did for our wedding!! There were many mementoes on display around the house and photos of their family adventure trips on display in the hallways. They also have a bathroom complete with bicycle wallpaper and towels, Bicycle Ride Framed Wall Art and a whole cycling theme going on with the decor, including a Park Tool toilet paper holder!
We enjoyed a 25 mile tandem test ride with the Dad, and Dave and I really enjoyed the feel of the Co-Motion. It's lighter and more responsive compared to our Burley. Who knows... with keeping a careful rein on our finances, we could possibly turn out to be smiling proud owners of one pretty blue tandem!
I have a new job! That's why I haven't been posting updates so frequently in recent weeks. I've been happily busy.
With the new job has come an adjustment period. New responsibilities. A new schedule. Juggling parental obligations. More demands on my time... but my work is interesting and challenging, and I love it!
Thankfully, with the change of seasons and daylight savings time, David and I have been able to walk together early in the mornings and sometimes squeeze in a quick tandem ride after the workday. The exercise absolutely makes a positive difference in my focus and energy level. And although I am getting less sleep, I am sleeping well.
The financial security of having a job means a regular income we can depend upon, and it has given us hope that we might soon be able to afford a new -- well, more likely, a used... tandem bicycle! We've been dreaming of trading-up for well over a year, and previously, we just couldn't justify the expense.
These bicycles built for two are not inexpensive. A pre-owned tandem bicycle in decent shape will start out at least $1500.
Our Burley Duet
Our current tandem is a 10 year old red Burley Duet. Burley doesn't make tandems anymore. The company is most popular now for their child bicycle trailers. Our bike has been good to us. But at 48 pounds loaded with four filled water bottles, we would like something newer and lighter ~ Although, I have told David that I think it would be a lot cheaper for us to loose 10 pounds vs. buying a lighter bicycle!
We've been browsing through the online classifieds and telling our
cyclist friends of our desire for something newer, just in case anyone
has a deal for us on a well cared for, not-too-old, previously loved
tandem in fantastic condition. As we search out avenues of possibilities in
pursuit of a tandem dream, I'll be sure to post about our progress.
Our current tandem would offer good stability and solid structure for a couple just starting out cycling together. We'll be wanting to sell it soon, as the possibility of us buying an upgrade comes closer to reality.
As we age, a look back to our younger years ~ when pressures of work and responsibilities weren't at the forefront of our minds ~ takes on the sweet, golden glow of nostalgia.
My husband, David, speaks fondly of his teenage years when he hopped on a bicycle with a carefree attitude, and he pedaled for miles upon miles effortlessly. He took part in bicycle races and he participated in group training rides led by Ron Manizza, who owned Rainbow Cycles in Willimantic at the time.
Dave enjoyed the comradery that existed among fellow team members. So when news hit town that a former fellow rider, Chris Lacey, was returning to Connecticut for a family visit, a cycling reunion took place. Ron invited Dave and I to meet up at his home an hour before our regular Saturday morning group rides held by the Thread City Cyclists. It was great for Dave and Ron to catch up with Chris, sharing stories about life adventures. And then, Chris joined our ride!
Dave Etchells, Chris Lacey, and Ron Manizza
It's funny how some tendencies stick with us. Dave laughed aloud as Chris bunny-hopped over railroad tracks and speed bumps, just as he remembered him doing as a kid!
It was a great 42 mile ride on a sunny weekend morning, and a whole lot of fun for the guys to get together again!
Gas prices are skyrocketing. The average price of gas in Connecticut shot up 6 cents in just a week's time, to $4.13 a gallon.
What a great incentive to ride your bicycle to work! But if gas prices alone aren't enough to prompt you to start peddling, consider that May 14th to the 18th is Bike to Work Week! And the national bike to work day is Friday, May 18th.
I've often thought about how great it would be to bicycle to work every day (or at least every day that the weather was dry and between 40 and 90 degrees in temperature), but the thought of arriving at work sweaty with helmet hair has somewhat crushed my enthusiasm.
How would I clean up and transform myself into a polished professional?
Here are some possible strategies I've found to deal with the after-ride cleanup:
One idea is to drive to work once a week with what you'll need to wear for the
next few days. Store clothing and shoes in your desk or a cabinet if available.
Arrive early enough to give yourself enough time to wash and change. Bring a wash cloth in a plastic bag so that it can be safely stored after use. Baby wipes are another option. Deodorant/antiperspirant can be kept in a desk drawer too.
Arrangements would also need to be made with management on where to store the bicycle during the work day. I'm sure having a cycling-friendly boss would help a lot!
While I am currently working at home, I would encourage daily commuting by bicycle for anyone with suitable circumstances. Not only for the increase in physical fitness and the natural endorphin boost that will have you feeling positive and upbeat throughout the day -- but cycling gives also you time to sort through your thoughts. That makes for a clear mind AND a healthy body!