My husband recently bought us a tandem bike to ride — a sleek, black Cannondale, to be exact. We used to mountain bike together but I no longer have the physical stamina to do so and he was tired of riding alone. So we thought we’d try the tandem. The “test drive” consisted of soft pedaling around a subdivision. It was warm and sunny and the balmy weather must have gone to my head because I failed to notice (as I later would) that the seat was too low, the handlebars too high and the bike was just damn uncomfortable. But on that day, feeling giddy from the sunshine and the idea of having something fun to do with my husband, I said “why not?” when my husband asked if we should buy it.
A week later we took it for a real test drive.
The handlebars were too high; the seat too low; I couldn’t get my feet into the clips; my shoulders ached and my neck hurt. But worst of all, I realized that I had absolutely no control over the bike! Thanks to my husband’s keen mechanical abilities, he was able to adjust the physical issues with the tandem, but the key concern remained: I was not in control.
After several sessions of listening to my chimeric whining, my husband gave me the “captain’s” position. I was, of course, convinced that I would do a far superior job of navigating than he. I got off to a wobbly start — almost crashing into a mailbox as we pushed off. I hadn’t realized that the “captain” must not only pull — but also balance — the weight of the bike. It was more difficult to steer than I had anticipated, and I certainly wasn’t as adept at braking as my husband (who suffered the consequences of a short, hard stop). Although I hated to admit it, being “in charge” wasn’t as liberating as I had expected. Reluctantly, my pride a little bruised, I relinquished the captain’s position to my husband.
As we take longer rides, I become more accustomed to the “stroker” position. There are certain advantages to it, really. My husband blocks the wind, and while I can’t see exactly what is in front of us, I’m better able to enjoy the scenery along the way. I can even stop pedaling for a short period, if I get tired. My husband really is better in the captain position, but I also have an important role to play. If I stop pedaling permanently, the bike stops moving. Most importantly, without the stroker, the tandem will never make it up a hill. We hit a big one on a recent ride. I put my head down and pedaled, hard. When we crested the hill, we were both gasping for breath. My husband admitted he could not have made the hill without me.
I had an epiphany about our marriage that day: my husband is better suited for some things and I for others — and we’ll always make it through things if we don’t stop pedaling.