So why the change of heart? Well firstly Darren can be extremely persistent. He often grinds away any resistance by simply asking the same thing over and over until it just seems easier (and less tiresome) to agree. If Darren doesn’t like the answer he gets, he just keeps asking until he gets what he considers the right answer. Initially I agreed to a 2 week cycling trip in the Loire Valley. The trip was a success and we both thoroughly enjoyed the experience and only had a couple of melt downs. However, a 2 week experience in the Loire Valley on 2 full suspension mountain bikes, mine with panniers and Darren’s with a trailer had led us to the impulsive decision that we absolutely had to have something other than traditional touring bikes.
Our trip along the Loire:
Can you see the chairs in the tent – Hellinox chairs. They are amazing – expensive but invaluable.
So we’d had fun in the Loire but decided touring bikes wasn’t the way forward. How did we arrive at this decision – well it certainly wasn’t a hugely scientific process. We’d met an Australian couple on a traditional tandem one morning in a little French village and 20 mins of chatting (which included Darren showing off our Helinox chairs) convinced us that a tandem might lead to a better cycling experience – we’d be able to chat more easily and we’d both benefit from Daz’s superior fitness. Several days later we were overtaken by a solo recumbent rider. He chatted with us and regaled us with the benefits of his bike, the comfort, the views, the fun. We realised that if we had a recumbent we’d lose the sore shoulders, neck, wrists and bottoms. We were sold – well almost.
We were back in the UK on the 17th of Sep 13. Within 2 days of our return we’d visited Dulwich Park to hire solo recumbents and cycled round and round the park. Then we went on to Bikefix, a recumbent specialist shop and Daz tried 2 solo recumbents and loved them. Although Stuart, the owner, didn’t have any tandems in the shop, he told us about the tandem he had used the previous year in Belgium and the guy, Richard Cresswell, who had made the bike. Saturday 21st September found us in Stratford Upon Avon test riding our first tandem recumbent. And we reckon we did OK not discounting Richard’s invaluable assistance in initially acting as our own personal stabilisers and holding us steady when we started off. First just down the lane and back (600m) and then round the lanes for about 8 miles. How hard was it? Well I’d be lying if I said it was a doddle although I’m sure Darren would say precisely that if asked (that’s the testosterone response). The tandem is really unstable at very slow speeds and the light steering only makes this worse. So to begin with we were veering wildly (if this is possible at extremely slow speeds) from one side of the lane to the other. But we soon adjusted.
The dynamics of our tandem – Darren is the captain. He’s at the front and has control of the steering, the gears, braking and road positioning decisions. I’m the stoker. I sit at the back and just pedal. I have no control (not an easy state for someone who likes control) and worse, Daz has all the control (God help me). I do have an emergency back brake which I use occasionally but prefer to just shout at Daz to ‘slow down!!’ So we lived to tell the tale of our first road trip whilst drinking a cup of tea in Richard’s kitchen. And bless him he appeared completely enthralled but really??? This is a man who’s been making and riding recumbents for years. He told us about his tandem business and what scope there was to make another recumbent (he’d effectively closed his tandem business because there wasn’t sufficient demand) and agreed that he had sufficient parts to make another tandem for us. We agreed. There was the handshake. The die was cast.