Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Again with the tandems!

Here is part two of the ongoing Northwest Tandem Rally 2015 writeup that I've postponed for three months!

800 people, or 400 tandem bikes if you're so inclined to divide. But I wouldn't say it was too crowded. The mass start was handled pretty well, and tandems are comparatively slow and lumbering, so you're not getting assholes darting around trying to jockey for position. Good for the wife and I, especially since we're new to big group rides.

Everyone gathered up in the expansive parking lot of a big events center located just outside of Bellingham. It was very close to our hotel, thankfully, so the effort to get over was minimal. It gave us some extra time to get food, as well. Know that I'm always, always nervous about getting to things on time.

So here we are, milling about, inspecting everyone's matching jerseys, fun decorations, and general readiness for the ride at hand. We definitely started to notice the lack of kickstand on this bike at one point. And any given tandem is so long, that leaning it up against a tree or simply laying it down proves problematic. So yes, a kickstand, or ideally, a center stand, will be on the list before NWTR 2016.

I should say that while I am quite the cycling aficionado, I don't actually put in a lot of miles. My wife rarely cycles as well. So we weren't exactly prepared for the adventure ahead. We had at least done a 30ish mile ride a few months ago, so we knew we could go that far. That's why we wound up picking the truncated 25 mile route for Saturday's ride. We intended to do the longer ride on Sunday, about 54 miles. So a 25 mile ride would at least get us in the groove, we hoped.

The morning of we had managed to get breakfast, so immediate starvation wasn't a concern. We also knew that the ride was supported with a few pit stops. The first stop was about half-way in. A very reasonable distance. They brought out some police to escort us for the first few miles, though I wish they had worked a few more intersections to help us get out of town more easily. Either way, Bellingham wasn't exactly popping at 8am on a Saturday, so traffic was minimal.

We made our way through the relatively flat countryside. Bellingham is a nice area, if you like rolling greenery. Kind of like a woodsy mid-west, I might imagine. We were trading places with a variety of people on tandem bikes. Most of them were many years our senior, yet without hesitation we'd get our doors blown off by the lot of them. Sure, I was rockin' some ageism, but what 30 year old male doesn't? Really, let's be honest here.

After we had come to terms with the inherent plight of cycling among tandem regulars, we reached the half-way point. A food stop in the middle of a parking lot, about 12 miles in (if you were doing the shortest 25 mile loop). Lots of tasty fruit, although it didn't really supply the necessary calories. But maybe the burning sensation I felt wasn't calories.

I snapped a few photos of some interesting tandem bikes. Definitely a lot of envy on my part. Twice the envy of a normal bike, because it's a tandem, you see? I saw plenty of Paketas, Co-Motions, Santanas, and Calfees. I would imagine that every single brand otherwise was represented at this rally, given the current state of tandem manufacturing.

Heading out from the pit stop, we suddenly felt very alone. It turned out that a lot of the riders were opting for the longer mid-range ride. I think it was around 40 miles or so. We were both glad to have not gone with that distance, however, as we were still figuring out how to ride this damn thing and not get tired or overly cranky in the process.

We rolled back into town a while later. My iteration of Skatman by the world-reknowned John Paul Larkin went over well with my wife during a final ascent of a steep hill.

The NWTR team had organized a post-ride lunch across the street from a big farmers market on the main street through town. It was at a restaurant, the name of which I forget. Imagine burgers and northwest things and beers, etc.

We met a nice couple there who seemed to enjoy our youthful, newly found enthusiasm for tandem biking. We envied their numerous tandem trips and matching cycling jerseys. Now, I typically opt for a strict "no friends making" policy, because it's much easier on me and my fragile emotions.

Nonetheless, we scheduled a tentative meetup time for the following day's ride. It was to be a bit of a doozy, at least for us. 50ish miles round trip along Chuckanut Drive, a popular coastal scenic route. We knew it would be nice, but how would we handle the distance?


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

This one weird trick... getting your unpopular bike blog noticed is to call it "unpopular" on Twitter, I guess. It netted me a whopping 27 page views! That's as good as the time Salsa Cycles retweeted my tongue-in-cheek (but still honest!) review of the El Mariachi 3.

Is self-deprecation the only means to success?

P.S. check out this cool thing I invented. I invite Cygolite, Knog, Planetbike or any other light maker to steal this idea, make it, and send me two free ones. You're welcome! And yes, it might need a few improvements, but you get the idea...right?

Monday, September 28, 2015

Tandem bike my tiny head off

This is a late post. Several months late, just so you know. And at the suggestion of my wife, will be broken up into several posts. You know, just to increase the tension...of a tandem rally report.

Captain of a Tandem's Log, Stardate 52131.2:

My wife and I participated in the 2015 Northwest Tandem Rally. They garnered about 800 people, equating of course to about 400 tandem bikes. Quite impressive, I should say. But there aren't many tandem events out there it seems, and tandem people are pretty dedicated, so I think it's perhaps expected.

We start by shipping our bike to Bellingham Cycle Works. Super dope shop. Run by a dude and his wife and maybe his new baby if they can get it to pick up a wrench every now and then. Guy is living the (my) dream. I highly recommend basing your cycling adventure out of his shop. He seems more than willing to accommodate, but obviously give him a call if you plan to send something his way.

Our bike was packed up in a Co-Motion box. Given that Co-Motion ships wheels separately, it was a tight fit. I think our tandem being a size small might have helped us jam the wheels in there. Still, I was pretty damn nervous about what would get damaged in transit.

We used Bikeflights, which gave us a pretty good rate to and from Bellingham. About $70 for shipping a 70lb package, plus only $1 per $100 of insurance, each way. As I mentioned before, it was shipped to Bellingham Cycle Works and they put it together for us. I almost went with assembling myself, but it was nice to support the local bike shop, and after having to walk from our hotel to the shop to pick the bike up, plus being pretty tired from traveling, I think we made the right choice.

So now we have our bike. Bellingham seems to be a pretty straightforward town to cycle in. There was a self-supported ride around town on Friday, the day we picked it up. We didn't partake in that, but opted instead to just pedal back to our hotel. We had also spent the last week leading up to the trip getting our place ready to sell, so we definitely needed to catch up on sleep. Besides, the bigger mass-start ride would be tomorrow morning.

We did stop briefly at The Hub Community Bike Shop. It's accessed off a pseudo-bike path. Out of the dense foliage appears a large shack-like structure. I am oddly drawn to shacks, so it was only natural that I would want to go inside. My understanding wife didn't mind waiting outside while I ventured inward to purchase a used Specialized Turbo saddle for $5 and snap some photos. Later on in the trip, we'd also receive much advice about cycling up to Vancouver from Bellingham. It would be helpful advice, even if the ride itself would prove challenging.

Comfy saddle in hand, it was back to the hotel. One thing we weren't prepared for was hefting our tandem up to the third floor of the hotel. Fortunately, the hotel itself was in on the rally (though not the official hosting hotel, that one being a Best Western across the street). So they didn't mind us just standing the tandem up on end and wheeling it into the elevator. We eventually got the hang of it. Then the tandem was able to just keep us company in our room. Very handy for prepping for the next day's ride.


Hey...something exciting (not really) will show up here, soon.

Something, something, tandem bike.

But for now...remember this?