The Tandem Experience

It started out as just a bike ride on a new bike.  However, the experience became something quite different once we got rolling.

I have had my Trek T-50 tandem in my garage for 20 years.  I bought it after a tour my then 14-year-old son and I took in Arizona.  He was intrigued by the two-seaters and me, sensing a way to connect with my youngest son, found one in a Minnetonka bike shop one December Saturday.  He and I rode it on weekends and in local rallies during his high school years.  Then, over the years, I’d tried to find partners that matched up (usually girl friends) on the “stoker” seat.  It rarely worked.

Until Pam came along.  Not only did she ask to ride the bike, she enjoyed it.  Within a few weeks we had logged nearly 100 miles on the heavy bike.  Pam is an excellent (read that: speedy) rider with great balance and power.  Putting her on the second seat, while she didn’t have steering, braking or gearing control, was a chance to have her power us.

For reference, the “stoker” is the second seat and usually the smaller of the two riders, but a power source.  the front seat, or “captain,” steers, shifts and brakes for the whole vehicle.  Most captain-stoker pairs are either husband-wife, father-son, mother-daughter pairs.  You get the idea: this is really a test of a relationship and revolves around trust and communication.

That’s what makes this pairing with Pam so special: admittedly, we are in a romantic relationship, but the tandem has shown us how to communication, both verbally and non-verbally and have trust in one another. she caught on immediately to how to cue me on when to shift and brake and when to tell her what we were doing on launch and stops.

This is a great metaphor for any relationship: when tied together with a common task or goal, sometimes your instincts and experience kick in without any prodding. It is about doing something together, but more importantly, succeeding together on an equal playing field, and teamed up.

We all think we know teamwork.  And many of us think we know our partner or coworker.  Yet until we are in a position to actually have to engage in the give-and-take of doing something that won’t succeed without working together, we really don’t know, or can’t realize, what it is to “team up.”

Thanks to Pam, I’ve learned a lot about me, us and navigating together.


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