I’m obsessed with urban cycling in all its variations, but I’ve always felt that riding a tandem bike with your significant other was a misguided attempt at fulfilling a fantasy of a romantic countryside jaunt. I always pictured the couple flying off the handle, each accusing the other of not cooperating. “You’re going too fast (or too slow)!” “I’m pedalling harder than you are!” “Your turns are too sharp!” “[Insert your own tandem-related gripe here.]” Aren’t relationships plenty complicated as is? Wouldn’t we all much rather avoid tense situations, especially if it means having a shouting match in tights?
I know what you’re thinking. Tandem biking aids couple communication! It helps you learn more about your own self! Bla, bla, bla. Ok, fine. But two egos having a go at it on a bike doesn’t exactly strike me as conducive to diplomatic negotiations. And then you have to figure out who should lead. (Oh, gender roles – not you, again! I thought we’d settled this with queer tango!) If the man sits in the front, does that make him macho? And if the woman sits in the front, is she insisting on wearing the pants in the relationship? And there you have it, another disagreement. Typical.
But then, something happened. I listened to couples talk about their tandem bike experiences and it made me realize something. I was overthinking this. When a chain links two sets of pedals, you don’t have much of a choice: you have to find common ground, and follow each other’s rhythm. You need to read your partner’s body language if you want to avoid a sharp turn or a bump. You realize you are at your partner’s mercy, because only one of you can actually slam the brakes: the other has to let themselves be carried away and let go of controlling the situation. So the secret to tandem isn’t communication – it’s physical connection. Now that’s cool.
So. That infamous, visceral connection people feel in the early stages of love, when a relationship is still free of any discord or disagreements, often lost as a relationship progresses? You’ll find it again. There’s a place of stillness you’ll reach when you go for a ride with your partner, and you’ll get there effortlessly thanks to physical chemistry. The mechanics of two people simultaneously pedalling and striking a balance (literally) is not unlike shutting your brain off, and leaving your ego behind. In love, we can talk for hours and not find a solution. In tandem, you have no choice but to team up. No choice but to adapt. No choice but to get in sync. Because if you don’t, well… you’ll fall off.
So, this Valentine’s, don’t fall off the bike. Tandem cycle to fall in love all over again.
If you want to lubricate your love with a little wine, you can always strap on a bicycle wine rack!