The originally planned World Championship Tandem Mountain Bike race to be held in California was canceled by organizers due to low pre-registrations. Although disappointing to the racers out there the cancellation brings up a good question: Do tandem teams prefer to race or just to ride?
A large number of active cyclists get drawn into bike racing to measure their skill against competition, ride new and exciting terrain under race conditions, and to provide a goal and reason for training.
The problem with racing is it tends to corrupt the whole reason for riding. TandemBicycling.com sponsored Mark and Katarina Koep to race the Kenda Cup West Series where they were able to accumulate enough points to win the series title. In the end we asked them what their overall opinion on the races was:
It was a lot of fun to race the different courses around the state of California but overall our experience was rather negative. Depending on where we were staged within the other classes and the type of course we would be racing we either held up faster groups behind us or were held up by slower groups in front. It is hard enough to ride a tandem mountain bike on single track, add in 100s of other racers and it becomes downright dangerous.
The one benefit of the experience was that we became better riders but we could have probably gained the same results if we simply went out to these different areas for fun.
So why race a tandem? There is no money in it, the turnout of tandem teams is low (1-2 per race), the tandems are lumped in with the single riders who travel at different paces at various points along the course, and in the end it is not that much fun for the dollar.
Keeping it Fun
In response to the cancellation of the World Championships we at Tandem Bicycling suggest that instead of organizing a big race for tandem mountain bike teams promoters focus on organizing a rally. Do provide trophies and skill challenges, such as hill-climbs and maneuvering challenges, while keeping the atmosphere fun and just about tandems. Teams that are competitive can get their thrill in winnning challenges while the others can just join in the fun.
Riding a tandem is more about the pure joy than being the fastest. Let’s ride not race.