Riding a tandem in itself makes you unique on the roads and trails. There is not a ride that passes without someone shouting a compliment or joke (the standby is usually “he/ she isn’t pedaling!”).
Given the high visibility of tandem riding, etiquette is very important. When passing it is best to greet others with a hello, good morning, or friendly nod of the head. When overtaking a slower rider it is wise to allow ample space and to avoid any shouts from behind that will startle them. Given the size of a tandem and relative velocity it is not a simple matter of swerving around a startled cyclist.
During a ride this last weekend our editors had the rare run in with “that guy”. You may ask who or what is “that guy”. Well, that guy is the person who seems to go out of their way to be different. They are generally easy to spot and not easy to ignore.
In our editors case “that guy” came in the form of a gentleman in his late 50’s riding a mid-level mountain bike in jean pants and t-shirt. His bike was equipped with rear view mirror and fenders.
On this day he was riding a popular local road bike loop traveling in the center of the bike lane at a speed of 10-12 mph. Our editors were out on a leisurely ride and approached “that guy” from behind at a speed of 20 mph. As the tandem pair neared, the captain moved far left in the lane and passed with ample room. The pair acknowledged “that guy” with a hello and proceeded on their journey.
This is where “that guy” took form. Unbeknown to our editors they had offended him by not yelling “ON YER LEFT” as they approached, a methodology reserved for mountain bike races and strictly shunned by road cyclists. At speed “ON YER LEFT” tends to sound like “OARCGHHH”; not exactly conducive to great communication.
Our editors were stopped a short while later at a stop light. As they awaited the signal change “that guy” approached and began a normal dialogue about how cool the tandem was and the benefits of cycling. Once he engaged the pair in conversation he suddenly and immediately switched from polite to hostile. He berated the tandem pair with insults regarding their ignorance of the “rules of the road” and explained that he could easily have swerved into them to prove a point. Luckily the light switched to green and our editors exited the altercation.
“That guy” was left to fume on his own but nonetheless he left our tandem pair with a bad taste in their mouths. Had they wronged him? Should they have shouted a greeting from behind? The answer, in this case, will never be known. Sometimes “that guy” is simply out to be different.
In the end just remember that the uniqueness of a tandem will make you the lightening rod for both good and bad feedback; be ready and have fun. In the end always remember that on a tandem you are going to be remembered, so make it a good memory