It has been more than thirty-eight years since our tandem biking partnership began as an experiment to have shared family experiences with our children. It has been an ever-evolving, enlarging journey and sometimes not without significant challenges for each of us personally, and as a team.
The captain is a life-long biking enthusiast; the stoker is not. The front half of the bike has ridden almost daily for his fitness and was a regular commuter (8-30 miles round trip depending on the employment site). With many cross-state tours on his single bikes, he is a skilled bike handler (twice to the Carpenter/Phinney training camp in the Colorado Rockies), mechanic (trained and certified at United Bicycle Institute), and avid collector of cycling lore. He also doubles as the Bicycle Data Manager and has kept detailed records of every bike owned and every ride executed for more than 45 years. The back half of the bike would rather chase down tennis balls, functions best as the Social Chairman/Fashion Coordinator, and begs often to stop for pastries, ice cream, garage sales, photos, yarn shops and antique stores. The front half has "home grown" his riding partner by thoughtful, patient and accommodating training. It is due largely to the passionate desire of both for travel and new learning experiences that the collaboration on the bike was formed and continues to develop and expand.
Over the years we have owned 9 different makes of tandems and currently have 14 tandems in our personal collection, three of which are triples. We ride for companionship and fitness most mornings it is above 40 degrees and not raining (a regular 18 mile route through our town). Weekends are for longer rides, 30-50 miles. Unlike our Midwestern and Eastern cousins, our winters are reasonably mild and generally wet in the Pacific Northwest so we are able to ride year round. Our cousins across the South are to be envied their ability to ride in warmth and sunshine! Over the past twenty years we have ridden an average of more than 3000 tandem miles per year, with more than 100,000 feet of climbing per year. Our shortest tandem ride was to the end of our alley; longest one-day and most challenging physically was RAMROD at 156 miles/10,000 feet of climbing.
Some vacation time every year is dedicated to tandem travel and touring. We've done sponsored fund-raising rides, self-designed/self-supported tours of the US and other countries, as well as organized tours with bike travel companies, always mounted on one of our own tandems. Our tandem travels have taken us to 24 foreign countries.
Ever ride off-road? No, never, but we do own an inexpensive mountain tandem to use on logging roads around some property we own.
Any desire to race? Nope. . .unless it's to reach our destination to get out of the cold, rain, wind, swirling dust and, on one morning, dense snowflakes! Well, on some rare occasions we've raced along to get to food! . . . and just for fun, we've raced some river boats in Europe along a levy path.
One of the most satisfying aspects of our tandeming life is assisting other potential tandem couples in their quest to ride together, or to encourage and extend a team's skills and experiences. It has been great fun to offer them informational resources on buying and riding, to lend our bikes for trial runs, to teach basic tandeming skills, to design and share days/weeks of touring, and to cheer when another team joins our ranks. It is now with much joy that we are taking grandchildren into the world of tandeming and we look forward to many more miles pedaling along new roads to new places.
Mark and Chris Owings
Self-Supported Tour down the Oregon Coast, 2001
Midwest Tandem Ralley, 2012
the hills of Burgundy
"Next to a leisurely walk I enjoy a spin on my tandem bicycle. It is splendid to feel the wind blowing in my face and the springy motion of my iron steed. The rapid rush through the air gives me a delicious sense of strength and buoyancy, and the exercise makes my pulse dance and my heart sing." -- Helen Keller, deaf and blind political activist
"When spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle [tandem!] and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking." -- Arthur Conan Doyle, author
"Communication is a skill that you can learn. It's like riding a bicycle or typing. If you're willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life." -- Brian Tracy, author