In this photo we are about to set out for Passau, Germany, self-contained and self-organized. Well, self-contained except for having our bike cases and the bulk of our luggage shipped ahead to our hotel in Passau. We're riding our Co-Motion Equator (when we bought ours it wasn't called the Equator - it was a Speedster with Gates belts and Rohloff hub). We are wearing our Bike Friday jerseys - we love our Tandem Twosday from Bike Friday and still feel it might very well offer the best overall approach to tandem travel and touring. In Passau we were to meet up with 70 other tandem couples to do a Santana tour down the Danube. In fact we rode 2 Santana tours back to back, from Passau all the way to the Black Sea. We spent a few days in Salzburg prior to heading out to join the group; in Salzburg, our favored hotel is the Sacher. It combines the best of location, service, and quiet restfulness, in our opinion. Anyway, the point is - we don't limit our thinking to any one style of touring, but rather we are open to a variety of approaches with a variety of equipment.
To get back on track: when we first envisioned a small business oriented toward tandem travel and touring, our hope was to generate support for our travels by way of revenue and tax deductions. Well, as you may know, small businesses, at least bicycle related ones, generate precious little revenue, and revenue and tax deductions together do very little to defray travel costs, especially when your tastes run to nice hotels and high end tours!
So, we next thought that at least Tandem Diversity could perhaps generate enough to compensate us a bit for the time we put into working with couples new to tandeming and travel, to help them get started with a bike and with initial travel plans. We've been offering this kind of help for several years. This revenue generator was mostly going to take the form of trip guides for sale here on our website. We felt there might be a pretty significant need and demand for online trip guides. In our own travels we have made use of materials prepared by those who went before us, and in many instances where no such materials were available, we very much wished they were.
Our first travel guide was to be for the Big Island of Hawaii. We had done a self-contained and self-organized tour around the Big Island in 2002; that turned out to be one of our best trips, with many fond memories. It seemed an easy, straightforward tour to write up as our initial effort. So - off we went to Hawaii to research hotels/B&B's, routes, sightseeing, restaurants. At the same time we were in the middle of a project to evaluate a trailer concept for Co-Motion; they want to develop the capability to be self-contained with a trailer put together from the bike travel cases, a concept similar to that first developed by Bike Friday. So, the rig for the Big Island was our Co-Motion Mocha, a machine equipped with Rohloff hub and Gates belt drive, this paired with the experimental trailer.
Among our passions, tandeming and travel are near the top, and often the two are combined. A photo of us taken at the front door of the Hotel Sacher in Salzburg tells much about our approach to tandeming and travel:
New Directions and Future Plans
We certainly had high hopes for this rig. And perhaps ultimately it will not disappoint. But we made some errors on this trip, the most significant of which was: we didn't pay enough attention to weight. We have lots of experience touring with the Tandem Twosday and trailer, and we've never had any issues with that rig, so we thought the experience would translate directly to this outfit. Well, that turned out not to be the case. We just didn't pay enough attention to the weight we were taking along. For one thing, and perhaps most importantly, when we first started touring in the 90's, we each had a small paperback book and between us we had one small camera. Now, we have gotten used to traveling with each having our own phone, a shared lap top between us, each having our own electronic reader, and then at least one shared camera, sometimes two. And of course, don't forget the chargers for all these electronics. No wonder we were heavy!
Add to that the fact that on this Big Island trip we included lots of routes with significant climbing; we wanted to look at some B&B's that were upslope from the main highway. And one final nail in the coffin of this trip so to speak: traffic. Our memories from our round-the-island ride in 2002 were of good shoulders and relatively little traffic. This time we encountered heavy, constant traffic including trucks and people in a hurry and driving fast. Shoulders weren't as wide as we remembered (last time we pulled a Bob trailer and this time we had a trailer 32" wide - to be fair, it wasn't that the shoulders were narrower so much as we were wider) and now there were rumble strips in some areas. We thought this traffic deal through carefully. Chris reminded me that, not only is the island a busier place with more traffic now than it was 11 years ago, but also that tour was done just a few months after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, so tourism and subsequently traffic were way down.
Well, anyway, after a few days of pulling too much weight up too difficult hills in too heavy traffic, we realized: nobody is going to pay us for a guide to this experience. In fact, we wouldn't want anyone to try the experience this way, as we felt it was too dangerous. So, we reinvented ourselves and our little fledgling business on the spot: no more plans to sell guides. Instead we would write about our trips and give away the information. That way we wouldn't feel compelled to advocate touring where we didn't think it was appropriate.
However, that did leave us with the question of how Tandem Diversity would generate income, if at all. Prior to the Hawaii trip we had become online dealers for both Co-Motion Cycles and Atoc/Draftmaster racks. So, we pinned our hopes on these dealerships to generate some revenue and compensate us for the time invested. This actually turned out to be a fun endeavor. Both these companies are pleasant to deal with and they both make excellent products that we enjoy promoting. So, what brought this to an end? Well, we've been doing some writing for Recumbent and Tandem Rider Magazine, including doing tandem reviews, and as soon as we became a dealer for Co-Motion, there went our shot at writing reviews without conflict of interest. Something else came along, too. At Interbike, which we attended in order to write a report for RTR Mag, there was a meeting of some folks interested in possibly forming a tandem trade association. Chris and I right away felt we had some good ideas for implementation of a trade association and we wanted to be involved, so we wrote a proposal for interested parties in the industry (we haven't heard much back yet). We felt we could not be credible in working for a nascent association if we had commercial conflicts of interest, so we've set our dealerships aside, at least for the time being, hopefully to work on the new association, if we are invited to do that.
So, that brings us to today. What are our plans for Tandem Diversity and this website now? Simply stated, we plan for this to be a place to share what we have learned so far in our tandem travels, and what we plan to learn in the future. This sharing may take the form of a simple article about a trip, or possibly a more detailed description, complete with route suggestions and perhaps even GPS tracks. We will freely share those trip experiences. We will also continue to write other articles from time to time, that we hope will be interesting and helpful to the tandeming community. This won't be a blog. In fact, the website builder we are using doesn't support blogs, so if we want to do one, we will need to do it elsewhere. But even though this isn't a blog, feel free to contact us with feedback or comments you might have. Email is the best: email@example.com. And finally, we will hopefully continue to work to offer organized group tours.
The response to our first tour offering, a tandems-only tour in Western Turkey next Fall, with Tour TK has been gratifying. We are full except for one space (room for one more couple). Look for us to keep our eyes out for more group tour opportunities.
So, in a nutshell, well ok, a pretty big nutshell, that's where we are at the moment in our plans for the future of Tandem Diversity. Thanks so much for reading. Please stay with us for the journey. And please consider joining us on tour.