Can You ride tandem?
In the early eighties we took up cycling. Not the ATB type stuff, regular road going tourers. Miss W chose a Dawes, and I had a Raleigh. After a few years, in 1986, we had the idea of taking the bikes to a gîte holiday in the Dordogne, and to share it with our cycling friends, Ivan and Cathy Ward.
And that’s where our ambitions to own a tandem began. Ivan & Cathy were the proud owners, or perhaps inheritors, of a classic Claud Butler tandem of unknown vintage and provenance, but possibly pre war or early forties. Ha! How could that old lump outpace our modern lightweight steeds?
But it did.
Now, Ivan is an experienced cyclist who knows all about the arcane world of fixed wheels, gearing ratios and so on - he even owns a unicycle – so his choice of steed was well suited to the task. The old Claud, with the rolling resistance and wind resistance of a single bike, but powered by two, made it an ideal tourer on this terrain, with the extra weight and momentum ironing out minor hills. It was only on sustained ascents that the single bikes excelled, and then the more powerful rider pulled well ahead of the other, so it was not too sociable.
We became sold on the idea of a tandem, and the following January we saw the very thing. Richardsons cycle shop in St Ives had a brand new Dawes Super Galaxy for sale in the window, and, being midwinter, at a bargain price. A brief trial, exchange of cash, and we rode it home.
There followed thirteen years of memorable holidays – and after a stressful day at work a twenty mile spin before dinner worked off the blues, and we could chat easily as we sped through the countryside. From 1987 to 1999 we covered thousands of miles, many of them in France, even venturing to Mont Ventoux (where the tandem’s uphill disadvantages overcame us long before we reached Tommy Simpson’s memorial).
And then, suddenly, we stopped cycling. After our TGO Challenge in 1999 we had one last foray along the Loire Valley and then Diana (Diana Dawes – geddit?) was suspended from storage hooks in the garage and slowly gathered a film of dust and corrosion for the next ten years.
We had become walkers.
Last year I became unwell. I’ve got better again, thank the Lord, but not quite fully ‘hill fit’. What to do? Lots of short local walks, obviously, but these get a bit predictable after a while. Gym? No way!!! Swimming? Full of kids and Swine Flu – or worse. Then, looking through some old photos, I saw one of Diana. Perfect! Exercise - covering lots of country - pubs, picnics. Just the ticket, so off I went into the gloomy depths of the garage to seek her out.
After moving a couple of lawnmowers and various other bits of redundant machinery I could discern Diana’s form deep in the shadows. She looked at me reproachfully through her film of cobwebs like a skeletal Miss Havisham surveying her betrayer.
The years had not been kind. Damp and a roof leak had allowed water do its worst. She was covered in dust. The once gleaming alloy cranks and rims were dull and spotted with corrosion. Rust had appeared in the chrome and paintwork. Cables seized, chains dry and rusted. A full restoration was required.
So a couple of weeks ago I set to work and stripped the bike down to the frame. Amazingly, the only things I have had to replace are the pedals (sealed bearings shot, and not possible to service). I managed to get a period look-alike set (Campagnolo type rat traps with new chrome toe clips) but this time with user serviceable bearings. The rest has come up a treat. The bottom brackets were quite worn, but with a regrease and new ball bearings adjusted up OK. I even took the Suntour MkII derailleur apart and fitted new rollers, but apart from that it had no noticeable wear at all.
Today the drive train was installed, set up and adjusted. Seat pins and saddles are in, and brakes and all cables connected.
Not long to go now. Next it’s the electrics (1980’s Byka halogen dynamo system with auto battery backup. Very advanced stuff at the time). I would crack on and get it finished tomorrow …
… but it’s Sunday – and we’re going for a walk!