Posts Tagged 'wedding'

Hitched!

A lot has happened since we’ve been away and not blogging on Honking in Traffic. Since the last post back in some distant dark ages, I have had a career change that has affected this blog in two ways – one, I’m not sitting at a lame, thankless desk job all day reading bicycle-interest news, and two, I no longer have the 20-mile bicycle commute to Chapel Hill that had often inspired these posts. (Now I have a 5-minute walk or 1-minute bike ride up to the little shop where I’m now a baker). The only sad casualty of this change is that we no longer have a long tandem commute together, and I have to kiss my sweetie good-bye for the entire day, or more usually, I’m up and baking long before she’s awake.

However, this is not the biggest change, nor the biggest news. The big news is that we are no longer planning a wedding, nor concocting ways to incorporate a tandem into the event, nor planning a tandem honeymoon. In fact, this tandem couple is now a married tandem couple. And we have just returned from the tandem honeymoon after riding away from the ceremony on our lovely new tandem, with a bicycle procession following. We’ll be posting stories and pictures from our two-week tandem tour of North Carolina. For now, here’s how the bicycle-related activities for the wedding went down.

In planning a spring wedding in North Carolina, we were pretty conservative when it came to weather. We chose indoor locations for the ceremony and reception afterward. Indeed, a good chance of rain and thunderstorms were in the forecast, much like any day here in May and June. The one chance we took was planning a bicycle procession following the ceremony. Regardless of the forecast, the sky was promising, so during the morning before the ceremony, my friend Trev and I rode two tandems out to the church and shuttled as many extra bicycles as we could round up for others to take part, while my bride was doing all those things a bride needs to do before a wedding – I just had to ride bikes and tie my tie.

Thankfully, the forecast rain held off, and the bicycle procession processed as planned. As we left the church, everyone sang “Daisy, a bicycle built for two.” I heard that this song may actually bode ill like an unlucky number, but it’s pretty and fitting and we sang it anyway. Last fall, I posted a query about what to do regarding my bride’s dress – how was she to ride a bike in the wedding dress? We received a lot of great advice, and ultimately she chose to change into a more bike-friendly outfit rather than wrestle with the bustle and risk getting it all messed it in the chains. As guests gathered around and blew bubbles, we led off the procession on the tandem. We had a four-mile ride through the southern Alamance countryside with more than a dozen friends. It was joyous and calm, and about the only time you’d see me without a helmet (but yes, I did change into my Sidis).

Of course, before we took off on our bike touring honeymoon, we had to fill our bellies with wedding cake, which in our case were classic New England “whoopie pies” which we baked ourselves:

Another element to our wedding was that rather than having a typical gift registry, we announced a “wishing well” for contributions to our new tandem and honeymoon. We had picked out a beautiful new Co-Motion Speedster at All Star Bicycles in Raleigh, and the contributions from our family and friends set us off right. It’s a substantial upgrade from the classic Burley Duet we’d been riding – much lighter, quicker handling, stable in all conditions, and a perfect investment for our future. Here’s me ready to take off on the trip, two weeks before today and without the funny tan lines:

We’ll be writing more about our experiences with it during the past two weeks of fully-loaded bike touring through the mountains of western North Carolina, but for now we’ve returned safely and happily and excited to keep riding together. Since this is a bike blog, I focused on the more bike-y aspects of our wedding event. It remains to say that the most important and affirming component of the wedding was the overwhelming love and support of our family and friends who attended and helped out. It was a bizarre feeling to have that much attention and affection focused on us, but we soaked it up and hope to give it back to our community over the coming years.

A bike for every occasion

It’s been a little while since a blog post, mainly because the bicycle riding, especially the tandem riding, has been a bit sparse lately. The concurrence of rainy weather, illness, odd work hours, and packed weekends has had an adverse affect on the long bike commute and on weekend rides through the countryside. But we’re healthy again, the schedule is clearing up, and we have a century ride booked for this weekend, so it’s time to get back on the bicycle (and back on the blogocycle).

The century ride is Durham’s Habitat for Humanity Halloween benefit ride. One thing that makes this ride special, other than raising money to raise a roof, is that my fiancee/stoker and I did this together last year, and it was then that we realized that we needed to ride together for the rest of our lives. Last year: single bikes, this year: tandem, next year: wedding rings + tandem.

Speaking of weddings, what kept us off the bike and driving in cars all this past weekend was two separate weddings. Weddings give you a chance to have reunions with friends and families, meet new folks, and make a lot of small talk about whatever’s at the tip of your tongue. For me, that means talking a lot about bikes. It also means getting a lot of funny reactions. I’m still surprised at how many people think that lycra cycling shorts are silly, pretentious affectations and don’t realize how functional they are (I can’t tell you how conversation turns to lycra shorts at a wedding, but somehow it does. Thank the open bar, perhaps).

I also forget that for people who don’t own one bike, their eyes will bug out when I casually mention that we have seven bikes between us. This sort of comment usually comes when people ask about where we live and I describe our house as “comfortable old mill house that has just enough room for us and the dog, and all of our bikes.” I don’t think about why I have so many bikes (I am more the culprit than my honey) until I get into these conversations and have to explain.

It just happens that one bike leads to another. I acquire one bike, use it for everything, then acquire another for a slightly more specialized purpose, and never get rid of the old bikes. I don’t feel as though I’m acquisitive, as it’s taken years for me to collect my bikes, but now I seriously do have a bike for every occasion.

For many years, I only had a mountain bike – my trusty steel Stumpjumper that I got in ’94 when I was a junior in high school. I used it for everything: trial riding, daily transportation, long road rides, even raced a triathalon on it with slick tires. Then I got into touring in 2000, which is when I purchased the Co-Motion Americano, which has now taken me cross-country on fully loaded tours a few times, and makes a perfect commuter bike. Then, there’s the Co-Motion Co-pilot which I got when I decided I’d been biking slowly long enough and could reasonably afford a speedy racing bike, and travel enough that I wanted couplers. Oh yeah, and I got the tandem because I’d always wanted one of those, too, and now I have a great partner to ride it with. Spaced out over time, it doesn’t seem like I’ve bought a lot of bikes, but describing the bikes hanging around in various places in my house to people makes it seem like I live in a bike jungle.

I’m still riding that fully-rigid gray-green steel Stumpjumper. Gone are the long worn-out umma-gumma tires (weird) and the matching gray saddle and grips (actually kind of attractive), but it’s been easy to maintain. Never replaced it with an aluminum bike or any sort of suspension or carbon or yadda yadda, though wouldn’t it be nice someday… Once, I was home from college in the summer when this bike was about 4 years old, and I ran into an old classmate of mine on the trails. He was racing mtn bikes at UVM or wherever and was like, “‘sup guy [that's a Maine thing I guess, calling people 'guy'], still ridin’ that stumpie? why don’tcha get a new bike already.”

Well, guy, it’s 15 years old now and still does the job. In fact, it might be doing more of the job now, as my 20-mile tandem commute is getting phased out for the winter season by the park-n-ride option: park the car on the outskirts of town, then have a nice 15-minute leg stretcher into the office. Yesterday, I decided to “innovate” this ride usually undertaken on the touring/commuter bike. I chose the old stumpjumper, and followed my typical route through Carrboro’s streets. I realized the stumpjumper would enable me to take a short off-road dirt path to avoid the sketchy part of Estes Dr (a narrow stretch of heavily-traveled road devoid of any bicycle facilities save a flaccid share-the-road sign though it’s the only northern connector between Carrboro and Chapel Hill; and it’s the site of the only place I’ve ever been hit by a car):


Not only did the trail take me off the road, it inspired me to detour fully on trails on the way back to my car after work – a two-hour trail odyssey of some of the finest miles of tight, twisty single track in the southeast. While the 20-mile ride home is a great way to slowly let the stresses of the day fade away as the scenery of cow pastures and corn fields rolled past, the constant attention-demanding trails and psychedelic fall leaf colors in the woods makes work feel like the office never happened. This might have to be my new winter bike route.

Something old, something new

Between the two of us, my partner and I don’t consume much. Except for rent and utilities, by far our greatest expenditure is on food. There’s just not much else out there necessary or interesting to buy. This does not mean that I don’t have a deeply inculcated consumer impulse. I get fixated on acquiring certain possessions, thinking it will somehow make my life better, or fill in a hole where I feel like I’m lacking – and as such, the advertisers have done their job.

It makes sense that I would feel the need to acquire new stuff, or at least stuff new to me. But it’s not the marketing of specific products that makes me want to buy and obtain, rather it’s that the culture of marketing seems to have fostered my acquisitive nature. How do I know this? Well, the thing I’m preparing to purchase, though still wrestling with the decision in my mind and with my partner, is a new tandem, as I’ve mentioned here before in the context of it being our wedding registry. When was the last time you saw a tandem advertised? Of course if you’re reading this and you’re not one of my personal friends whose arm I’ve twisted to read my blog, you may in fact be interested in bikes, and maybe even interested in tandems specifically, and therefore are exposed to bicycle advertisements. However, I definitely am interested in tandems, but I don’t recall being exposed to any tandem advertisements recently.

The bike industry is not shy in advertising, and it is quite relentless in releasing new product lines each year that are slight modifications, often mere cosmetic/style changes from the previous seasons, in order to get people to replace the old with the new. This marketing I am definitely exposed to, even if it’s not specifically selling tandems.

Tangentially, the style of the street feeds into the consumer impulse, that is, the culture sells itself. When I lived in Chicago, I wanted to ride around on a fixed gear “urban” bike, as was the fashion – and I did, too, and then I sold that bike when I moved back to the country (though I’ve seen single speeds and fixed gears doing long rural rides down here in the NC hills, even centuries, it just doesn’t seem like it would be that fun or useful to me). Sure, I appreciated the simplicity of having less moving parts to keep clean and functional in the dirty city of the long winter, but in the end, nothing is more functional than my touring bike with full fenders and racks.

One of the style movements within bike culture is that of “vintage” bikes. The Let’s Go Ride a Bike blog is sort of in the middle of exploring the style and utility of vintage bikes. Like diving through bins in used clothing stores, the appreciation of and search for high quality and attractive older bikes is nothing new. Steel Bridgestones that have now spawned the community around Rivendell became vintage collectors’ pieces the year they went off the US market in 1994 – it was primed to do this since their chief marketing director Grant Peterson was already resisting new trends and embracing vintage design. Acquiring vintage bikes is in a sense more noble than simply expressing a fashion – it’s a culturally couth way of consuming and recycling at the same time. It prevents all that imported metal and rubber and plastic from ending up in land fills, preserves some historic design, and reminds us how little has actually changed about bikes. Some people choose the vintage route for the practicality and longevity of some older designs, as well as the cost savings. Then there’s the style aspect.

What I’m wrestling with is my desire, a huge lust, that I’ve been harboring since I first rode a Co-Motion Big Al back in 2000: that I must a shiny, new, top-end tandem. I sicken myself a little when I think about it. I’ve picked up the magazine Bicycling the past few months after a hiatus of many years, and I’m surprised by what I see. Besides absolutely horrendous writing (like this misogynistic and rival-baiting masquerade of journalism), what really turns me off are the short bicycle reviews where they give a flaccid description of a new bike, some snappy but useless pros and cons. It’s not these elements of the reviews that bother me. Rather, it’s that when they review the latest carbon contraption, they don’t bat an eye at the price tags of these bikes. $10K-20K! The reviewers don’t even comment on it. I think if you’re looking at a bike that retails for $20 grand, the first thing one should ask is not how compliant the seat stays are under the force of a professional racer’s acceleration, but whether the performance and new trinkets really add that much value to your life. And, that distaste forces me to ask myself just that about a spendy new tandem.

As it stands, my honey and I have a very capable, “vintage” rig. A 1991 Burley Duet, considered a fine standard of the “entry-level” tandem market at the time. The stout steel frame handles extremely predictably, is remarkably stable at low and high speeds, absorbs the road but has no noodle feeling whatsoever, has sensible, durable components (48-spoke wheels!), smart design features (I love the pump peg, and the drum brake, but we can debate whether it really is a good idea to to have the right hand brake actuate both the front and rear rim brakes, while the left operates the drum brake, or whether it’s not). It’s heavy, probably around 45lbs, but it could probably survive a short military engagement. Every time I get excitedly talking about acquiring a new tandem, and then the talk comes around to the cost, H reminds me of how dependable and comfortable the Burley is, and then I’m back to convincing her and myself why I would want to lay out months of income for a new one.

There are a few reasons I’d like a new tandem that involve the bicycle itself. First, a new tandem would allow us to get fitted properly together (though the Burley feels fine as is). Second, we could get it spec’ed with the latest, yet still practical components. A new Co-Motion, even a steel one, would weigh about 15 pounds less – this may be the greatest reason. I’d also like a tandem with traveler couplers. I already ride a Co-Motion Co-Pilot (which I actually bought used with great success/luck on eBay) and have flown with it on numerous occasions. The couplers on the tandem have the added benefit of being able to break it down if you really really have to in a pinch in order to fit it in a car or some other space not normally equipped to handle its size.

Perhaps the most compelling reason to get a new tandem is the romantic notion that a new tandem would be ours and only ours, and would achieve some sort of metaphorical status in our relationship – an active tool and symbol of the work we’re be putting in together toward our continued happiness. On the other hand, the tandem is just an object, so I wonder if somehow, insidiously, my deeply-rooted consumer nature (which, to her credit, my honey does not share with me) is adopting these tones of symbolic grandeur to justify its base motive. And to what end? Sarah Goodyear, an editor of Streetsblog recently reminded me of an apt tandem adage: “No matter which way you’re going in your relationship, you’ll get there faster on a tandem.” This goes both ways.

The other morning, as we were tandem commuting to work, my honey and I got to debating whether we really need a new tandem. I went on about tech (wouldn’t disk brakes be great?), about lower weight (we’d shoot up hills!), about the couplers, about being able to choose a shiny new color rather than this dull blue. She was basically unaffected by any of these arguments. Then, as we were finishing the commute in Chapel Hill, a single older woman on a bicycle caught up with us and was enthused that we were riding a tandem. What she was really excited to talk about was that she and her husband had recently acquired a brand-spanking new Co-Motion (with couplers, no less!) and that it was the best ride ever. When she rode off, my honey tried to think of how I might have planted that woman, like, I somehow paid her off to bike up to us right then like some tandem marketing angel. Of course I could not have, but it also might have worked.

Fashion training

After reading my post about departing our wedding ceremony on tandem, my honey said, Of course, we can ride off into the sunset on the tandem. Then she asked how I thought that was supposed to happen in her wedding gown with its train.

My initial response, that I’d leave that detail to her, was met with an Oh no, you want it, you have to help figure it out. I’ve blackened enough pants cuffs and ripped enough inseams up the knee over the years to acknowledge this is a more pressing issue for the wedding gown. This is one of the reasons why I’m glad I’ve been reading Dot and Tricia’s excellent blog Let’s Go Ride a Bike. As a rule, of all the issues they cover – commuting, empowerment, bike reviews, products, events – I’m least inclined to be interested in their stories of on-the-bike clothing fashions and strategies for riding in cute skirts and such. Shorts or cut-offs are fine for me up to about 5 miles of riding, more than that I choose lycra cycling gear (I also live among the hills of rural Alamance Co, NC, so I’m not needing to cycle in nice clothes for date-nights, and tweed-themed rides haven’t really taken off here).

Now I’m hoping these ladies might offer some tips for securing a bridal gown from getting wound up in the drivetrain. Extra complication: there’s a chain on both sides in the stoker’s position, drivetrain on the right, timing chain on the left. Alas, the tandem is not equipped with chain- and wheel-guards and step-through frames like the Dutch bikes Dot and Tricia favor, but I’m not much for the slow bike movement, either.

Tandem wedding

One of the interesting aspects of writing a blog is seeing how readers find that blog. WordPress tells me that people searching the term “tandem wedding” have come across my blog. Given how new and unread my blog is, it’s likely that only one person actually searched this and accessed my blog.

One thing I may be misunderstanding is whether this search term refers to a tandem bicycle themed wedding, a la this too-cute-for-the-Captain tandem cake topper:

…or, whether this term means weddings conducted in tandem:

Yes indeed, I have mentioned once or twice here that I’m planning a wedding. I have not said here that I’m interested in a tandem-themed wedding, but I did mention in my very first post that I’m pushing the notion for a tandem wedding registry, in the hopes that friends and family will want to pitch in to help us get a new Co-motion. It seems clear that a tandem-themed wedding is a natural sequitor for the tandem couple getting married, right?

Just yesterday, my honey and I met with an amazing caterer – Home on the Range – who gave us advice about selecting food and choosing a venue. We’re looking for cost-effective, fun-maximizing, creative solutions, and the caterer had many wonderful, and selfless tips – like, hire someone else, or, make your own food! Seriously, working with someone who knows food, local procurement, the seasons, and venues makes this process a lot less daunting. Maybe even enjoyable, especially when she sends us home with her mole sauce, sweet and sour pickles, and chocolate-chip cookies to taste.

While the three of us chatted about various options for how to organize the big day, one thought cycled around in the back of my mind. For a couple reasons I kept silent about it – a) How much does the groom really want to get involved in all these yadda-yadda wedding details that are best left to the ladies; and b) How concerned with the details should the masculine groom really let himself get?

Unfortunately, this is where my sensitive side, my love of bicycles, and my appreciation for “symbolism” will get the better of me. My silly dream (of course!) is to depart from the wedding site as newlyweds together on a (newlywelded) tandem, and cycle to the reception. Even better would be to have a an entire bicycle procession made up of our cycling friends. Occasionally, I felt this silent little dream slip away when talk of convenience suggested we have the wedding and the reception in the same place. Riding in a circle around the church wouldn’t be quite as dramatic.

Riding away on the wedding tandem – that’s the extent to my idea of tandem-themed wedding so far. And it’s definitely just going to be the two of us up there at the altar.



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