My honey and I celebrated what we consider our one-year anniversary yesterday by participating in the same event we did last year when we got together. We rode the Habitat for Humanity Halloween century ride in Durham. Since it was Halloween, we decided to dress up as nerdy, matching, tandem bicycle riders:
We somehow fit the length of the tandem into the back of my old Honda wagon, tying down the rear hatch. This meant that we were directly inhaling exhaust in the car, a pretty nauseating way to wake up. The air was heavy with mist alternating with rain, but at least it was warm. The mood at Durham Bulls Ballpark where the rode started and finished was upbeat among the couple hundred riders despite the thickening rain. I think people get excited by the upcoming challenge, and by the presence of so many other riders, and probably get off even more on all of the bikes and gear to check out (I get off on sweet bikes as much as the next lycra’d guy, and was pretty excited to see a gorgeous randonnuer-style bike hand-built by a local builder called Coho Bikes). There was even a couple of fun Halloween costumes among the riders – a Calvin and Hobbes pair, and a woman with a pink machine gun who somehow rode atop her clipless road pedals in high-heels.
We identified the two other two tandem pairs before we departed. Among us we had the notable west coast tandem builders covered – Burley (us), Santana, and a lovely Co-Motion Speedster with couplers and disc brakes – just a little drool-inducing. I have to say that, my bike lust notwithstanding, we performed quite well on the old Burley Duet.
I love any reason to ride as long as possible, and an organized century is as good a reason as any – perhaps better, as it has an air of collective excitement. I personally like riding long days like century rides because so much happens over the long expanse of time. It feels like a novel with many chapters, a large cast of characters, recurring themes, highs and lows, many changes of place and scenery. Here’s a few reasons to ride an organized century:
1. Another reason to ride a bike.
2. Explore new roads. Tired of the same old loop? Join a ride and get a map to miles and miles of bike-friendly (one hopes) road you never knew about. This route brought us along quite rural roads northwest of the city of Durham, through Durham, Person and Granville counties, and through hills much more challenging (and therefore in my opinion, more rewarding) than the roads I normally ride in adjacent counties.
3. See other cyclists. Cycling can be a lonely pursuit, as all it really needs is one rider, one bike, and some free time. Seeing hundreds of other cyclists is reassuring to me in that there’s proof that what I choose to do isn’t so unusual and that car-culture isn’t solely dominant.
4. Challenging yourself. Riding 100 miles, or any length much longer than you’re used to, is hard, but then it wouldn’t an accomplishment if it wasn’t hard.
5. Benefit rides raise money for good causes.
Reasons to ride a century on a tandem:
1. Six hours closely connected to your partner. At least, this works out for us, since we still seem to be in that honeymoon phase, and expect it to last long after the actual honeymoon.
2. Share the pain and effort.
3. Sing-alongs make the miles tick off.
4. Tandems are a conversation piece. I have a tandem blog, so I obviously already enjoy talking about tandeming. On a ride with hundreds of other people, I get to talk about it a lot.
I’ve personally done a few organized centuries, and few 100-mile days while touring, but never have I ridden 100 miles on a tandem. I am proud to say that we finished the whole thing together in good spirits, despite the rain of the first 50 miles, and the dubious shape of our legs after a few sparse weeks of biking before the event. I had no doubt that we could do it, but it’s still gratifying to have it behind us, and also to have the memories that accumulated throughout the day. It was my partner’s first century (we did the 60-mile route last year), and thus her first tandem century, too. I’m optimistic that the experience will also elicit her first blog post here on Honking In Traffic.
For now, I’ll leave you with the tandem at rest against the coolest bike rack in Durham: