Riding as Partners

[I’m surprised by the number of couples I talk with who both ride, but choose not to ride together for reasons related to speed, performance, etc.; I happen to think they’re missing out on one of the most enjoyable aspects of bike riding. I don’t often republish old posts, but this subject has been on my mind lately, and I’ve written about it more than once, so instead of reinventing the wheel, here are my thoughts on the subject from last year. —Alan]

They say there’s nothing quite like a long ride on a tandem to shine a bright light on a relationship. If the relationship is good, the ride will be too, but if the relationship has its problems, well…

Riding together on individual bikes is not too unlike riding a tandem as a couple. In other words, it can be a real joy or a real pain depending upon how it’s approached. We’ve been riding together for a number of years, and though we’ve experienced a few bumps along the way, we’re fortunate to have a harmonious relationship on the road in which we read each other’s subtle cues and ride together with little effort and zero conflict. We only arrived at this on-road relationship through many, many miles of practice, and lots of talking about how to better communicate and take care of each other while riding our bicycles. Following are a few of the things we think are key to riding smoothly and safely as a couple:

Someone needs to lead and someone needs to follow – It’s usually best if a ride leader is determined before departure to reduce the likelihood of confusion or conflict on the road. Typically the more experienced rider leads.

The slower person determines the pace – The slower person should always determine the ride pace, even if they’re in the following position. It’s the leader’s responsibility to be sure they don’t drop the follower or inadvertently push the pace beyond the comfort level of the slower rider.

The slower person should be on an equal or faster bicycle – If at all possible, the slower rider should be on the faster bike to reduce the speed differential between the two riders. It’s common to see the less-experienced, less-fit rider on the heavier, slower bike, which only undermines the pacing rule above.

The less experienced rider sets the comfort level of the route (traffic levels, infrastructure, distance) – It’s up to the less-experienced rider to determine what type of roads they’re willing to traverse. The leader should never pressure the less-experienced rider into situations in which they’re uncomfortable.

The leader always defers to the less experienced rider unless it’s a safety issue – A less-experienced rider may not understand what they’re getting into and find themselves feeling overwhelmed once they’re on the road. It’s imperative that the leader defers to the follower and respects their need to turn back, take an alternate route, or whatever is necessary to reduce their unease.

Develop a consistent method of communicating (hand signals, voice, visual) – It’s important to learn each other’s signals and cues. Agree upon a set of simple hand signals to indicate upcoming turns, slowing, debris in road, car-behind, etc.

A sure way to put a quick end to a riding relationship is to simply head out the door without a clear understanding of each other’s expectations. Acknowledging each other’s expectations and agreeing upon a plan for the ride, while always putting the other rider’s needs above your own, is the most effective way to ensure a healthy, long-term riding relationship.

WSJ on Cycle Chic and City Bikes

Today’s Wall Street Journal has an article on cycle chic and city bikes.

Read the article

A Little Toughie

Folding bikes present unique challenges to builders: they must fold down to a compact and easy to carry package; they must be light enough to pick up with one hand; they need to be tough enough to withstand the rigors of folding and unfolding thousands of times over the life of the bike; and, of course, they need to ride well.

While the Brompton isn’t the lightest folding bike on the market, it’s surely one of the toughest (I’ve read about Bromptons with over 40,000 miles on the frame). I thought I’d share a few close-ups of the Brommie frame. The frames are made of steel and brazed in England, and as you can see, the hinges and fittings are quite robust. The fact that the bike is so tough makes it a tad heavy (there’s a lightweight, titanium model available for a considerable upcharge), but there’s no mistaking the fact that, with reasonable care, the frame should last almost indefinitely. Pretty cool.

Schwalbe Manufacturing Process

Here’s an interesting video from Schwalbe on their manufacturing process.

[via The Recumbent Blog]

Night Sky in Winter

I was going through my archives and ran across this photo taken on January 4, 2010. It reminded me how much I enjoy riding home in the dark. Summer is fun, but winter sunsets are sublime…

The New Skateboard

We live in a middle-class suburb; once something hits our neighborhood, you can pretty much assume it’s squarely in the mainstream. For many years, the vehicle of choice among the adolescents in our area was the skateboard. You couldn’t go anywhere without seeing little packs of kids practicing their kick flips and doing their best to deface public property. These days, we’re seeing fewer and fewer skateboards. It took a while for it to sink in, but it recently dawned on me that the skateboard is slowly being replaced by the fixed gear bicycle (or one of its SS variants) in this age group. At least where we live, it appears the fixie is the new skateboard.

Those of us who care deeply about the bicycle and bicyclists hate to see bike riders behaving badly. We have the feeling that any bike rider who is riding inconsiderately or recklessly reflects badly on the rest of us. It’s easy to blame these new, young riders for their reckless behavior, but it begs a question for me: How can we expect riders to understand the rules of the road and behave like vehicle operators when they’ve had no more training in bike riding than they had in skateboarding? For them, the bike is just another way to fit in with the crowd and get around to meet up with friends. It’s really no different than how many of us used our bicycles when we were teenagers. Given the complete lack of education on this subject, expecting these young people to understand vehicular cycling is totally unrealistic.

So, how do we fix it? Certainly, blaming the kids is not the answer. And expecting non-cycling parents to fill the void is unrealistic as well. The solution has to be education. Most of these kids are not from cycling families, so it will probably need to happen through the public schools. And the earlier we can educate kids on bicycling best practices, the more likely they’ll develop good habits that will carry forward into adolescence and beyond.

So, the next time you see a young person weaving through pedestrians, cutting across lanes against traffic, or blowing a stop sign, remember that they know not what they do. And also remember that we’re highly likely to see more of the same in the future unless we help young people understand the rules of the road by implementing more bicycle training programs.

Gallery: Jeff’s Step-Thru Raleigh Sports

This is a 1970’s Ladies Raleigh Sports. Bicycle was made in Nottingham, England. My wife has been wanting a Raleigh for quite some time. I was able to acquire the bicycle from the original owner and present it to my wife for our recent wedding anniversary. I added the Velo Orange Tourist Bars and cork grips. A rear rack, Barley Bag, front light, and Rivendell bell are on the way. Nothing fancy, just a little piece of bicycle history that we are proud to restore and enjoy. —Jeff

© 2011 EcoVelo™