Yesterday afternoon, my fiancé borrowed a tandem bike for us to road test. His selling points were: a) we could bike together AND still have a decent conversation (when we take our separate road bikes, he’s always way ahead of me), and b) being the cyclist behind him, I wouldn’t have to work so hard. “SOLD,” I said.
And so on a sunny Sunday afternoon, we set off for a relaxing tandem bike ride. Only it wasn’t as relaxing as I had hoped. I had gotten used to riding my little town bike for more than a year and a half now, and so I know it’s little nuances. I know how much space I need to make a turn, I know to stand every time I come across a bumpy road. But with a tandem, you can’t work independently. When the front cyclist pedals, you pedal with him. When he stops, so do you. Oh my, this lack of control on my part began to freak me out!
And then there was the issue of the handle bars. They were a tad too close to me for my comfort. On my road bike my arms are at a relaxed, slightly bent angle, but on this tandem I felt my arms were bent at 90 degrees—I was a T-rex on a bike! Oh the panic. And so, the whiny voice box turned on. And every little complaint that could come out of my mouth, unapologetically flew out. “You’re going to make us fall!” “I’m wearing bike shorts, and if we crash, I’ll have no protection whatsoever!” “My feet have come off the pedals!!!!!” “You’re going way too faaaaaaast!”
The unfamiliarity of it all, the discomfort of my arm position, and my inability to work as part of this tandem turned me into this high-pitched, scaredy cat nagger who saw nothing but the negative side of this supposedly fun experience. I didn’t like how I sounded or felt. And so I put an end to it. I asked Stefan to stop so that we could adjust the handlebar distance. He patiently did as I asked. I took a deep breath, and in my most honest approach, told him why I was scared and uncomfortable. He hugged me and promised he wouldn’t go so fast, and that he would warn me if he was going shift gears, stop or start pedaling. I think that was all we needed to restore my head back on my shoulders. That and the now adjusted handlebar distance.
As we started to ride again, this time with more trust on my part, the FUN switch turned back on. Before long, Stefan didn’t even tell me we needed to stop or start pedaling. I only had to feel it, then I knew to stop or start (of course, just to hold is end of the deal, he kept saying so anyway). Then we were laughing and joking, holding hands, and hugging, and the discomfort of the first few minutes of the ride was a thing of the past.
When faced with discomfort, there are two ways to deal: the ugly way (think high-pitched scaredy cat nagger), or the rational way (see picture below of the more rational me). The next time something or someone is upsetting you, take a moment to step back and understand why it’s (or he/she is) bothering you. Talk to the person involved; don’t expect them to guess what you’re feeling. Then make the change to help better the situation—whether it’s fixing the bike or your attitude. I did both and thankfully so, because what could have turned out as a big fight filled with blaming, whining, and possibly tears, turned into a wonderful Sunday bike ride which, true to Stefan’s promise, was filled with conversation and not so much work on my part.