I hadn't ever really thought about owning a tandem. It's not one of those things that immediately springs to mind...
'Feed the cat'
'Wash the dishes'
'Buy a tandem'
Nope, never. But then I visited a friend in Cambridge, (cycling center of Britain some would have you believe) and he picked me up from the station on this bizarre two wheeled contrivance for two people.
I was the stoker apparently. I climbed onto the back seat, rather bemused.
"So what does the stoker do exactly?"
"Just don't move around too much, let me steer, and pedal like the clappers."
Oh, right, as easy as that eh?
Seeing as the tandem wasn't mine, the back seat was not adjusted for me, but for my friend's wife. Luckily we are similarly proportioned, or goodness knows what would have happened*. Good though the position was, only the tips of my toes touched the ground and I was then confronted by toeclips on the pedals. I was rather worried, but my friend held the bike steady while I battled my feet into the confounded things**. We didn't wobble.
"So I just pedal?"
"Yep, pretend you're a sack of potatoes and leave the thinking to me***."
And off we went
I had only had one experience prior to this one that filled me with the same terror, and that was my first experience of being in the passenger seat in a car in America. Then we were on the wrong side of the road (for a Brit), and it looked like everything was coming straight for us. Now I was on the right side of the road, but the cars were suddenly very close and it looked like everything was coming straight for us. I closed my eyes, put my head down and tried to convince my legs to stop shaking.
When I finally opened my eyes again, and had got some control over my legs I suddenly realised that I was enjoying myself. My friend was a very confident and experienced tandem rider, and he knew the road system well. That left me enjoying the view and whooping in exhilaration as we dashed through the rush-hour traffic, overtaking nearly everything on the road.
"This is Amazing! Everyone should own a tandem****!"
On my return home I went straight to another cycling enthusiast friend and enquired how much it would be to get a tandem. The answer would have been a very disappointing 'Too Much', except for the fact that he had secretly wanted one for ages, and now seemed a perfect time to get one. I recommend hunting through 'For Sale' ads and flicking through cycling magazines to find a cheap, used, first tandem. Professional tandems are extremely expensive, and it's good to have a bash around on an old cronk to see if it's something you'll continue doing once the gloss wears off. We found ours locally for £150, and are now the proud owners of 'Peggy'. She's cheap and cheerful and doesn't like low gears, but we have got her up to 38mph going down a big hill, and she's the most fantastic fun.
Try it, you might like it :o)
* When riding any bike it is essential to make sure that you feel safe and comfortable in the saddle, and that the handlebars and sadle are adjusted to your height. Cycling becomes a most unpleasant experience if these things are out of alignment with your fragile body.
** Toeclips are a brilliant invention, and add ease, finesse and efficiency to pedaling. Unfortunately if you're not used to them, or to cycling, they're a totally unwanted nuisance and usually add large amounts of falling off to your cycling experience.
*** If you're used to cycling, then being a stoker on a tandem will be a very unnerving experience. It is an act of trust, as you have absolutely no control over the bike and your life is, quite literally, in the hands of another. Not a place for control freaks!
**** Though as Tiefling points out, it should be every _other_ person should own a tandem, as 'each tandem has two seats, so everyone owning one would provide 2n seats'. It is possible to ride a tandem alone, but imagine how cluttered the streets would be!