A sedate tandem, yesterday
My tandem is now finished and I have ridden it and that is all you ever do with a tandem. Ride it once and hang it up to dry.
Since Bob Knight has a tandem and someone I happen to know was going to a medical course near Rangiora at the weekend, I hitched a ride and took with me various items of mutual interest - a Peugeot frame with no visible means of fixing a seat post in it, a micro steam turbine car, some handlebars with an OD of 24mm - that sort of thing. Why does a reputable handlebar manufacturer suddenly take to churning out 24mm handlebars? Ever tried getting a brake lever onto a 24mm tube? Maybe the designer was having an off day.
'Excuse me sir, but Mr Smith has telephoned to say he has a cold and can't come to work today.'
'What does Mr Smith do?'
'He designs the outside diameter of our handlebars.'
'Right. Okay. Um. Yes. Er. We mustn't panic. - Tell you what - telephone the Breville Kettle Company and see if they can design the outside diameter until Mr Smith gets better.'
The person who happened to be visiting the Knights went tootling off to Amberley to study what to do when someone falls off the roof of a car while mooning and this left me at liberty. Mrs Bob Knight had a prior engagement with her girlie friends and their birthdays and this left Mr Knight at liberty.
Mr Knight knew of three adjacent shops in Christchurch which he felt could be of interest. Mr Knight's views and mine are at variance in a number of matters - his bicycles have to be perfect concours specimens whereas I'm content if the chain doesn't fall off - but we are as one in the matter of shopping. So we abandoned Mrs Knight in a small dinghy with a compass and a map of the Pacific and headed for Pak'n'Save, an emporium where, should you desire genetically modified peanuts, you can probably get a couple of tons for sixpence. Pak'n'Save is a vast hideous yellow box supermarket-like thingy next to the bike shop but we were under no need of the facilities other than gracing their forecourt with Bob's car. I shall not discuss Pak'n'Save any further lest I receive a Cease and Desist letter from their lawyers, and I shall not mention that New Zealand also has a vast hideous red box store called The Warehouse where, as the schoolchildren sing to the tune of their advert, 'everything's open and broken'. Don't want The Warehouse's lawyers sending me a Cease and Desist letter either. (I have been reading a book called Tescopoly by Andrew Simms.)(And another book called The Walmart Effect by Charles Fishman.) The Warehouse is New Zealand's largest retailer, and if you buy a heater there you keep the receipt because it will, actually, break as the guarantee runs out and they won't have any truck whatsoever with you when it does. This happened to us. Unluckily for The Warehouse it was two weeks before the guarantee was up, and unluckilyer for them, I managed to find the receipt. It broke again a month later though. We never go near The Warehouse now and I strongly recommend you don't either. The workers there hate it. I've actually seen one playing football with the goods he was supposed to be stacking, kicking them to his mate up a ladder.
A 22 mph tandem which I did not build
The bike shop was magnificent but it was cheaper to buy new handlebars than to buy special brake levers. 24mm. Huh! The model shop next door was superb too and had the brass tubing that one requires if one is the father of a fourteen-year-old bent on steam engine manufacture, but the tool shop next to that switched off its lights because it was 12.30 and the assistants wanted to spend Saturday afternoon pulling one another's trousers down. (I understand this is the aim of the game of rugby football.) But I managed to get five Eclipse hacksaw blades for ten dollars, which is four quid in civilized money. - Well it is at the moment, though I gather what Gordon's done means it isn't likely to be civilized money for too much longer.
An-y-way, in the afternoon - which is what we were building up to - we got the Knight tandem down from its hook. Mr & Mrs Knight possess an Ibis made in California and my legs-and-arms approximate to the lengths of Mrs Knight's legs-and-arms so I could sit on the back and enjoy myself.
I haven't ridden tandems before but now I've built one I needed to find out how they're supposed to go. One has to have total trust in the chap up front, and sit clipped in while he stands at junctions, and one has to pedal like absolute stink when setting off because the pilot is busy trying to balance and steer and locate his cleat, and this pedalling is done from a standstill at the command of the pilot, and one has to stop pedalling on command too, and one has to refrain from steering. All of these things don't come naturally. However my bad neck which has prevented me riding drop handlebars for a while was now no obstacle because I didn't have to see where I was going but could peer straight down throughout the ride and admire the chainset, and because I do not wish to offend Mr Knight on a public forum such as this web log, I shall not disclose that his left rear crank had fourteen specks of road dust on it.
Approx halfway along the ride someone shot an airgun at my helmet. I heard the pellet whizz past in the air. I said the usual word, then:
' - what the (usual word) was that?'
And then I received a direct hit on my helmet. I said the usual word again, and nearly bringing the tandem down, twisted round to see who was shooting at me. A large bird was flying away with a vicious grin on its beak.
'Hah!' said Mr Knight, delighted. 'Magpie attack!'
It seems that the Australian magpie, which is a handsome crow with a white back and the most magical musical song, has for the two nesting months of September and October a habit of attacking cyclists' heads from behind. These aerial attacks are so startling - I now vouch for it - that people have fallen off, and indeed one wealthy cyclist paid for hunters to shoot every magpie they could find in a certain mountain pass where he fell off and broke his bones.
On the Sunday we did another ride sans magpies managing 22 miles in one hour which is as good as I can manage on a closed oval racetrack on a racing recumbent. I was reminded of the first BHPV event I ever went to which was in, oh, about 1986, where the Crane cousins thrashed everyone including the Vectors, riding a caged tandem.
A 44 mph tandem, 1986. Dick and Nick Crane, Milton Keynes. The shoulder in the yellow jersey attached to the chap who doesn't know which way to arrange his hat is that of one Richard Ballantine Esq.
Home, and I took my recumbent on my daily ride, and slowing on the cyclepath to spy out all its broken beer bottles (I swept up four) I was overtaken by a roadie who cleared first his left nostril in front of me and then his right, which I considered really quite impolite because the spray went all over my face.
So I paid for hunters to shoot him.
However they have to get the right roadie.
Because I had to send a note through to the Police asking them to contact a local truck driver and ask him if he'd very kindly stop driving deliberately close to me, and the Police replied and said three of their officers have had the same problem with the same truck driver. You see, half the local roadies are also Police officers, a fact which isn't as widely known as you might have thought, though when one particular pair of exuberant youths repeatedly carved up a training peloton, they found out on the Monday morning when a uniformed senior officer pulled up outside their house and discovered a bag of cannabis in the offending car.