Now whilst this Topic is intended to be mostly about my races with John, I will encourage others involved with tandems to post here for any discussion.
I fully intend to continue to post my race reports and footage each week.
There are a few tandems racing around the place, but mostly by people who intend to race at a high level. John and I are not planning to go to Rio, we are both in our forties, I weigh 105kg and he weighs 95kg so with 18kg of bike we are well attached to the ground, hence the name. We are just enjoying our racing at our own modest level. There are other tandems who also ride with the ACT Veteran's Cycling Club, sometimes with a bit of mix and match between stokers and pilots and all the stokers to date have been Vision Impaired.
Whilst it is best to have regular partnerships, it is sometimes just too hard to get the same two people together at the same time and place. This is why it is always necessary for stokers to be able to ride with a number of different pilots if they want to get out each week.
John bought his own bike this year and he rides it during the week with one regular pilot and occasional rides with another. I'm his race pilot and on the weekend it is necessary to change the pedals and the saddle height for me as well as to put the race wheels on which requires a front brake adjustment for different rim widths. This all is a pain, but when we were borrowing a bike from FitAbility we had to adjust both positions.
His bike build was a bit of a saga which I might document, and if I take some photos of it I'll post them here too. The wheels were a bit of fun as well.
In the meantime the next post will be the story from last weekend.
Dairy Flat Road Criterium.
Handicapped Points Race
E F and G grades
The course is a simple hotdog circuit up and back on a disused stretch of road 1 km long, that has two straights and a gentle curve in the middle. In the finish direction the curve is a left hand bend about 250m from the finish. Riding the course the first (bottom) turn is much tighter than the top turn.
John and I were looking forward to this race as it is the only genuinely flat course that we race on. Even the Criterium Circuit at Stromlo has a hill that is worth at least two gears between going up and down. Further to that, we don’t get a chance to contest a sprint very often since the nature of our race courses typically leave us finishing by ourselves, mostly behind the bunch.
The weather was not great, overcast with a damp road and not overly warm. This combined with one of the least popular courses kept the numbers down. It is a sad fact that many riders who really need to race on this course to improve their cornering, choose not to.
Alas the best laid plans …
We arrived late. Rushed the setup of the bike and scrambled straight to the line. Arrived about 10 seconds late for the E grade start so we turned, chased and caught them just before the top turn. In the bunch was just 5 of us: Terrence, Trent, Terry, Phil and us. We settled in for the race and were happy to do more than our share on the front since getting baulked by other riders at the turns affects us badly. Our slower acceleration means that we lose more ground than a single bike in the same situation and constantly chasing gaps from low speeds is too much like hard work.
The published description of the race was for a points race, sprint every second lap, so it was no surprise that we got a whistle on the first time we crossed the line. Not long after the top turn the bunch was all line-astern behind us. Since we were expecting a sprint we wound up the speed as best we could and waited for someone to launch around us on the line. When no such sprint came we were a bit confused and Terry, shouted out to us at the bottom turn that it was a handicapped points race.
Oh pooh! For those unaware of the format, all three grades were competing for the same points. G grade had taken the points ¾ of a lap before we got there. We weren’t going to score any points until we reeled all the others in. With our new understanding of the race John and I settled in to riding fast and working with the others in order to pull the rabbits back.
Fortunately we could see that G grade had broken up and that F grade were going to catch them. F grade was still riding as a group but we could see that we were gaining on them. John and I were doing a lot of the work but we are comparatively fast on the flat and we weren’t going to score any points at all until we got past the others.
It took a while chase them down but we caught F grade on the way back to the top turn. Now we were finally in with a chance to get some points, but was this a sprint lap? We had no idea since we hadn’t heard any whistles since the first lap. Trent certainly wasn’t taking any chances and attacked straight around the bunch, which we followed, and Phil came with us. A couple of F graders made a big effort to get onto the train but the effort told on them. Around the turn Trent and another rider allowed a gap to open and then hesitated whilst deciding who would close it and that moment was enough.
Back to the race we had no idea whether it was a sprint lap or not so we just ramped it up and waited to see if anyone would come around us… and then they blew the whistle. We throttled back a little and confirmed that it was only Phil with us. We then knew that it would be a match race for however many sprints were left.
Now in a match sprint situation we reckoned that we couldn’t afford to allow a sprint to start from a slow speed, so we’d have to be at the front to dictate those terms. In any case Phil wasn’t showing any interest in coming to the front. We invited him to but he claimed that he was barely hanging on. At least on the video he has the decency to look like he is suffering a bit.
On to the sprint and again we ramped it up and held to the inside of the curve for the shortest route home. Phil launched around the outside and came past us to beat us to the line by half a wheel. Now I don’t like getting beaten so I immediately started planning to do better next time. I’d noticed that there was a very slight left to right breeze at the finish so I decided that for the next one I’d push out to the right and make Phil come past on the windward side. We didn’t have to wait long because as we were coming back past the line they rang the bell to tell us that we were getting two sprints in a row (yay!) and that there would be only one more. We did give Phil a couple of opportunities to come to the front again but he wasn’t interested, so we continued on.
The lead up to the final sprint was as expected. We moved out to the centerline, Phil was clearly ready to come on the right again but changed back to the left when he saw that we weren’t going to leave room on that side. Again we ramped it up and this time that little bit of wind made the difference as we were able to hold Phil off by a quarter of a wheel or so.
In the wash up there were three of us on 7 points, us, Phil and Trish from G grade in her first race I believe. The heavy tandem won on a countback based on winning the final sprint. The result was a thrill, but the biggest thrill was the chance to actually contest a couple of proper elbow to elbow sprints, and even hold our own.
ACTVCC Lookout Hill
E grade Scratch Race
The day was sunny and windy but cool. I told John to dress warmly because the wind would make it very cold.
Unfortunately a last minute course change imposed by the authorities meant that the more interesting, hilly parts of the course would be eliminated. Whilst this made the terrain more favourable to us, it reduced the interest in the course since we would all be doing multiple laps of the same course which is basically an out and back in two directions from the start. ABCD grades would be doing three laps, EFG would only do two.
There was quite a good turnout for E grade 16 riders. The course started with a gradual descent for about 3km, not surprisingly we rolled to the front and no-one saw any reason to come past us until we dropped to the back of the bunch for the turn. After the turn we rode back up to the front of the bunch and because it was into the wind no-one saw any reason to come past us for most of the way back. This suited us anyway because we were a bit nervous as to how we would climb and wanted a bit of a cushion in case the others would try and get rid of us up the hill.
In the end when some of them did come past we were able to match them well enough and that gave us some confidence for later in the race. Back past the start we go down the short but significantly steep Lookout Hill (LH). We didn’t particularly try to, but we rolled away from the bunch since we go downhill fast. Terry set off after us and cruised up to our back wheel before the next climb started.
Climbing away from the LH descent the bunch behind us broke apart. Three riders came up and went past, and another group came up to us, but after that climb comes the descent to the lowest part of the course. Not surprisingly we caught the leaders with the others in tow, before rolling away again as it got steeper. Shortly afterwards we turned so we then find ourselves climbing back out again, not our best bit. Three riders Chris, then Tony, and Ross got away early whilst others caught us shortly before the start of the descent to the bottom of LH. Going up the hill they mostly rode away from us, but Angie and Rosemary stayed with us.
Onto the second lap we rounded up the others and re-formed the second group of 8 and towed them down the hill to the turn. This time on the way back we stayed at the back, happy to let the others do the work. Back down LH we opened a gap again, and again Terry followed us. There was only three chasing closely at this stage and they didn’t catch us by the start of the descent. Terry followed us down almost all the way only slipping back at the fastest point (78.6 km/h). This effort made up enough to catch two of the leaders. One of them let slip a word that his mother probably wouldn’t have approved of when he saw us coming.
At the start of the way back up the hill there was still one rider Chris ahead of us and then was the group of Terry, Tony, Ross and us. By now it will not surprise anyone that the others rode away from us up the hill. Ross did ride with us for a while but got away in the end. From behind there was a group of three that was chasing and a big sacrificial turn from one of them got Angie and Baden close enough to bridge up to our wheel just as we started the descent to LH.
This is a pedaling descent and I thought that we were going to be sitting ducks, simply towing them to the bottom of LH where they would jump us for the finish. We got the 55x11 wound up to 60+km/h and Angie simply lost our wheel (not for the first time in the race). She was just sitting a bit too far back from us, but it is understandable since she is just returning from a significant elbow injury from a bike crash. However I was very pleased to see their shadows drop back.
We gained a lot on Ross in the final km, and particularly since he lost momentum at the bottom of LH, but he had enough to hold on till the line.
5th the Heavy Tandem.
We were really pleased with this, race. At least two riders in our grade are recently from higher grades and they didn’t finish far in front of us. Our climbing is still our great weakness, but it is improving. There is no doubt that if we can ever climb at the same rate as E grade then our time trialling and descending will take us up to D grade.
The video is still uploading...
ACTVCC Gunning - Bredalbane
The weather conditions were just beautiful. Sunny, cool, not much wind. A good day for slow riders in a handicap.
The race started in a mass start with everyone lined up in grade order, fast folk at the front, slow ones to the rear. The course is a straight out and back, starting with a descent, followed by a climb up the Cullerin Range, some flat out to the turn and then back.
The race plan was to try to stay within reach of our E grade colleagues up the Cullerin Range, help drive the bunch along the flat to and from the turn, then try to build a lead on the descent off the range and then try and hold the others off up the finishing climb.
We drove hard from the beginning with the vague hope of forcing a split in the bunch so that we could stop E grade from getting too much advantage from the higher grades up the climb. It sort of worked as the bunch was just starting to split as nearly everyone came past us up the first hill. We tried hard to limit our losses up the climb but it wasn't enough. It didn't help our cause that another tandem (lightweight) was also riding with E grade. We picked up a couple of stragglers for a while but they weren't able to contribute too much to the chase. We rode pretty hard on the flat toward the turn, but we were at least 5 minutes behind at the turn. We had a couple of companions, who had bit of trouble doing a turn of pace with us, unless it was uphill. Our followers went from 3 to 2 just before the short return climb up the range, and not long after we started the descent there was just one Lee. We did see a couple of lone stragglers way off in front but there was no-one else to be seen. We knew that the E grade bunch was looking strong, but the best we could hope for was that the handicap was so generous that even we might pick up a place. It was not to be, we dropped Lee on the last descent to the bridge which marks the bottom of the finish hill. We then did our best to make sure that he didn't catch us up the climb because he would surely roll us in the sprint. We managed to hold him off and claim a comfortable middle of the pack finish.
It was not our best race, but satisfying all the same, although we did manage to break a spoke.
No footage this week, I forgot to turn the camera on.
No incriminating footage from me. The same footage would have shown us correctly moving into another lane in order to overtake. Perfectly appropriate considering that much of the bunch was already 3 abreast at that point. (I'm sure that there was overtaking going on). The same footage would also have shown a dotted line on the left side of the dividing line.
Not had time to read all your posts but I noted you have been able to get racing with a Vets club. I am in SA and we are trying to do something similar. The Vets guys have said current regs don't allow for tandems and we need to get the national body to implement a change before tandems can join in. Just curious as to how you guys went about getting involved?
Certified Brand Snob
I'll have to refer your question to the folk at FITAbility who were the ones who campaigned for the inclusion of tandems. I just happened to be in the right spot at the right time to make myself available as a pilot.
The rule they are quoting is the infamous rule 6d which I have copied below.
This same rule also prevents any commercially available bike from being used in Vets competition, since bikes with 6.5m wheels are in short supply. It would seem that a change to the rules is in order.
6. Equipment and Clothing
d) Only equipment sanctioned and approved by the A.V.C.C. Inc. shall be permitted in races under its patronage. The bicycle shall be a conventional triangular framemade from materials suitable forbicycle construction. The maximum length shall not be more than185cm. and a width of 50cm. Either 650cm, or 700cm wheels,and drop handlebars shall be used.
For Road events two efficient hand brakes and a freewheel shall be used; Spinacci and ‘Tri’ bars are not to be used.
For Road Time Trials it may have either a fixed wheel or freewheel system, standard time trial handlebars with handlebar extensions and elbow rests.
For Track racing, in Sprints and Scratch races it shall have a fixed rear wheel. In Time Trials and Pursuits freewheel multiple gears, handlebar extensions and elbow rests may be used.
‘Flat Bars’ (Mountain bike style) shall not be permitted in any of the aforementioned disciplines.
Handlebar ends must be plugged.
f) i. Only conventional racing machines as described in rule 6(d) shall be used in AVCC events and no unfair aerodynamic advantage associated with a bicycle shall be allowed, nor any modifications or construction allowed that jeopardize safety.
ii. Bicycle gear and brake controls may be modified to accommodate individual needs, however, modified controls will be mounted on conventional handlebars on a conventional bicycle.
Just further to add to my last post.
If you want to really get into the legal quagmire there are a few anomalies with 6d.
However my fundamental view is that the rule should apply to all bikes or none. To selectively apply it would open up a very large can of worms and may even be illegal under anti-discrimination laws.
To use this rule as the excuse to prevent tandems racing is a poor argument in my opinion.
I am the vice president of the ACTVETS and was one of those who pushed for the inclusion of tandems in our racing.
There is nothing in any of the national regulations which prevent their inclusion.
DM with your number and I can discuss the details.
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Veni, Vidi, Vespa -- I Came, I Saw, I Rode Home
MWCC lets a tandem (@OzTandem, these guys are strong!) ride in their Akuna/West Head road races. They rode in the A grade bunch I was in on Sunday, it was pretty impressive that they could keep up on such a lumpy course.
Thanks for the replies guys. I have PMed you James, thanks for your offer of help.
Our guys came up against Oz Tandem at the Paracycling Nationals, and yes they are very good. We hope to give them a run for their money next year.
Certified Brand Snob
It is unlawful for a person to discriminate against another person on the ground of the other person's disability by excluding that other person from a sporting activity - section 28 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth)
Recent changes to the Disability Discrimination Act are that discrimination includes a failure to make reasonable adjustment - sections 5 & 6
It seems to me that there is a very good argument that allowing a vision impaired cyclist to ride a tandem with a sighted pilot is a reasonable adjustment.
If you are not making progress on the diplomatic front, send me a PM & I will happily put you in touch with some people that can help.
Got your Pm.
Will put together a quick descriptive email and follow up with a call
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Veni, Vidi, Vespa -- I Came, I Saw, I Rode Home
I wouldn't offer to help if it was plan A
Thanks for the offer and PM Bruce. We are meeting with Paracycling SA today to try and progress this. My wife is in charge so I will pass on your details and ideas and I'm sure she will be in touch if she need further advice.
Certified Brand Snob
How did you get on Simon?
As for the Heavy Tandem, we turned out for a race in E grade at Lookout Hill.
The form wasn't good, I have been off the bike for various reasons for the last couple of weeks, a fortnight ago the race was cancelled anyway, last weekend I was away. John did manage to get a ride in last weekend with another pilot, however he reported that the bike was having trouble shifting at the front. We weren't able to do much about the shifting before the race and since the problem was only reported as being for the shift into the little ring we didn't do any fiddling in the short time before the race start with that. We did however do some brake adjustments though so that they came on a bit earlier in the lever pull.
There was only 10 bikes racing so there was never going to be any hiding in the bunch, that's not our style anyway since an easy race with a big bunch finish wouldn't suit us, we like our races to be a war of attrition. The course was the same as the race from July 7 with an additional 1/2 lap from starting in the other direction. It is a course that is full of gentle ups and downs with one steep but short climb. Fortunately we only had to race up the climb fully twice since the finish line is halfway up. The race started on top of the finish hill so we naturally rolled to the front from the beginning. It became immediately apparent however that there were some rear-shifting issues as well since we couldn't get into the top gear. With the wide range cassette on the race wheels this meant that our top gear was a 13 rather than an 11, which was unfortunate given that this course had some long pedalling downhill sections.
After the short downhill at the start is a gradual climb up to Point Hut Road and a gradual descent most of the way to the first turn. We still rolled off the front of the bunch on the way down to the first turn and on the way back we made it up the steepest part of the climb in front of the bunch so were able to hang in with them when they did catch us. The bunch had broken apart by this stage but there were only five of them. We lost a bit of ground just before the start of the gradual descent to the bottom of Lookout Hill however that is our best bit of the course. We missed having the top gear but found that we could still wind the 13 up to 60km/h but we couldn't sustain it for long. We opened a small gap before the hill and were caught and passed about half way up. We chased, passed them again but got a little delayed at the Tharwa turn as a car was approaching from behind. We elected to slow down in a straight line and let it past rather than trying to turn in front of it. We may have been able to do the turn, but frankly the 5 seconds we lost were not very significant in the outcome of the race and certainly not worth the risk. We stayed with the bunch on the way back to Lookout Hill, and this time they were awake enough to grab our wheel before we picked up speed. We tried to hold on up the climb to Pt Hut Road but lost some ground, made it up on the way to the downhill bit but didn't get away from them so we were all together at the turn. From here they rode away from us up the hill, but they also dropped off Liz. This gave us something to aim for and we linked up with her for the rest of the way to the Tharwa turn and back to Pt Hut Road for the last time. We were still riding hard but we were losing ground to the four leaders. This time down the Pt Hut Road descent we dropped Liz off and we didn't entertain thoughts of waiting for her, since 5th place still gets a finishing bonus for the aggregate points competition. We suspected that if Liz did catch us before the descent to the bottom of Lookout Hill, we wouldn't stand much of a chance in the final push to the line. We held her off, and had a comfortable gap to finish in glorious isolation in 5th. Quite happy with that all things considered.
Sadly no footage, I did bring the camera but when I went to unload the card it wasn't there If you really want to see the numbers the Strava link is here.
Ashley and Don were there on another tandem and rode a good race with A grade, although they were outclassed by mrgolf and a new rider who rode away from the field.
After the race we needed to do some work to set the bike up for today when John was due to go on a training ride with some sizeable climbs. Not being able to get into the small ring would be really awkward, and as it was I needed to do a cassette change anyway since the one on his training wheels only went to a 23. Fortunately John has recently picked up another set of wheels at a very good price from WA (thanks Mark) which as a bonus came with a cassette that goes out to 32. The new wheels will be ideal for rides like this one, but will need to have a disc rotor fitted onto the rear wheel via a drum to disc adaptor. When both sets of wheels are set up John will have a choice of three sets of wheels, two training wheelsets, one with climbing gears and one with flat gears and his race wheels. The flat gear wheelset is fitted with Vittoria Randonneur tyres which are big (32), heavy and highly puncture resistant, ideal for his mid-week rides. The climbing wheelset has lighter, narrower 25mm tyres for more sporty riding like the bunch ride he did today. The race wheels are 27mm tubulars.
I have had the report from John that for today's ride the bike was running properly again, so all is good.
The Heavy Tandem
This probably should have been the first post, but it wasn't.
John and I started riding together about a year and a half ago when I got involved with FitAbility through a friend at work.
John is a full-sized bloke at 95 kg and conventional tandem theory (particularly with unfamiliar teams) is to have the pilot at least the same size as the stoker. He wanted to try racing and needed a suitable pilot. Most of the FitAbility pilots have no interest in racing or are too small.
FitAbility have two bikes suitable for John + a suitably sized pilot; a Hillbrick and a Cannondale RT2. The Hillbrick is a bit older and heavier with a steel frame 9speed cassette, rim brakes and Marathon Plus tyres. The Cannondale is bit lighter with 10speed cassette, disc brakes and Gatorskin tyres. Both bikes are suitable for racing but because they get loaned out, racing involves collecting the bike, assembling the parts according to preferences (Saddles, bars, pedals) and adjusting position. There is often a bit of ad hoc maintenance to get things working properly too. This is a bit of a pain, and on occasion things get forgotten, like pedals, which puts a big damper on your race.
I bought my current bike in early 2012, and we’d race on that which meant that some of the logistics were reduced. However I also use it as a commuter with my children, so the weekend setup meant that I would swap two seatposts and pedals, and remove the kiddy cranks that my son uses (he is 3½ now). This worked well enough but being an older bike the stoker position is quite cramped with a 58cm TT (not forgetting the stoker bars are behind the front of the TT)
In about August 2012 John decided to get himself his own bike. I found a second-hand bike for sale (Gumtree?) which seemed to fit the bill. It was an older Cannondale that had been used for racing (including an upgrade to a DA chainring) that I could see, and had been unused for a few years. It was 9speed which I didn’t see as a particular disadvantage over 10speed, and in fact some tandem makers still see it as superior. It was small in height at the back but Cannondales don’t vary in stoker TT length by much if anything from 70cm, so a short frame only meant that he would have a longer seatpost and more standover height.
It all seemed good, and I picked it up in early September. However I was giving it a good clean when I found a crack in the right chainstay. I spoke to the seller ‘Jon’ who agreed that it was not the bike that he thought he was selling, and to his credit he offered a full refund for the return of the bike so that he could pursue a warranty claim. Now John still wanted this bike and even if Jon got a replacement Jon would still end up with a tandem that he didn’t want, so we worked together toward a warranty claim.
Cannondale warranty blurb says that the bikes are covered for the ‘lifetime of the original owner’, normal wear and tear excepted. Apparently the frame breaking is considered normal wear and tear if the bike is more than 5 years old, which makes the lifetime reference only true if you never ride the bike. The claim was rejected. So we then contacted another Jon at Gripsport and got a quote for the repair. We then made an agreement with Jon the seller for a sale at a discount from the original price that would cover the cost of the repair.
The bike then became John’s. I took the bike down with me when I went to Melbourne for Christmas and dropped it in with Gripsport. Of course by now the makers name left a bitter taste in our mouths, so instead of just getting it repaired, we also took the opportunity to get it powder coated, and some decals made up so that it would never more advertise the brand. The powdercoating is a great job, it is not too thick and even lets you read serial numbers.
Meanwhile John had entered the paracycling nationals with Elton (who is a bit faster than me). John naturally wanted to ride his new bike.
The bike was now known as the ‘Barlow’. In the meantime I had started work on the bits. Old anodized parts can sometimes develop little crazy lines probably as a result of corrosion from micro cracks in the surface layer. It is not a structural issue but it isn’t pretty. Since the cranks, brake levers and derailleurs had these lines on them, I decided to strip them back to aluminum and polish them. It was a good result, but I’m not lining up to do it again in a hurry. Cranks have a lot of surface area! I also took the opportunity to change the cables, brake pads etc. We also got a disc brake for the rear but didn’t fit it as the nationals would come under UCI rules which don’t allow disc brakes on road bikes. (We did find out just before the event that this rule would not be enforced on the day so there was at least one bike there running discs.)
Due to various circumstances, I didn’t have all the parts and the frame ready to assemble until about a fortnight before the nationals and I was going away to Melbourne beforehand. Elton and John would only get one shakedown/adjustment ride in before going down, and I wouldn’t be there to address any problems, so there was no margin for error.
I’m pleased to say that mechanically, the bike performed very well, except for a puncture in the time-trial, which didn’t help. I then had to coach Elton over the phone in fitting a tubular for his first time, so that the bike would be ready for the road race. Happily Elton did a good job with the tyre and they finished the race pretty pleased with 8th.
Some closer shots.
Next week's instalment will be about the race wheels...
Not good news.
John tells me that the Barlow got separated from a car last weekend and it has some damage which is mostly confined to the front end. Forks, shifters, bars etc.
Apparently the frame is still intact however. New forks would at least allow us to get disc compatible ones since we have a brake available. My preferred option would be to have a right-front mounted brake, since that would reduce the force required to hold the wheel in place and thus increase the margin for error. This is important for a bike that is ridden/assembled by multiple riders.
I'lll still try and get the wheel story up.
Still very much a work in progress. Sent off a proposal to the National vets council asking for inclusion. This was at the request of our local clubs who felt they needed guidance and permission from the national body. To date no acknowledgment or reply
Still hoping jcjordan will get an email to me with his thoughts on how they went about it in the ACT.
All the best for your racing.
Certified Brand Snob
I am still bemused by the attitude of the clubs. There is currently no bike in Australia (possibly the world, except maybe Didi Senf's) that I am aware of that conforms to the AVCC requirements. In order to have any racing at all they either have to waive the rule, or not apply it. To suggest that the rule should be applied selectively to only a handful of bikes is just plain wrong. (I guess I'm repeating myself..., again..., reduntantly..., tautologically even.)
It is quite simply that the rules were not written with tandems in mind, yet they have attempted to include riders with disabilities by allowing modifications to bikes [6(f)(ii)].
Whilst it is an easier argument to allow tandems as the only way that vision impaired stokers can race, as a radical I'd like to see tandems included in a completely unrestricted sense. The tandem stokers we're talking about don't have a choice of whether they ride with a pilot or not in a bunch race, yet their regular pilots aren't always available. For someone who is a willing but novice pilot, racing is just a leap too far. I'd like to see tandem pilots racing with whoever they can get, on the occasions that the regular stokers aren't available. This way they can develop skills and confidence for themselves, and also for the others around them. We noticed quite a difference when we upgraded from F grade to E grade. The F graders had eventually gotten comfortable with us, and it took a few races for the E graders to work it out too. This might also provide an introduction to racing for a nervous rider, (I used to ride in a training bunch with my wife, but she'd never ride in a bunch on her own) or just as skills development for pilots to ride on the back for a change. I'd actually really love the opportunity to be a stoker, I don't think I demand anything unreasonable from my stokers (except for even more power when we are losing contact up a hill) but I can't know for sure unless someone else expects the same from me. It also might get more tandems out there racing anyway. John and I have rarely been racing with tandems of similar ability, most are much faster.
Of course it would be a bit of a stretch to have child stokers included, but if in a couple of years either of my children want to take up cycling as a sport I'll have to change clubs since it would be silly to not be racing in the same club, and equally silly to have to pay for two memberships.
Problem with you moving to a CA club is there probably won't be a suitable grade for you. E grade CCC/Vikings is a lot different to E grade Vets. Though I think they go down to F grade now and sometimes have a sportive category.
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