Tuesday, October 27, 2009


My tandem wheels have all appeared and much work has taken place to weld holes onto the frame in the right places to fit disc brake callipers or whatever they're called. You *can* weld holes onto something. It isn't an argument about semantics. Actually *I* can weld holes into something and often do, and then I weld nails and all sorts of other junk into the holes to conceal the fact from an otherwise admiring audience. If you're a spider you'll find it a pretty alarming sight when you creep up a tube and encounter one of my welded joints. Looks like a torture chamber. You expect to see Rowan Atkinson wedged in the middle in a Blackadder costume.

Anyway arrival of wheels and fitting of brakes and whatnot necessitated an e-exchange with my tame Arbiter-of-Tandems, who, as has been established, lives in Rangiora in the County of Quite a long way away. - (If he lived round the corner I'd have merely popped in and asked, and this web-log would have been deprived of the correspondence. And what a loss to the world's literature that would have been.) - Because when I went on the back of their tandem, I found that Mrs Bob Knight's handlebar had an unexpected bar-end gear change lever which, duly fiddled with, I discovered worked the rear wheel's disc brake. Accordingly I enquired:

Right my good man, on a wish-to-know-what-the-answer-is-basis,what is the advantage of having the back rider operate a gear-change-lever to the rear disc brake of your tandem?
and following on from that question,how does your tandem also have a back brake operated by the front rider? Cos I've peered at the photos of it and can't see how it works at all.

Arbiter-of-Tandems replied thus:

The rear break (sic.; I see this all the time) is a cable operated disk as was poplier in the old fashioned days. The brake cable attaches to an arm in exactly the same fashion as on a drum brake. In the case of the rear break on our tandum (sic., again) it has two cables attached to the same pinch bolt. One goes to the front and is for me to operate and one goes to the gear change lever on the back. When either one is operated the cable for the other one goes slack. The purpose of the rear one is twofold.
1) It gives a warm fuzzy feeling to the stoker; she feels she has an important job to do.
2) It is used as a speed regulator on long descents where keeping the break on by hand becomes tiring. The stoker *may* occasionally need to be reminded to take the break off again when the flats are reached. Being a gear change lever, you can set it on by degrees. We hardly ever use it for that purpose but we have done in the Pyrenees, before we had kids.
The third reason is one that you have alluded to in your blog.
3) use it as a parking break to prevent the bike rolling over when badly parked and breaking another Mirrycle.

[And, incidentally, it is true. Mr Knight is my sole source of Mirrycles. My spies inform me that his father is visiting New Zealand for Christmas, and I anticipate a large sack of Mirrycles will fall in my lap, for which I shall gladly supply a mince pie and a glass of sherry. - This is a very, very, gentle subtle hint the results of which will decide whether I write a letter to The Honours Secretary to see if we can't bag Mr Knight Snr an MBE to go with his wife's. (I think I can afford the bribe for an MBE. I'll ask Mr Brown how much they cost these days, and report back.)]

I have also fitted a flag to the tandem. This isn't for visibility. It's for psychological warfare. I surmise that motorists will see the flag and it will make them think
'Oh, there's a flag. Maybe there's a person on that bike, or even a proper reason for me giving that cycle some road room.'
Otherwise it's dangerous putting a flag on a bike. Crying wolf. If they pass by and perceive nothing unusual, they think
'Well *uck that for a game of soldiers, why's the *ucker got a flag up? what's so special about him? Why should he have a flag up? He's not even disabled. Is he trying to tell me I shouldn't cream him with a fender? I'll go right close to him next time and teach the little *ucker a lesson.' - Believe me, this is what motorists think. I knew a motorist once. He told me.

On the other hand, if they pass the flag and see that we're a tandem, they immediately feel pleased and generous and strangely happy. This is one thing we've noticed. Everyone smiles at you when you're on a tandem. Everyone. No, really. Everyone. Even roadies smile at you when you're on a tandem.


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