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Mechanical wonder teaches lesson in teamwork

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We bought a tandem bicycle, and I'm in the process of applying to life and business the lessons learned on it.

Jeanne and I ride bikes quite a bit. In our forays through the Ozarks hills and around the country we enjoy ourselves immensely. However, I tend to ride a little faster than Jeanne, and though she's a strong rider, over a distance that small difference in our styles results in me leaving her behind or both of us feeling as if I was lollygagging in order to stay together.

On a beautiful Valentine's Day this year we borrowed some friends' tandem and were hooked.

I got on the Internet how quickly the novelty entertainment of a few years ago has become an essential research and information tool and gathered all the relevant data from tandem manufacturers' and enthusiasts' sites.

We ended up buying a used tandem from an anal-retentive man in Lincoln, Neb., who'd advertised his bicycle for sale on an Internet classified page. He bought a new tandem from the same manufacturer (a commendable recommendation) and thus needed to relieve himself of the old bike he'd meticulously cared for and upgraded through the years.

A tandem is a mechanical wonder. Granted, I'm smitten with the grace of bicycles anyway. But this tandem thing is something else.

What is, to begin with, an efficient machine becomes more so. You add the locomotive power of two people pedaling. This occurs with about half the rolling resistance of two bikes, about a third less bicycle weight and built-in perfect aerodynamic drafting that reduces wind drag substantially. And the potential energy of two riders' mass at the top of a hill, linked on one rolling machine, is immense.

The result is bicycling performance that we could never achieve apart. Both of us are stronger riders on a tandem than we are on singles. On the third ride on our new tandem we got up to a speed of 46 mph. Our average speed over the length of rides is up. The range of distances we can reasonably cover in a given time has very nearly doubled.

Our sum, in short, is greater than our parts. (And we're some pretty great parts to begin with, if I do say so myself.)

These advantages are not achieved instantly or automatically. Riding a tandem requires certain skills and proclivities.

Communication, cooperation and patience are at a premium. If everyone considering marriage would take a ride on a tandem, it might not reduce the number of unhappy marriages, but it would certainly give each person a clear picture of what life together is going to be like.

The person in front on a tandem steers, shifts and brakes. Failure to telegraph to the rider in back an upcoming change in any of these results in poor performance or catastrophe. A great deal of trust is required of the rear rider. Remember that top speed of 46 mph? That's scary enough with trust in your partner and equipment.

On most tandems, the pedaling cranks of each rider are inextricably linked. When one pedals, the other pedals[[In-content Ad]]

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