Tuesday, 30 March 2010

The tandem: The magical KitKat

CC and I had arrived at the halfway scout hut against many people's expectations and the surreal nature of the challenge started to sink in.

I didn't mention it in the first post but joining us on the ride were a full-size penny farthing and a double height bike. I shall endeavor to find pictures!

Having decided to name our trusty steed Miranda we had begun to talk about her as if she were another person on the journey. Even more surprising was the realisation that we were nowhere near the back of the pack, and we watched those arriving after us join the food queue with a growing sense of pride.

Climbing back aboard we faced the problem that plagued us throughout the ride, namely that people refused to let us on the road and we were cut up mercilessly and repeatedly.

We tootled without incident until we hit Turner's Hill. It's a nasty and sharp shock that's steep and vicious but short. We got a decent run up and went for it. We passed several people as we made the ascent and, at the top, were rewarded with Mr Fabulous's comment that he knew experienced tandem riders who wouldn't have made it. It was just a comment but I was greatly cheered by it and we led the cheers as the guy on the double height bike made it up.

It should have been a great stretch after this but we finally hit problems. The claustrophobia of the stoker position started to tell as CC became convinced we were on a tilt and suffered something a lot like vertigo. Having already decided to be sensible on downhills we went at a snail's pace and stopped a couple of times to ensure she felt able to continue. Then, as we re-established our rhythm the pannier rack went weird and the pannier caught on the rear wheel. We had to stop and, for the first and only time, needed the assistance of the rear riders to get going. The pannier was put in the sag wagon and we were ever more determined to finish.

What we failed to realise was that the pannier contained all of our emergency rations and, as we approached Ditchling Beacon, this came as a nasty shock.

For those of you unfamiliar with Ditchling, it's horrendous. Around a mile of solid uphill that never seems to end. CC had managed it solo before but I hadn't and was dreading it. Even experienced riders often fail to get up it on-bike and many believe doing it on a tandem is even more difficult.

Exhausted and with Cathy still suffering vertigo-like symptoms, it looked bleak. Then a realisation dawned: I had a KitKat in my jersey pocket. I straightened in my saddle at the thought and an ill-sounding CC enquired as to my shift in position. When I told her we both near-wept with joy. It sound ridiculous but it's true.

At the last stop before the ascent we pulled over and shared the four-finger bar. Our spirits lifted and, suddenly, we knew that we could do it. We set off with purpose and decided we going to get up that hill even if it killed us.....

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