On Friday morning I picked up a beautiful and marvellous machine.
After the March FNRttC's tandem success CC and I were keen to give it another go. Charles had lent us the last one (Miranda) but he was prohibitively far away to collect and drop it off.
The lovely Bicycle Slut had responded to my question of whether she knew of a tandem I could borrow with the response 'Of course!'. Her equally lovely partner the Lady Julian has parents in Harrow and they were willing to lend us their Dawes.
I set off to their house full of hope and they didn't disappoint. I arrived to see a red and black beauty sitting in the drive with huge puffy tyres and sit-up handlebars on the back. J, Julian's dad, talked me through the various bits and bobs before announcing he would drive me home with it. Reeling from the shock of the niceness I climbed into the car and we headed off.
Not only is he cool enough to own a tandem, he also keeps bees. What a guy.
Back in Ealing I took dad for lunch and then cycled the newly christened 'George' to my house. It was surprisingly easy to maneuver and balance.
That night the signs were not auspicious. It hammered it down at around 9pm and then drizzled. At Hyde Park Corner I was dubious. CC arrived looking bedraggled having been drenched as she left the house. The rain eased and we decided to go for it. George is a comfy ride and we set off with aplomb. It's a fairly flat route and, frankly, apart from a heavy shower as we left London, the ride went without incident until we neared the halfway point.
There had been an accident. A shunt had a domino effect and A2 was the final victim. He smiled bravely and waved us on. We waited for him at the service station.
He arrived and said he was ok, we iced the right elbow he'd fallen onto and we had coffee. But then it happened. The colour suddenly drained from his face and he looked very unwell indeed. I decided to get bossy and ordered him to lie down. We found a quiet spot and raised his legs. I went to get ride leader Simon and the decision was taken to call an ambulance.
They came quickly and Simon called the rest of us to attention. We would continue under the co-leader's direction. CC came over. She had decided to go with Andrew as I could pilot the tandem alone and, as she didn't have a bike, she could take care of A2's and get him home.
We said goodbye and I joined the rest of the group. Many calls of 'Where's your stoker?' were answered and we set off.
I had forgotten about the big hill. The Bread and Cheese is steep and nasty with a false ending that fools you into thinking it's over before going steep again. A charming policeman took my pannier and we set off. I made it. I even passed someone.
The back of the ride broken I was able to get George to Southend with only a couple of hairy moments, mainly involving tight turns. I wolfed a hot breakfast and thanked all I could for their support. I'm fairly sure a few of them had stuck with me to make sure I'd be ok.
Luckily, Bicycle Slut and the Lady Julian were also on a tandem (a hugely swanky custom build) and, as they live near me, we decided to head home together.
Getting two tandems on a train is tricky but, apart from a very drunk rude man (he called us Conservatives, the very nerve), we had a nice train journey home chatting about all sorts. Back in London they led me in convoy with another bike back to Hyde Park where I decided to take the train from Paddington rather than cycle home.
The final challenge was carrying George down the stairs at Hanwell, it sapped my last bit of energy and, once indoors, I stepped into a hot shower before sinking into the bed with Mr Handsome purring along side.
It was a challenge I rose to, but when Mr Weenie arrived home and decided to get into bed with me for a nap, I was glad it was over.