Celebrating 5 years in the UK

As of May 13th, 2001, it was five years ago that I first set foot in this fine land.

To celebrate, Simon and I took out our tandem and went for a ride. We rode from Cambridge to Saffron Walden and back.

We find that we get along with the tandem very well. He drives as he's bigger, but I tend to work harder than he does, especially up hills. (He says to people "This bike comes with a built in engine!") When we take the tandem he's willing to go for longer rides than he would if we were on single bikes, so we get to go different places. At first, slow-speed maneuvers were very difficult, but I've learned to keep my weight absolutley neutral, and he's getting better at guiding it through tight turns at barely above a walking pace. We've also gotten over our reluctance to use the granny ring. At first we felt that we shouldn't be using the granny gear around Cambridge as it's so flat, but our chainrings are 32-42-52, so the granny ring is the same size as the middle ring on a MTB. So now we do shift down to it when we get to a big (well, for the Cambridge area) hill.

Anyway, I let Simon choose the route to and from Saffron Walden. He chose the hilly, scenic route: over the big hill to Barrington, through Fowlmere and Strethall, past Audley End, and into Saffron Walden.

We'd meant to have lunch at one of our favorite pubs, the Pear Tree in Hildersham. Unfortunately, after pulling all our money out of our wallets and determining that we'd have enough for lunch, we left it on the bed. "No problem", says Simon, "I'm pretty sure I've brought a bank card with me, so we'll pick up some money from a bank in Saffron Walden". We got into Saffron Walden, found some banks, and discovered that Simon only had a credit card, not a cash card (I hadn't brought along a wallet at all). He tried to get cash using the credit card, but he'd forgotten the PIN. We didn't think that the Pear Tree took credit cards and we didn't know of any good local pubs that did, so we abandoned the plan of having a pub lunch. Instead, we went to the Saffron Walden Waitrose and got a picnic lunch: sandwiches, salad, olives, crisps, orange juice, and yogurt for dessert. We took it to the village green and ate it there in the sunshine, then got back on the bike and took a not-very direct route back to Cambridge (through Ashdon, Bartlow and Linton).

As we were coming out of Hildersham we met another tandemming couple. But not just any tandemming couple, it was the couple who had loaned us their tandem for a test-ride when were were just beginning to think of buying one. So they were riding the first tandem we'd ever tried. We chatted a little while before heading off in our different directions.

I managed to convince Simon to try taking the bike along the Roman Road. Our bike is a rigid mountain bike tandem, with wide riser bars, but kitted out for all-purpose road riding with 1.75" slick tires, full mudguards, and a rear rack. The Roman Road is a very undemanding off-road bit. In places it's very wide and smooth, but in places it's a narrow smooth track (less than a foot wide) in the grass. It's the sort of thing that I ride along almost as fast as I can, enjoying the challenge of keeping the bike on track. Simon, however, doesn't like off-road riding much, but I convinced him to give it a try to see how the bike would work off-road. So we went along. The first bit was the narrow part, and Simon was taking it very slowly (asking the engine to ease off), really concentrating on keeping the bike on the narrow track. I kept my weight as neutral as possible, so he could guide the bike as he needed to.

Later the path widened out, and he felt confident enough to open up the throttle a bit ("OK, you can pedal harder now"), and this part was really fun. One of the most amusing parts of the ride were the branches low overhead. Simon would shout "duck!" and I'd shove my head against his back, and some leaves would brush my helmet. It's fun not seeing what's coming at you!

Finally the Roman Road was over and we were back on tarmac. We proceeded mostly uneventfully back home. We went 48 miles in total.

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