If you want to improve trust, teamwork and communication, just buy a tandem!

Tandem at start of Ride to the Sun

Back in September 2017, Cycle Law Scotland’s founder and Senior Partner, Brenda Mitchell, had a bright idea.

“Let’s get a tandem for the office”, she said. “It will be a good laugh and will encourage all staff to get out of the office at lunchtimes. We might even be able to come up with a challenge and raise money for charity.”

So, we had a look at what was available and bought a large framed Ridgeback aluminium tandem for a reasonable price.

We went for a large frame as we thought that would be the best fit to accommodate all shapes and sizes across the office. That decision was probably the right one but it has had one drawback in that only two of the males in the office are really tall enough to be comfortable with the reach to the handlebars in the pilot’s (up front) position. That means that either trainee solicitor, Thomas or I are required to pilot the bike with all other members of the team offering their services as stokers!

Cycle Law Scotland tandem challenge
In order to give ourselves a challenge, we came up with the 1500 mile Cycle Law Scotland tandem challenge in order to raise funds for SCAA (Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance). We are trying to ride 1500 miles in a calendar year. Each mile ridden will raise £1 for SCAA. I know it doesn’t seem that far, but if you work out how many lunchtime rides (averaging around 10 miles) that equates to, then 150 rides is quite a lot given everything else that goes on in a busy office and just two pilots available! If you would like to support us, you can donate here.

We are making progress and are almost half way there. The interesting thing though, which was probably not envisaged at inception, is the realisation of the three key things you need in order to create a successful tandem partnership; trust, teamwork and communication.

The stoker (on the back) needs to have complete trust in the pilot up front. If you are used to riding a bicycle yourself and being in control of steering, braking and gear changing, then you need to relax and take a more passive role because you can’t execute any of those tasks. You simply have a set of handlebars and pedals and that’s it. I guess that’s why the rear position is called the stoker because that’s what you are.

What you must do is trust the pilot. He’s in charge and will determine when to change gear, how fast to pedal, what lines to take and when to brake. You don’t even have an option not to pedal as you are connected together and so teamwork is key. The only thing you can really control is how much power you put though your own pedals in order to assist the pilot up front.

Communication is also essential to avoid a mishap. Taking a drink from your water bottle or stretching your legs will cause movement in the tandem and, if one or other of you is not aware it is about to happen, you can find yourself becoming unstable and potentially crash.

We have ridden the tandem in various events including the Cycle Law Scotland Skinny Tweed, RTTS, Doddie’5 Ride for MND and Tour o' the Borders. Most folk are intrigued to see a tandem and so it attracts a lot of attention. It moves pretty swiftly on the flat and can motor down the hills too. We managed a swift 51.3 mph down Paddy Slacks during ToTBs which certainly tested my ‘trust’ as I was stoking that day.

Tandem during Tour o' the Borders

If I'd been given a tenner every time that someone shouted out, “that guy on the back is not pedalling”, I would be a very rich man! Perhaps I should carry a fundraising tin with me next time I’m on the back 'cos I'm clearly not pedalling, so might as well just fill the bucket!

Rod Mitchell
CLS Marketing Director

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