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Tandem cycling: Not just Daisy's bicycle built for two

Story Highlights

• Tandem bicycles make up .1 percent of U.S. bike sales
• Cheapest 2-seaters cost $500, weigh 50 pounds
• Top-of-the-line bikes cost between $2,500 and $12,000
• Contrary to popular belief, back rider does most of the pedaling
By Judy Fortin
CNN
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LA GRANGE, Georgia (CNN) -- When Tracey Trumbull and his wife, Cathy, go for a bike ride, they don't have to worry about keeping up. They're always together, on a tandem bicycle.

"The tandem equalizes everything because you're right next to each other," says Trumbull of Knoxville, Tennessee. "It makes me a stronger cyclist. It helps Cathy be a stronger cyclist."

The couple have been riding tandem for five years. "We started out doing just a few miles the first time we rode," says Cathy Trumbull. "We built up to 30 to 60 depending on the amount of hills and the incline." (Going tandem provides more than exercise, cyclists say Video )

The Trumbulls aren't alone in their love of the sport. Forty different tandem clubs operate around the United States. The Tandem Club of America reports 1,200 registered couples or teams. Tandems account for .1 percent of all bike sales in the United States.

While they're not as popular as single bicycles, Dwan Shepard, co-owner of Co-Motion Cycles in Eugene, Oregon, says "Business is great and growing."

Bicycles built for two have come a long way since their invention in the late 1800s. The least-expensive models cost around $500 and weigh 50 pounds. The top-of-the line bikes weigh just under half that and range from $2,500 to $12,000.

The first tandems were created for the man to steer from the back so that the woman would have a better view.

Nowadays, the larger rider or the captain sits up front and is responsible for steering and controlling the tandem. The stoker is the person in the back.

Don't accuse stokers such as Christine Trahan of Woodstock, Georgia, of getting an easy ride. "I'm the power person," exclaims Trahan. "I'm the one who has to pedal the whole time."

Trahan, a physician assistant, got her husband, Mitch, interested in tandem biking five years ago. She says long rides help her burn calories and keep her in shape both physically and mentally.

"You get into a rhythm and it's almost a mental de-stresser as well, so it's not just the physical fitness you get but the mental fitness."

The Trahans enjoy working together as a team and challenging themselves to ride faster and farther than before. It also gives them more time together as a couple.

Christine Trahan says, "When we get off the bike, I probably love Mitch more than when I got on it." But as with other cycles, you have to be careful.

During a routine ride last October, the Trumbulls took a bad spill when crossing a railroad track. "We were about 20 miles from the car, so we had to get back," remembers Tracey Trumbull. "There's that noble idea of falling and getting back up. It probably wasn't a great idea, but we did it anyway."

They later learned that Cathy had fractured her pelvis in two places. She stayed off the bike while recovering during the winter months. Now that a new cycling season has begun, they are eager to get back in shape.

"Getting started again is a painful process, but it's getting better," says Tracey Trumbull. In spite of their accident, he says, "The health benefits far outweigh the risks."


story.schwinn.jpg

An 1896 family tandem ridden by U.S. bicycle pioneer Ignaz Schwinn, his wife and child. Tandems were relatively new then.

HEALTH LIBRARY

In association with MayoClinic.com

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