Two guys on a tandem

I hope that readers accustomed to the usual apple, ag, and energy-themed material will excuse a bit of indignant ranting social criticism.  The 2009 cider madness was made possible by the generosity of a guy I scarcely knew at the time, a friend of a friend who lent us a tandem bike to power the grinder.  It worked beautifully, grinding apples at an unprecedented rate and adding significantly to the social aspect of the cidering.  What with busy schedules we’re only now arranging to get the tandem back to him.  I hadn’t ever actually ridden a tandem on the road before, and it seemed only proper to make sure it was in good working order before returning it, so Holly and I hatched a plan to take it out to work one day, about a 12 mile ride.

Today was the day, and I am pleased to report that riding a tandem bike is very efficient and a lot of fun.  The dynamics are a bit wobbly getting started, but once under way it smooths out and the inherent efficiency of double the power for the same amount of wind resistance becomes readily apparent, especially to the rider in front – it’s possible to go much faster with the same or less effort as compared to solo biking.  And the social aspect of having a conversation going all the while makes the miles fly by.  All in all a very cool piece of technology, and despite the inherent logistical issues definitely worth considering for serious bike commuting.

Now on to the rant part – what didn’t occur to either of us, but seems to occur to everyone else we talked to, is the assumption that two guys on a tandem bike must necessarily be homosexuals.   It’s not as if anyone was actually rude to us or hecked or anything; this is Massachusetts after all, America’s own Gomorrah, but the guys at the gas station where we met up were clearly having a good time with the concept, and we passed by a young mother with two young children who smiled as if to say “aren’t we so progressive here in Cambridge” and pointed us out to the kids.  Even at the place we work, which is an MIT solar cell startup company no less, not exactly a bastion of redneckedness, folks had the same impression – “I expect to see a guy and a girl on a tandem, or maybe two women who are really close friends.  But two guys on a tandem – that’s gay.”

This brought back distant memories; as it turns out both Holly and I were the sort of kids who got called gay with some regularity back in high school, not because of anything specifically gay that we did, more probably because that’s just what kids at least in rural high schools say to taunt the nerdy kids who are even moderately intelligent, thoughtful, or quirky.  And it’s genuinely easy to laugh about it now, having long since absolved ourselves in the nerd-heaven that is MIT, and having been married to our wives well over a decade between us.  But I find myself shaking my head at the whole concept – isn’t this the 21st century?  What is so gay about two guys on a tandem bicycle?  I mean, football players dress up in skin-tight pants, line up, and bend over for the purpose of passing a hunk of leather between one anothers’ legs, and nobody is calling them gay.  You aren’t even touching the other rider on a tandem bike.  Are most guys so laden with leftover teenage trauma that they wouldn’t ride a tandem with another guy, so as not to risk getting verbally assaulted (or worse)?  It can’t be that full-grown guys are actually that insecure in their sexuality – it must be more of a reflexive thing.  And so what if there were two gay guys on a tandem bike?  This is 2009 in New England, where last I knew all six states allow gay marriage (fingers crossed for my home state of Maine this election night).  How are we ever going to arrive at an enlightened understanding of gender if two guys can’t ride the same tandem bicycle without folks sniggering? It puts me in mind of accounts from the time of Abe Lincoln, when it was apparently common for two (or more) men to share a bed without any implication of sodomy.    So, gentlemen, if guys in 1850 could manage that, surely we can manage tandem bicyclery.

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One Response to “Two guys on a tandem”

  1. Keet Says:

    I don’t get why some guys are so up tight about tandem biking together… only if they would actually try it and discover how much fun it actually is. Who cares what people think. Just let them miss out. Doesn’t matter if its 2 guys, 2 girls or 1 girl and 1 guy, its still great. I mean, if you had a hot girlfriend with a nice butt, wouldn’t you want her riding behind you so she can gawk at your behind. Jeez some people… and their homophobic issues. It’s easy to make fun of others than it is to look in their own mirror.

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