What Has 4 Legs And 2 Wheels?

MELANIE FRECHETTE, 30, AND HER FIANCE, John Glynn, 35, are both serious cyclists. But when the duo embarked on weekend rides together, they wound up finishing solo. The rides had ceased to be much fun because the two couldn't talk -- but, Frechette lamented, ""it's too much work to keep up with him.'' A few weeks ago, the Leominster, Mass., couple closed the cycling gap with a quaint contraption that's staging a comeback: a bicycle built for two. Now, as ""captain,'' Glynn can pedal as fast as he wants while Frechette, the ""stoker,'' rides easily along behind, contributing as much pedal power as she wants and enjoying the view.

Onetime boardwalk curiosities, tandem bicycles are appearing by the hundreds at rallies around the country. Sales have been growing by 20 percent per year since 1990, although they still constitute only a tiny fraction of the bicycle market. Some tandems are built for off-road use. Others are designed to compete in the handful of tandem-only races held each year. Manufacturers have improved the notoriously wobbly and heavy frames of tandem bikes, although these advances come at a price, which starts at around $1,000. ""People are very serious about the performance of their tandems,'' says Greg Shepherd, editor of Tandem Magazine, a quarterly that debuts this week. One company even has the answer to the tandem's most vexing dilemma -- where to put the eight-foot-long machines when you're not riding. Massachusetts-based Montague Corp.'s tandem folds up to fit neatly in the trunk of a car.

Cycling on a two-seater does require some getting used to. Both riders must pedal (and coast) at the same pace. Because the captain has a better view of upcoming terrain, he's supposed to warn the stoker to brace himself against potholes. The stoker, in turn, has to surrender control -- the ride is much smoother when only one person is trying to steer. The stoker can then concentrate on other things: Pamela Blalock, 32, has perfected the art of making sandwiches while pedaling.

Tandems are particularly appealing to working couples trying to fit both exercise and each other into tight schedules. They're also an opportunity for blind cyclists, who can work out while someone else steers and brakes. Others have made tandeming a family affair. Steve Nelson, 36, and his wife, Theresa, 34, didn't want to choose between cycling and spending time with their children. By rigging two tandems with pedal adapters, they can each ferry one of their young daughters, Jessika, 7, and Serah, 4, on family rides near their home in Huntington Beach, Calif. The growing legion of tandemaniacs swears by such two-wheeled togetherness. So it's no surprise that after their June 4 wedding, Frechette and Glynn will haul their bike along on their Bar Harbor honeymoon.

What Has 4 Legs And 2 Wheels? | News