Carla and I took the tandem to the local Ride of Silence Wednesday night. It was a first for both of us.
I'm not much for bike "advocacy" (hence the scare quotes I insist on putting around the word). Do I believe that bikers have a place on the road? Sure. Do I believe that drivers should refrain from putting tire marks across a biker's back whenever possible? Well, of course. But I always have misgivings about some kind of organized "consciousness-raising" event that's supposed to deal with these issues. I'd rather see lots of bikers just get out on the roads and ride their bikes every day. Still, friends had told me that the R of S is a pretty moving experience, and I'm always up for a tandem ride, so we went.
Slight problem, though. The combination of no police escort (other than the lone representative of Des Moines' finest who bullhorn-shouted at us to quit congregating in the road pre-ride) and a ride leadership that seemed a little paranoid about the perception of bikers as stoplight-blowing scofflaws (thus, we were instructed NOT to cork intersections) kind of killed the experience for me. A big, silent, unified group of riders? That's a statement. Dozens of tiny pockets of silent riders getting stuck at stoplights, leapfrogging into and out of clusters, and getting strung out all over town? That's just a bunch of people on bikes who happen to be kind of quiet.
Getting a tandem going at a few dozen stoplights is kind of a chore, too -- sort of like a Mack truck working its way up through the gearbox. And, note to the racer dude in the all-matching-and-matched-to-the-color-scheme-of-his-bike kit who insisted on track-standing every intersection: One, nobody was impressed, and two, the Freddy Kruger nails-on-a-chalkboard sound of your brakes as you repeatedly demonstrated this non-impressive maneuver was NOT what I'd call "silent". (An admission that reveals my dark, twisted, gnarled inner self: I was secretly hoping he'd flub one and fall over, the way that I secretly hope kids on those stupid roller-skate-heel shoes will fall on their butts as they glide through the grocery store.)
Still, I got to spend some quality time with my better half on our two-seater, I got to see the whole Anderson Convoy (Tom and Holly on their tandem with the twins on their singles), I finally got to meet C's bikey knitting pal Jess, I got to check out Former Neighbor Steve's swanky new monster-cross gravel rig, and there were moments that I kind of felt what the event was supposed to be about. Maybe it wasn't a "powerful experience of cycling solidarity", but it was a good ride... and there's nothing wrong with that.