By Pico Triano
Photos: Shawn Whitelaw (taken at La Bikery Moncton rebuilding derelict bikes)
We didn’t grow up very rich and brand new bicycles from the store were not generally how we got our rides. To illustrate the point, my first bicycle was a hand me down one speed that my Dad originally got at the dump. My second bike was an English racer built from a scavenged frame we got on garbage day.
My brilliant bike mechanic older brother Hank noticed that the steering tube on most old one speeds those days was the same diameter as the tube the seat post fit into. That gave him an idea. He mated two bikes creating a three-wheels-in-a-line tandem. He somehow mated the drive trains with hose clamps and created a rideable monstrosity. It flexed in the middle so you could park it upright without a kickstand.
He convinced my younger brother Jake to climb aboard and go racing all around town. They raced everyone they encountered and usually won. Something Hank probably would have managed without this set up. This led to his second inspiration and where I got shanghaied into being involved.
My high school every year had a bicycle race. Hank decided that with more power, he could win that race. I was that more power he was seeking. Unfortunately more power meant sacrificing some control. Hank was already a Clydesdale (cyclist weighing more than 200 pounds) and I would get there not long after high school. Balancing a tandem is a whole new adventure especially when you factor in our size. We were fast without a doubt but for me the ride was absolutely terrifying.
We did a “training” run to school sometime before the race. If balance was already an issue, try carrying an armload of books along with that. I am grateful for the soft landing accident we had. Hank decided to try me on the front and I lost control. We wound up in the ditch. I refused to get back on. Enough was enough.
Hank should have entered that race on his own bike. He would have done well. I believe he had a legitimate shot at second place. But he didn’t. We would have never successfully stayed on that tandem for the whole race anyway. I’m sure we would have crashed out.