Australia / New Zealand, Trip Reports » Bike packing intro for wife – Rimutaka Incline


I’d only ever ridden a tandem twice before. The second time was with my wife on the back, and it mentally scarred her so much it just reinforced her fear of bicycles. Many years were to pass before she was to step over a top-tube again. The next time she rode it was as a result of the Bikewise ride to work month. All of a sudden she was commuting the 20kms into Wellington and back, and even joined the Voodoo Lounge team one year when we went over and did the 100km Grape Ride in Marlborough. She even did a Frocks on Bikes ride. That was probably the last time we had a summer in Wellington, so since then riding has not been high on her agenda.

I was starting to pine for the outdoors in the wake of the Kiwi Brevet and suggested that we load up the Jville Cycles Tandem and head for a short  over-nighter somewhere close to home. Finding somewhere was a lot harder than we thought, so we ended up just taking the Hutt Valley River trails and riding from Lower Hutt to the top of the Rimutaka Incline and camping out there.


The little Trangia stove

Tandems are a bit of hard work. (I now have massive respect for the people that used them in the Kiwi Brevet). They are so bloody heavy and getting them around the many stiles we encountered on the Hutt River Cycle way was a real team effort, a kind of two stage process whereby both of you loft the front wheel up in the air, and grab the second set of handlebars and steer it on the rear wheel. In fact the Rimutaka Incline itself was a doddle compared to the Hutt River Cycle way with all its little hurdles; all to keep bogans on motorbikes and 4wds out I guess. What really impressed me was that except for a few hundred metres you can get all the way to Te  Marua on the River Trail. So much work has been done on these trails over the years. Credit needs to go to someone.

I noticed the rear cog on the tandem was very hooked, and had to wonder if it was not just my imagination that someone was pedalling backwards at times! Getting a sore butt seemed to be the major problem for Kay so many short stops were called for. I think the fact that you really need to be still on a tandem so as not to cause balance issues is partly to blame, as the seat was comfy, and also sported a suspension seat post. Obviously a lack of ride time for my stoker was the main issue, but by the time we finished our ride there was less protestations on the downhills and I got far less arm-pump from over braking than I did on day one.


On the way back

I installed my two Freeload racks on either end of the bike, and my handlebar harness was made from an old Webstock Conference satchel. Other than that we had small back-packs on with a few little bits and pieces.

We borrowed my daughter’s tent and managed to repack it into a smaller package for stowing. Other items we took were two sleeping bags and mats and a small cooking kit with my little Trangia stove which I brought for the Kiwi Brevet but had not yet been used. One dehydrated meal for tea, a couple of porridge sachets and some Milo and we were set.


More suspension than we could handle!

It was a nice warmish night in our little tent, although I gave my air mattress to Kay and I put up with the crappy closed foam one which is a poor substitute even on the smooth ground. Overall it was a big success with only the sore botty detracting from it. We will have to work on that ! With a few more miles in the legs for Kay it would have been a far more enjoyable experience.

If anyone is interested in hiring the Jville Cycles Tandem then get in touch with its minder, Peter Colvin who is building up a fleet of hire bikes and currently has 3 tandems. Peter and his lady have toured overseas so he knows a thing or two about setting one up. By the way this one seemed to have about 6 inches of travel on the front so it was a bit wasted on us! 

Comments (7)

Steve BennettApril 26th, 2012 at 11:55 pm

Sounds like fun. I did one tandem cycle tour of eight days, in France last year. Beautiful ride through the Dordogne region, but it ended in disaster when my partner put her foot through the timing chain, and her toe got mashed under the chainring. Stitches and a pretty scar, of course.

One thing we did get to try was some fully loaded tandem mountain biking. Pretty bizzarre, especially with the Bob trailer. There are some interesting advantages though – the bike tends to be much more stable over ruts at oblique angles. All the weight keeps pushing it forwards, preventing it from falling over. I remember one incident where the front wheel actually came off the ground, flopping sideways in the air, but the two rear wheels kept us upright.

You also get a huge amount of torque and a lot of downforce for pedalling out of muddy puddles. So it feels a bit like a 4wd.

The most unexpected thing for me was how exhausted I ended up. Even though I’m much fitter than my partner, I overcompensated, pedalling hard to get up all the hills. Each evening she was full of energy and I was completely wrecked. Fun times…

El jefeApril 27th, 2012 at 1:49 am

That’s true Steve, the tandem actually gave me heaps more confidence it was so stable, bit unfortunately my wife is a real newbie so I had to really throttle it back on the descents or mildly techy stuff.
Toe under chain ring sounds real nasty.

BrianApril 28th, 2012 at 11:51 am

Sue and I ride a tanedem allot touring here in NZ and over seas mostly on roads, but some of the cycle paths we rode in Switzerland last time I wondered if we should’ve had a MTB one. Tandeming is like dancing you both get to know after a period of time and by feel and instinct get the amount of effort and timing right.

We started on the tandem as, like you, I was the cyclist and Sue was a walker. But now we are both cyclist and still prefer the tandem for touring, for me the main reason is, we can talk to each other without riding two abreast, and people come and talk to us when we ride the tandem when they wouldn’t if we were on solos.

Remember gently, gently with plenty of stops is the way to get the other half riding again. Make it fun, goodluck and thanks for the account.

Jeff LyallApril 29th, 2012 at 3:45 pm

Thanks Brian, yes, with an unsophisticated tandem like this one, you have to be both pedalling the same cadence. We were better at this on day two for sure, I spun less and she spun more : )

BrianApril 30th, 2012 at 1:13 pm

If you ever get your own tandem as this is a recurring theme. The male rider always appear to tend to spin more than the female rider. I fitted 175 cranks to the front for me and 170 cranks at the rear for Sue. It has helped tredemously. I don’t know if the hire shop would be able to do this.

Have fun

PS I must get my act together and put up a couple of rides we’ve done as it is quiet on here at the moment.

Area54May 10th, 2012 at 12:53 pm

I really enjoy tandem bikepacking, gets the whole family out. We did a week trip a few years back now, our daughter was 4 years old and sat on a seat (Weeride) in front of me, with the Bob trailer as well. I agree with Steve, as captain you do tend to push harder – must be testosterone 🙂

My wife slowly got used to my riding style, but communication is key – calling out bumps, turns and gear changes helps her get ready for whats coming. Best way to introduce your partner to this style of riding and extends their boundaries.

El jefeMay 10th, 2012 at 6:18 pm

You are lucky in Oz Area54, here in Wellington (NZ) its very hard to find flat enough ground to go out with the Mrs. Ditto for riding with the kids. Thats why the Rimutaka Incline is a very popular ride.

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