If you ride a tandem you have undoubtedly heard this quintessential remark made by people thinking they sound clever: “she’s not pedaling back there”. Once you’ve heard it several hundred times, it loses its charm. When you think about it, it’s actually insulting. It is the equivalent of passing someone and shouting, “You lazy slob. Why don’t you get to work?”

We ride a daVinci which has independent coasting. That means when someone says “she’s not pedaling back there” we can literally prove them wrong. Spencer (husband/captain) will stop pedaling while I carry on. That may be too subtle but we think it’s fun. And of course, not everyone says this dreaded refrain. Here’s just a few of the many creative and positive comments we have heard along the way:

  1. Wish I had someone to help me up this hill!
  2. Great teamwork you guys!
  3. Hey, I didn’t think you had to pedal in the back!
  4. Which one of you works the hardest?
  5. Double the horse-power!
  6. When are you going to let her drive?!
  7. Stroke-Stroke-Stroke (on opening-day of boating season)
  8. That looks like FUN!
  9. She’s following you kinda close, isn’t she?!

I imagine everyone reading this has heard the common refrain as often as I have and you probably have learned to ignore it. But there are some times when it just can’t be ignored. I thought it would be fun to share our stories and effective comebacks. When I asked TCA about submitting this post here’s what I got back from Laura McCabe:

My usual response now is “Wow, that’s creative! I’ve NEVER heard THAT one before!”
Personal story: We were stopped at a traffic light and a motorcycle pulled up beside us. He said, “you need an engine on that thing.” My captain said, “I’ve got one. She’s in back.” (You can’t have him – he’s taken!)

We have been riding tandem since 1999, covering more than 30K miles. I pride myself on contributing to our team effort. For most of that time I’ve kept a civil tongue in my head. I must admit, I have not always successfully let this ubiquitous comment roll off my back.

Spencer Beard & Sheila Hoffman
at Hurricane Ridge Summit

Two most memorable incidence come to mind. On the slopes of Alpe d’Huez I completely LOST it half way up the climb when a bare chested man with a beer belly, surrounded by cases of beer, yelled it at me. I shot back a quintessential American two-word response. That shocked him into silence. Nine years later, while training for our Canadian Rockies tour we climbed Hurricane Ridge in Port Townsend, WA (5200 ft in 18 miles).  We were going very slowly up a particularly steep section. I was not polite in my one-finger response and didn’t let him off easy as he stuttered an apology. In hindsight I know he was only trying to lighten the challenging climb. I carried my guilt up the remainder of the hill and never saw him again to apologize for my rudeness. BUT, you can be sure he won’t EVER again say “she’s not pedaling back there”.

Spencer has a theory. He thinks men say it because if they were in the back and couldn’t be seen, THEY would not pedal! I’m not sure if there’s any truth to that. But it does make me wonder if any male stokers also hear this comment. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a woman say this line. Have you? That may support Spencer’s theory. Please share your stories, examples of great comebacks and any other thoughts below.