On our cycle tours through Holland collecting material for the Holland-Cycling.com website, we get to meet many interesting people. The story of one couple on a duo bike we came across on the island of Texel is so inspirational that I'd like to share it with you.
The two cycling mates on their duo bike. Photo © Holland-Cycling.com
Tandem or duo bike?
Last summer we were on the Wadden Island of Texel to collect material for two new cycle routes. As we were cycling along one of the dykes, we saw two men on a duo bike heading towards us at full speed. Although these duo bikes are appearing more often on the cycle paths, we'd never had the chance to see one close-up - at least not in action.
A year ago, I posted a photo of a 'bike for two' in our photo gallery (see below). At the time I had no idea what it was - a tandem or a duo bike? In fact, the bike is known under several names: side by side tandem, companion cycle and duo bike. As the latter seems to be most commonly used, I've chosen to go for this name.
Having decided on what to call it, the question remains: what's the point of the duo bike? Why turn what are effectively two bikes next to each other into a bulky tricycle? We were about to find out, as the duo shared their story.
The men told us how one of them lives in a local nursing home. He has difficulties walking and even with a rollator he's pretty restricted in how far he can go. This means he doesn't have the opportunity to get around much. He had always been a keen cyclist, but his bad balance and physical disability has made cycling on a regular bike impossible.
So when the nursing home purchased a duo bike, he was eager to take it for a spin. But he didn't have a cycling partner to go out with. At that moment an ex-colleague - also a keen cyclist - happened to be doing some odd jobs for the nursing home. When he heard his friend was looking for a companion, he volunteered to go along for a ride. They enjoyed it so much that they've continued going out together on the duo bike every week.
Immediately the idea behind a duo bike became clear. To ride an ordinary bike or a tandem, you need to have a good balance. By placing the riders next to each other and adding an extra wheel, balance is no longer an issue. The duo bike has electric support, so the extra weight of the bike doesn't really matter. Neither is it a problem if one of the riders doesn't have full muscle strength.
Replacing the conventional saddle by a seat with back support makes the bike even more suitable for cyclists with a disability. And the bike had another feature that was proudly demonstrated: by pressing a lever the seat can turn sideways, so no clever acrobatics are needed to get on and off the bike.
If we hadn't been told, we wouldn't have noticed any difference in physical ability between the two men. With the duo bike the two mates can get pretty much everywhere on the island. Narrow cycle paths, obstacles such as posts in the middle of the cycle path - nothing will stand in the way of this dynamic duo.
Being able to get away from the nursing home and enjoy the lovely countryside is clearly the highlight of the week. One they wouldn't miss out on for something as banal as a turn in the weather. With a twinkle in eye they recalled going out in a hailstorm - for fun. Such commitment certainly puts cyclists such as ourselves to shame!
Fun2Go companion cycle
Do you want to find out more about the Fun2Go companion cycle? Then go to the website of Van Raam, the Dutch manufacturer of special needs bikes that produces the Fun2Go.
There are various places where you can rent the Fun2Go, including Texel and Amsterdam. You'll find an overview of rental companies on the manufacturer's website.
For an overview of types of bike available for cyclists with a disability, see: Cycling with a disability
If you happen to come across our cycling duo when you're doing one of our Texel Cycle Routes, please say hello from us!