Two can slay at the Dragon Ride 2023! Meet our tandem bike riders
It was a first for Eoghan McHugh and Peter Weldon at the Dragon Ride 2023, as the experienced cyclists and endurance-lovers decided to ride the event on a rather eye-catching vehicle: the tandem bike.
For those who were at the event, you may have seen the pair powering through the Gran Fondo distance, chatting to other riders and enjoying a brilliant day out in the Welsh hills. After the event, we made it our mission to chat with rider Eoghan McHugh, to find out more about his experience.
Introduce yourself – who are you and how did you get into cycling?
My name is Eoghan McHugh. Initially my interest in cycling was sparked because I couldn’t afford to commute to work while a student. The train and bus were too expensive for me, so I got a Frankenstein of a bike for £50 and cycled to and from work. Over that summer, I signed up for a Triathlon-sprint and work put me forward for the Devils in the Downs that they supported. I loved it!
Then in 2016, I got a bike that was brand new! And, cycling went from there. I have done a lot on two wheels – cycled all over the UK, through chunks of Europe, Morocco. I’ve cycled on road, in deserts, over bogs, and all types of terrains, during the day and through the night!
2. How many sportives have you completed, and how was the Dragon Ride different for you this year?
I don’t know how many sportives I’ve ridden! I’ve ridden a lot!
The Dragon Ride was different this year because it was an adventure – my friend and I travelled to the start the night before and camped out, we rode the Gran Fondo on a tandem, and we travelled back. The final part of the adventure was the chain on the tandem snapped with about 17 miles to get home!
The Dragon Ride specifically was different because of the tandem. Yes, it was a different riding experience. But, it was an invitation for others to chat with myself and my friend. I have long since ditched any cares about numbers and data. I don’t care about wattage or FTP. I love cycling because of the encounters with the unexpected (the places visited and the things that go right and wrong) and the chances to chat with others. On other sportives I’ve ridden (particularly those I’ve ridden solo to cover for Sportive.com), it’s a matter of head down and crack on with very few interactions. On the Dragon and on the tandem, we chatted with loads of other riders and many of the same riders over the event. That was fun and added to the atmosphere – I’d like to think as much for us as it did for the other riders.
3. Tell us more about the tandem bike – do both people put in the same amount of effort? Is it difficult to get in ‘sync’ on the ride?
The guy I rode with on this year’s Dragon Ride is a grafter. He doesn’t like to feel like he’s let anyone down, so he works.
As far as getting in sync and riding together, I think we did pretty good! Of course, there’s a whole adjustment to be made for both riders – two riders have two cadence preferences, gear preferences, etc… We both worked while on the bike and we both had to work together and communicate what was working. I captained and two people also have different ride styles – comfort levels descending, when to brake, taking corners… You’d have to ask the other chap what that was like!
Apparently, there’s this absolutely absurd myth that tandem riders can stand while riding together. That is a realm of synchronicity and coordination we failed to achieve! And so we sat for most of the day spinning or grinding. There were some excruciating moments for the bottom!
4. Do you chat with your partner the whole ride? What sort of things do you talk about – does someone need to be the key motivator?
We did chat! We chatted with each other. We also chatted with other riders. Our chats ran the gamut – we talked Partygate; kids going off to university; the new Tour de France show on Netflix; the Welsh scenery; and memories of other rides and with other riders. We talked about the food, what it’d be like to have a coffee, the heat and whether it was good or bad, how great it was to ride a tandem going downhill dropping riders left and right, how horrible it was to ride a tandem going up hill getting passed by riders left and right!
It was an intensive hang out session with a friend over a 11-hour period where both are being challenged! It can get weird, wonderful, and wacky!
5. How did you find the Dragon Ride course? How was the experience overall?
The Dragon Ride course over the Gran Fondo was great! Eight categorised climbs over 130 miles of riding? It’s a lot for a day out! I thought the signage and the volunteers pointing the way was brilliant. The road surfaces and conditions were great. We didn’t get lost as a result and just had to keep spinning!
Of course, the weeks before the ride, the sun was scorching. On the day, it was really important to keep taking on water. I don’t normally drink too often and I found I was going through bottles. Naturally, sweating as profusely as everyone would have done makes a difficult day a little more challenging – especially towards the end where there are so many more nutrients soaked into the jersey and helmet sweatband than in the body!
For us, we camped somewhere we shouldn’t have and were told about it at 4:40 am! The tandem is heavy and we were riding with bags. I had a flare up of tendonitis in my ankle where I’ve suffered from it before.
It was definitely a tough route over a long day! But, that’s what makes a sportive an adventure!
6. Would you ride on a tandem bike again, or do you have a new challenge coming up?
Would I ride a tandem bike again? Absolutely! They are genuinely a great way to get around and are a lot of fun! The novelty has not worn off!
I had suggested to my girlfriend (who’s not a cyclist) John O’Groats to Lands End on a tandem. We’re currently fixing up her house and the other day she said that with the amount of money she’s saving through DIY, she could buy a tandem… Who knows! I don’t think she knows what JOGLE entails and I ain’t gonna tell her if it means we can do it!
Thanks so much Eoghan and congratulations to you and Pete again. See you next year!