Stoker’s Corner

The view from the rear…!

The novice stoker must learn to take the jokes and there’s never one at the expense of the pilot! The most important part of teamwork is to understand your role and that of your team mates – there are only two of us and democracy is the only way that this set up will work.

My first challenge was something of a surprise really. I’m right handed and Chris is a leftie. This means re-learning everything the opposite way to what comes naturally – from setting off to coming to a stop. Our maiden journey through London on a busy, rainy Saturday meant this was mastered relatively quickly and is now second nature.

The stoker is there to work – not to make decisions or take control. You can pull as hard as you like on those invisible brakes but only the pilot will stop this machine. Fortunately Chris is the more cautious of the two of us on downhills. I fail to see how injuries at 35mph are any worse than those you’d suffer at 25…

Tandems brakes have to work hard when your combined weight, luggage and bike exceeds 30 stone and are famous for over heating with disasterous consequences!

Once the art of giving up control has been mastered and the most productive position assumed for the job in hand, the stoker is in a good position for navigating and has the opportunity to  really see the detail that makes up a landscape. Miniscule differences in vegetation show passage across a continent.

Once off the tandem, the stoker’s duties remain the same – stoking the engines. I have taken full control of the kitchen on this trip and we are eating like royalty. Lots and lots of olive oil for our joints, vegetables and pasta every night, but different every time. I love the challenge of having the bare essentials and a few seasonings to create fantastic fare.

Two weeks into this I am now learning to ride this bike from the rear. I thought all I had to do was un-learn riding a bike and stoke. The finer skills of stoking are  a challenge to be mastered as I combine trust and intuition to make my contribution. When the pilot is running on a short fuse, you learn not to repeat mistakes very quickly….

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3 responses to “Stoker’s Corner

  • Ali

    Hi Janyis,

    Ha, little did you know that, that maiden journey in the pissing rain would be a sign of things to come. Hug the coast, a great deal dryer!! Missing you saw your mum who let me know how wet you both are. xx

  • Janyis

    Hi Ali
    We tried the coast and had the worst storm so far (flooding in tent at 3am and 16 hours of thunder and lightning) and a couple more wet days. We also got pretty shaken by a run in with a lorry so have taken stock and heading back to Slovenia in the morning, then over to northern Italy.
    Hope all’s well in the Portsalade borderlands.
    We’ve also had some incredible sunny days so all in all, we’re good and happy to be doing what we wanted to.
    Take care
    Janyis x

  • roland twynam

    Glad you got back safely: read your blog. Great trip.

    If you don’t remember you pitched tent behind us at Anet.

    Your stove was playing up

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