Being There: This Friday is Tandemonium!
(2016) What would possess someone to do a trick regarded as dangerous? I’ve always wondered what Evel Knievel thought before he rode his tank of a motorcycle down a ramp toward parked school buses. He made it his job to jump over large objects in front of large crowds, often with the huge risk of unknown. That is, Mr. Knievel didn’t always ride off in spectacle. Sometimes he was sent rag dolling to the pavement. The man used to brag he had broken every bone in his body.
Unfortunately for his lifestyle he had to go bigger and faster than the trick before it. When Knievel lined up his “motorcycle” (it was a rocket with a seat on it) to jump the Grand Canyon, naturally everyone watched for the same reason: the spectacle of it all. When, moments after liftoff, Knievel's parachute came out, some commented that he got case of the willies immediately and pulled the chute, sealing his attempt as a failure. The rocket landed on some rocks at the bottom of the canyon. He would break more bones. Others would say he didn’t think the stunt through and the sudden acceleration caused him to black out which led to him pulling on the parachute lever.
One fact is overlooked though. While Knievel did ridiculously dangerous stunts, he always did them alone. What I mean is, there wasn’t an Evel Knievel Tandem Motorcycle Jump. There wasn’t even a sidecar attempt. Either it lacked willing participants or maybe even Knievel knew involving a second party wasn’t popular. Sometimes adding a second seat onto something and trying a dangerous stunt doesn’t add up. Or does it?
This Friday night at the Trexlertown velodrome a unique track discipline is brought out for a one-night spectacle. Imagine all the watts track riders put down for their seated sprints. Imagine the bouncing around that happens at full speed in the 'single bike' category. Imagine the harrowing elbows out sprints. Now imagine it with a second rider on the back.
This Friday, the tandem track bikes, the big rigs of track racing, roll off the apron and onto the high banks. Don't call them big rigs though, they have some of the fastest lap times on record at the velodrome.
Each year my imagination soars as to whether I could manage to speed around the cobbled crater (many riders say this is the bumpiest track out there, hence the nickname). I imagine two scenarios, famously possible by the unique discipline. I first imagine riding as the captain on the front. The smaller rider is always in the back, so I guess I’d have to phone our hero Mike to stoke the back seat. If I were the stoker, I’d call up Greg, a track rider who is bigger than me. It would be quite an experience giving up control to a bike built to only go fast. If the bike is on a ramp overlooking the Grand Canyon and a man with a deep V-neck leather outfit gets on the front, I will certainly step off and melt into the background.
The time is right to watch track racing. In the US we’ve had poor coverage of the Rio Olympic velodrome events, and what we did get to see left us searching for more. It’s also the end of summer break for students, one more reason to pack in a family night out.
The best part is that the people of Lehigh Valley owns the Trexlertown velodrome. That equates to wonderfully priced tickets. Want to stand along the boards? It will cost you a whole Lincoln. Splurge for the $8 option to sit in the stands at the finish line. There are other events throughout the night; the show starts at 7:30. The night ends with every tandem team on the track in an all out sprint.
Imagine if you will, the amount of power two riders on the same bike can manage. The only way to turn the imagination into a reality is to attend Tandemonium! where the odd sight of sometimes up to ten track tandems zip around the track as the encore. Having attended several of the previous years of Tandemonium! I’ll pass along that the stands haven’t been fully packed. That equates in not having a bad seat in the house. If you can get up there before Betty closes Java Joint at 4:00pm, you can turn a decent night out into a great night out. All without worrying if the man on the motorcycle jumping over twenty school buses will land rubber side down, because Trexlertown uses a Harley for a Kierin derny.