How cycling reveals personality: the tandem

Some parts of your personality can become more visible when you are riding a bicycle. Really. I recently found out that you can easily expose someone who likes to be in control of things by putting that person on a tandem bike. In the back seat.

The story goes as follows. There is this person that likes to be in control of things. Let’s assume it is a woman. One day you invite her to go cycling in a foreign city. Let’s call it Oxford. You are going to a bike shop to rent some bikes for the day. Unfortunately, they haven’t got any bikes left. But wait, they do have a tandem bike! You get enthusiastic, she agrees but admits that last time she rode a tandem, it had been a bit scary, and therefore she would like to sit in the front seat. Aha, there’s our first clue. Well, it turns out to be a tandem with two different frame sizes, the smallest one in the back. And since she is smaller, the shop owner says there is no other way than that she has to be on the back seat. She agrees, but does not say much for a while.

Once on the bike she starts acting a bit nervous. She says you have to brake earlier and stop at crossings like she always does. Hmmm, seems like she does not trust you. On the small path next to Oxford canal you feel her pulling her handlebar. Useless, in the back seat you can easily let go of the handlebar. But it gives you the sense that things are not going the way she would like it. You smile at her, but she doesn’t return it.

After a while, on a broad cycle path, you can convince her to let go of the handlebar, have a look around the beautiful landscape, and trust you. And you return a little bit of control to her by giving her the map to read. She sits up in triumph reading out the map with both hands off the handlebar. And tells you later on that was her special moment of the day.

But then the road starts to go downhill, and as you know, she always goes more slowly downhill than you. And today you are gradually finding out why. She commands you to brake. Getting towards the end of the day, she loses more and more of the relaxation that you so carefully tried to impose on her. As if it had cost her all her energy to let go of her control over things. She says she is fed up with it and that one day on a tandem is enough for a while. You are surprised by finding this out about someone you have known for years. Want to expose someone who you suspect is some sort of a control freak? Put them on the back of a tandem and they will have a tough day. And in the end you know who they really are.


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