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Video: This Couple Rides Jumps, Teeter Totters, & Drops on their DH Tandem

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27.5” wheels, 63.5 degree head angle, 200 millimetres of travel—sounds like a downhill bike, right? Well, what about a 1940-millimetre wheelbase with cranksets, handlebars, and seats? Yes, that’s plurals.

Welcome to the world of tandem with Jackson and Rose Green

These guys have been pioneering the way of two-wheel, two-person power for over thirteen years, sparked by Rose’s interest in competing in the Lake Taupo (New Zealand) road race. She convinced her then-boyfriend Jackson to join her on a tandem roadie to “split” the ride. The bug bit, and like all bike junkies, it wasn’t long until they found themselves using the n+1 rule while scouring the internet for something a little more “off-road” oriented. This is where ‘Rocky’ the hardtail was found and their foray into couples’ racing began.
Four-feet of air Wink
Ingenuity creates evolutionThe hardtail was outgrown after two seasons of racing and records, and a plusher full suspension was required. As poor students, they couldn’t afford the $7000 price tag of an off-the-shelf frame, let alone the parts to spec it. So what do any reasonable Kiwis do? Go DIY of course! ‘Bruce’ the 150mm travel trail bike was born—albeit 365 days later—designed start-to-finish by Jackson. He jumped in head first, did the 3D modelling, sourced the materials, and even taught himself how to weld. By all accounts it was a ground-breaking success; nothing like it existed.

With development comes failure

Think you’re hard on gear? Try slowing down 160 kilograms and see what can go wrong. Jackson recounts the early days of racing in an ‘oh shit’ moment. They’re hurtling down a 4WD road, both brake levers squeezing the bar, and nothing—complete brake failure! Cue expletives, followed with little option but for Jackson to steer the bike up a bank for a superman over the bars and down the road. He staggers back up. In his mind, Rose is almost certainly dead. Little did he know, she’d heard the words “we’re going to die!” and sensibly jumped ship, walking away without injury.These testing experiences were just motivation for more tinkering in the shed: PVC down tube protector, chopping board bash guards, and retro bar ends, aka Rose’s tree guards. Most importantly, 9-inch rotors and more modern brakes mean brake failure is no longer a concern. All this extra technology meant higher speed and also warranted more suspension. Version three was soon ready to roll: ‘Trev’ the do-it-all 190 millimetre all-mountain.
Man and womanAs they say, the machine is only as good as the operator, and this one requires the perfect harmony of two. "It's been thirteen years now and we're still getting better, it's a long, slow process. It’s much slower than learning to ride a bike by yourself. The main challenge is really finding the time to have the same two people riding together for a long enough period to develop the skills as a team." – JacksonMuch like a pillion on a motorbike, Rose (the stoker) can greatly affect the balance of the bike, so needs to maintain a neutral position by anticipating Jackson’s moves to perfectly time pumps, absorb impacts, and pop for jumps. Jackson’s biggest challenge is shoulder strength to support the loading. Fortunately, his body has fared better than the stack of “tested” parts piled up in the garage behind him: folded rims, bent forks, cooked brakes, the list goes on.
How does it feel?“You still get all the same sensations you get on a normal bike, but you get them in different ratios. You can plough through chunder faster, before it starts to feel rough and when you’re in the air it feels so stable, like you could ride out even the ugliest landings. But it’s not all pretty, you know that feeling when you bottom out and it just feels bad for the bike? That happens a lot.” - Jackson

Adventure

You would think they’re the only ones crazy enough to do this, right? Well, you would be wrong. They recently visited Spain to race against fellow tandem downhillers David and Fabi. Things were looking positive for this face-off; Jackson had recently finished building ‘Derek’ the full blown downhill tandem. All 31 kilograms of bike was ready to dual, but racing rarely meets expectations, and their plans of a victory were derailed by a broken derailleur. Not content with Europe beating them, they crossed the border to tackle the Megavalanche. Nothing quite says skill and confidence (cough, crazy) like overtaking bikes at warp speed on snow and singletrack, high in the French Alps, on a tandem. One hour and eight minutes of torture later, they crossed the finish line ahead of three-quarters of the event’s 1600 competitors, and in doing so became the first tandem to enter and finish the event.
Back homeWhich brings me to how I met this couple: watching them tackle the steep dusty chutes of a Gravity Canterbury downhill race at Christchurch’s Victoria Park. They were riding sections faster than some solo riders, at which point I wasn’t sure if I was in awe of their abilities or questioning their sanity. Truth be said, they just love to shred, and outside of tandems they could be your typical family: Mum the nurse, Dad the business analyst, and two kids.
The FutureMore riding and racing, of course! Crankworx Rotorua Enduro & Downhill, MTBNZ national series and local Christchurch events are all lined up for the duo this season, and as you’ve learnt by now, Jackson is never content with the status (bike) quo – the next one? “Something that can take big g-outs, and flick between corners without bending too much.” Possible solution? “An MX Fork and more Carbon Fibre.”
Ready to convince your better half to ride one with you? No, me neither.

You can follow more of Jackson & Rose's tandem antics @tandemdhnz

Words, Photography & Video by:

www.theperfectline.co.nz