For decades, both Kathleen and I have independantly dreamed of having a tandem and finaly the time had arrived to make this come true. There could be only one choice: For Andrew, it must be the Dawes Galaxy Twin. For Kathleen, it must be painted British Racing Green. The 2009 model of the Galaxy is available only in British Racing Green, so the choice of model was easy.

Buying it was more difficult. First, we went to our local cycle store, Cycle Zone, towards the Wokingham end of the A329. The weekend assistant admitted that he was out of his depth and sent us to the store a little further along the A329, towards Reading, during the week. When I dropped by in my lunch hour, I talked to someone who knew tandems much better - he knew that he hated them. Too big for the shop. Needs a different stand to work on it. He refused to sell me a tandem because he didn't want to work on it afterwords - fair enough.

Next came Evans Cycles in Woking, 16 miles away. The first girl who served us clearly didn't understand what a tandem is. She couldn't grasp the idea that it had two frame sizes (the rear frame is smaller than the front). Later, we spoke to someone else who was at least a cycling enthusiast. He may not have known much about tandems but at least had a clue. The Galaxy only comes in two sizes, 21"/17" or 19"/16.5". He decided that the 19 was the size for us. We were a little unsure about the size and also having never ridden a tandem, we were unsure about comitting to a tandem at all. But no worry - Evans have a Test Ride Policy. You can read about it on their web site here: http://www.evanscycles.com/help/test-ride-policy. The web site says that they will order in a bike on request. The store said that we needed to pay a refundable 50 pound deposit. So, we placed the order and went home.

Having ordered at the weekend, I phoned up towards the end of the week to see if it might be ready for the next weekend. They hadn't ordered it. They had changed their mind, decided that they needed not 50 but 250 pounds non refundable deposit and they hadn't bothered to tell us. This tasted like bait and switch to me so I told them not to bother, I'll have my 50 quid back - and we had to go to the store for the refund.

Next came a recommendation to try Winklebury Cycles in Basingstoke. 23 miles away. This is a small independant dealer full to the brim with bikes. They had a cheaper small-frame tandem in stock and we tried it out. We concluded that yes, we definately wanted a tandem but no, the small frame was not right - it felt like a toy, not a proper bike. So we asked Winklebury for price and availability. A week and a half later, they had still not managed to achieve this. I don't think that it was because they wern't trying but it is frustrating when you are itching to ride.

Eventually, we went to Ash Cycles in Chingford. 63 Miles. We ordered it on Saturday, they took delivery on the Tuesday and we picked it up the following Saturday.

We rode it for about 10 miles on Saturday and discovered aches and pains in new places.

We don't have a picture yet - we will need help to do that, so here is the Dawes product pic:


On Sunday, we decided to start the day by dropping in to Tongham Motor Club, just outside Alton. We thought we were early at 9:30 for a 10:00 start, but it turned out that it was an 11:00 start so we got the tandem out for a spin. We did 10 yards before deciding that our backsides need more time to recover. Our bottoms clearly need breaking in.

So we sat in the sunshine waiting for the cars to start. Sure enough, after scrutineering, drivers briefing and watering the track, they stared racing at 11:00.

I guess that we turned up with some preconceived expectations. For a start, I was expecting to spend ages sitting around waiting between races. Second, we expected to stay for only an hour or so then go on to Singleton.

We couldn't have been more wrong. It was non-stop action. As soon as one race finished, the next grid was lining up. There was real competition, overtaking, outrageous manoevers and plenty of slips, bumps and spills. Formula 1 might be a lot faster, but Tongham grass track is a whole heap more entertaining.

It feels like a very friendly club. They have racing classes for kids as young as 11 (who can have dad is co-driver n the passenger seat if they want). As well as standard racing classes, which are all supposedly non-contact, they have a race called "Nudge and Spin", where contact is explicitly permitted.

For folk from Tongham who might end up here, we don't sell pictures. We take pictures for our own pleasure and if people happen to like them, then that is a bonus. We are writing to TDS photographic to ask if they want to print them for folk on request.

First, the folk that were friendly enough to come and chat to us as complete strangers. They drove or were part of the team for these cars:

This Mini was crazy. Engine right over the rear wheels. Huge power, the front wheels only had a passing relationship with the track.

Loads more Minis. Some driven by children.

We understand that 492 and 493 are driven by father and son:

Andrew practiced his panning skill

This Sierra caught our eye. The driver was absolutely determined. He would bowl down the straight and deperately try to get the car all the way round the corner.

c99 also caught our attention for cornering on (or past) the edge.

Our favourite class is the Specials - homebuilt grasstrack cars.

If you look closely at Bolwextric below (click on the image for maximum resolution) you'll note that he is watching the camera, not the road ahead...
Whilst all other classes are at least theoretically "non contact". The local Tongham "Nudge and Spin" race openly invites contact.

As a result, the pit often resounds to the sound of the craft of panel-beating by sledge hammer.
The circuit is a clockwise oval. A simple route. But often we would find people picking their own direction of travel:

We tried hard to catch cars drivers that couldn't be bothered to keep all four wheels on the ground:

And of course, loads more snaps of racing cars...

Finally, Andrew leaning nonchalantly on the Bench of Death.

And the WaterCress line which passes to the South of the track. The train journey that inspired us to come here in the first place.