By Tim Rohan, Daily Sports Editor
Published April 1, 2012
He’s a pied piper of sorts, hosting 420 riders at last year’s Midwest Tandem Rally and selling tandems to people all over Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Ohio.
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One day, an elderly couple offered to sell Hakken a teal-blue-colored, two-speed, 1962 Firestone tandem with its original paint.
“It’s a terrible, sad story,” Hakken said. “With their outrageous state property tax, they needed some money. So I said, it wasn’t the type of bike that I normally buy, but I felt so bad for them.”
Hakken figured the bike, which he called a beautiful, “borderline antique,” would never sell. When asked, he loaned it out for two weddings, but the elderly couple, in his mind, would be the bike’s last owners.
“You get to meet some of the neatest people on tandem bikes,” Hakken said.
Three weeks ago, Hakken met Taylor Lewan.
As the Michigan football team’s left tackle approaches the door, Hakken wonders whether he can fit through it and whether his alma mater has desks big enough for a man this big. He guesses Lewan’s about 6-foot-8, 300-plus pounds, which would be the measurements of the biggest person to ever buy one of Hakken’s tandems.
Lewan has an entourage with him, including Chris Brown, the hockey team’s imposing right-winger, who looks small next to Lewan. Hakken has seen college kids before: they come in, take a look, but never buy his bikes. He doubts Lewan will.
It doesn’t take long for Lewan to spot the 1962 Firestone and announce, “That’s my bike!”
Everyone laughs, but Hakken starts preparing the bike for a test ride. Hakken figures, OK, they’ll ride it up and down the parking lot and that’ll be that.
Lewan takes it for a spin, trying to move his weight back and lift up the handlebars and get the classic tandem in the air while going over the parking lot’s speed bumps.
Later, Lewan will tell reporters that he’s more serious now. He will be a redshirt junior next fall and he expects to be a leader. He will say there are a times and places for his humor, including the impromptu mustache readily tattooed on his index finger and the tattooed “right-hand man” stick figure.
He will sound sincere and more mature.
“Football players cannot fly!” Hakken shouts. Now is the time for fun.
Hakken asks Lewan where the coeds are going to sit, as he rides around with his friends. Tandem bikes are, after all, romantic.
“No girls are going to ride my twosie,” Lewan says, incredulously, and Hakken laughs again. He's never heard anyone call a tandem that before, but he chooses not to correct Lewan, who makes it clear he’s serious about buying the bike.
“Can you do me better on the price?” Lewan asks.
“Yeah, I can do you a little better.”
“That’s good, that’s what I was hoping. We’ve got a deal.”
Hakken will later admit it was the cheapest he’s ever sold a bike. And no more than 30 minutes after they walked in, Lewan had his twosie and Hakken had two new friends.
Lewan’s also the youngest person to ever buy one of Hakken’s tandems. One day, Lewan will put away his right-hand man, he will hide his mustache, and, instead, he will pursue or nurture love, as Hakken did, riding his first tandem. Until Lewan does, Hakken will hope he “is wearing the thing right out.”
Life and tandem biking aren’t so different, after all.
“Don’t tell coach that I’m riding this thing!” Brown shouts as he, Lewan and their friends scamper out of Hakken’s store.
—Rohan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @TimRohan.