Tandem Cycling - Proper Technique
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What is the proper way to stop a tandem? My boyfriend and I rode our first tandem just a couple of weeks ago. We developed the method of both of us unclipping together. We've been doing some research and have found articles advising against this. Is there more than one method? And if so, is one better than the other?
Two feet and sticky MTB shoes with rubber lug soles and a recessed cleat are safer for starting and stopping than one foot in a hard-plastic-bottomed racing shoe. Low bottom brackets are safer for starting and stopping than high bottom brackets because with fit remaining the same, the ground is closer from the top of the saddle and easier to reach with a foot, which can then bear more weight. Stokers with a good sense of balance are less of a load to start and stop with than ones who do not have that.
With anybody who can touch the ground, I start and stop off two feet, one captain foot and one stoker foot on the same side. If they can't, I start off one foot. If it is the stoker's preference to start fully clipped in regardless of size because they are already accustomed to doing that with another captain, that's what we do.
Bill Mc Cready's "The Proper Method" works for him and apparently a lot of his customers. Certainly more power and slightly better balance are available upon start with the stoker already fully clipped in. I have never been able to convince myself that two sets of gray matter and legs working together to do things safely could not be better than one, so I prefer to teach people to start and stop off one foot each.
Also, I think there are necessary implications for tandem fit that do not work for a significant fraction of tandem users. It appears that a proportionally low top tube is required for the captain to make it possible to use "The Proper Method," and that assumptions are thereby made about fit and/or manner of use that are significantly different from athletic riders on single bikes. If a smaller tandem is purchased to obtain the low top tube, then it may be more difficult to obtain the desired captain handlebar distance/height.
I believe that for most athletically fit riders, tandem fit identical to single bike fit is best.
My advice is to throw away conventional wisdom as you become sure that it is not best for you. In the beginning some instruction might be better than guessing, but if your circumstances differ significantly from the advisor's, continuing to slavishly follow the instructions could be notably less satisfactory: dogma will not make all shoes and surfaces equally sticky, nor will it make all fits proportionally the same.
I always call the stops: "Three, two, one, stop." On "stop" the tandem is stopped, but still nearly perfectly balanced, and the captain and the stoker put a foot down as though stepping down from a curb onto the road surface. Both surfaces (pedal and ground) are functionally stationary. I will NOT say that method is best for everybody.
08-16-03, 08:10 AM
Originally posted by dread
What is the proper way to stop a tandem?... Is there more than one method? And if so, is one better than the other?
The proper way is the way that works best for you. Yes, there are quite a few ways to stop a tandem, including the FDGB method. In theory, "The Proper Method" is a more controlled and predictable way to start and stop a tandem and it reinforces the basics of good tandem team skills: Teamwork, Communication and Predictability. However, if a team finds it uncomfortable or awkward than it's certainly not better for them.
FDGB = Fall Down Go Boom.
The key to acheiving and maintaining balance and control on a slow moving tandem, i.e., while starting and stopping, is minimizing unnecessary movement on the bike.
Let me digress into tandem philosophy for a moment: The constant theme you'll find in replies to questions on tandem riding techniques will always come back to a few basic things: Teamwork, Communication and Predictability. As you can imagine, these things all take practice to achieve for all but a very few gifted teams. However, once achieved they all equal up to confidence in each other's abilities or, more simply put, mutual Trust. Once a team has trust in each they tend to be more relaxed and comfortable on the tandem and that's when teams can really begin to refine their riding techniques and acquire grace and smoothness in their riding style. You don't have to achieve grace and smoothness to have a good time on a tandem, but the more you do you'll find it makes you a more efficient team. Enough philosophy...
Whether intentional or not, the title of your thread implies that you have probably read articles regarding Bill McCready's "The Proper Method" (TPM) for stopping and starting: http://www.gtgtandems.com/tech/propmethod.html. While Bill didn't invent TPM, he has certainly done more to ensure the technique is widely used by requiring his Santana dealers to teach the method to all their customers as part of his Certified Test Rider Center program. As best I can tell, no one else has ever taken the time or done as much to fully describe and teach alternative methods.
I like TPM because it reinforces the tandem basics -- Teamwork, Communication and Predictability -- during the two most challenging events that occur in an otherwise uneventful tandem ride; the start and stop. Quite simply, by having the stoker firmly settled in the seat with no reason to shift their weight around a team eliminates half of movements that can make starting or stopping a tandem a challenge. As teams practice TPM they reinforce the basics each time they start and stop. For tandem captains who ride with a variety of different or "guest stokers" (aka. stoker tramps), TPM reduces the learning curve for stopping and starting to a short conversation before the first crank is turned that goes something like this: "I'll get on the tandem first and hold it steady and then you climb on and clip-in both feet. Don't clip-out either foot until it's time to stop and get off the tandem. We'll stand and coast about every 15 minutes so we can both stretch our legs and give our butts a break. Any questions?"
Now, even if you don't use TPM -- and there are certainly some reasons not to -- at least strive to develop a technique for your team that you can fine tune into a repeatable, synchronized process that minimizes unnecessary body movements as you start and stop. That's all there is to starting and stopping as well as climbing and just about anything else you do on a tandem. As a team, decide before hand what techniques you'll use during your rides, agree on who says what to whom and when so that you move in-sync, and then just do it. Critique yourselves often and adjust your technique until you're satisfied then practice, practice, practice. Watch how other teams ride and try to adopt the things that work well for them and make sure you're not doing some of the things that make them look awkward. Over time, as your technique continues to improve and becomes old hat you'll find the verbal cues and commands are replaced by predictability and instinctive actions that are the hallmark of seasoned tandem teams. It is not at all unusual to hear tandem teams who have been riding together for some time say things like "we communicate through the pedals", "I just kind of know when he's going to shift" or "when he stands I stand".
The Bottom Line: Stick to the basics and you'll do fine. Ultimately, whether you putting your right foot or left foot down, how far before a stop you remove your foot from the pedal, how far you ride from a start before clipping in your foot are things that are neither right nor wrong so long as they work for you.
Note: This is something I wrote in reply to a question on another list several years ago. However, I thought it might be of interest.
My wife and I seem to always start with her clipping in both sides. We'll then take off and I'll clip my stand foot in on the fly. We stop pretty much just the opposite. I'll clip out with one foot for quick stops while she stays in then so we can take off again with only one of us having to clip in an out foot.
When we stop to get off the bike, I'll unclip with one or two feet and keep the tandem upright while my stoke climbs off (she's usually off before I can get my second foot unclipped).
We too start/stop with my wife clipped in. While I only put one foot down for quick stops, I always unclip both feet. On a couple occasions our balance has shifted at the last second and I was glad to have both feet free.
Thanks for all the good info! It sounds like we're doing a mix of different methods. We start off with me clipped in and stop with we both of us out. We'll try both methods and see which one works best. I appreciate the feedback. Being new to the sport, all the info we can get helps. Thanks again. :)
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