Tandem Cycling - do I need a taller gear
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08-16-10, 10:04 AM
First of all I am new here and this is my first post and first tandem, so hello everyone. I was hoping to receive some experience through osmosis on this forum. Thanks in advance for all the help. I have read the "proper method" that I found on a website and I got my wife to read it also. It makes perfect sense to me, everything is my fault. Protect yourself which protects your wife, got it now let's go fast.
Burley softride of unknown year "THE LOVE MACHINE". I bought this on my first RAGBRAI this year, it was locked to a post showing the lots on a new housing development somewhere outside Waterloo. I payed 650.00, the guy delivered it to my house in Fort Madison (20 miles south of Burlington IA if you did RAGBRAI 37). Did I do alright at that price? My instinct told me it was a fair price, I also told my wife that so please confirm or burst my bubble. Everything seems to work fine, drum brake equipped, 21 gears, bar end shifters, poorly wrapped bars, few scratches but mechanically sound.
We did the maiden voyage this Sunday, short ride 25 miles with rolling hills. I found out that we run out of gear at about 37mph, is this common and to be expected? Should I just enjoy the free speed and wait until the mph drops to a level where my feet can keep up? I would prefer to be able to pedal through the bottom of rollers when my speed is above that to build or maintain momentum.
It turns out just as I thought, tandem bikes are bada$$. I rolled down hill into town at 46 mph with the brake on, thats a 35 mph hill solo with the tightest tuck I can attain. I am loving this bike, I have no desire to ride by myself as of right now. I want to break the sound barrier, did I mention I love this bike?
08-16-10, 10:07 AM
What is the tooth count in your large front chain ring?
08-16-10, 10:08 AM
i had no idea a tandem could go that fast
08-16-10, 10:10 AM
i had no idea a tandem could go that fast
His wife is very strong.
Our tandem has a 53/39/30 chain rings and I use an 11/28 10 speed cassette on the rear. 1 tooth increase in a 50 tooth ring is a 2% change while going from a 12 to an 11 tooth cog in the rear is ~ a 10% change. If you have a 53/11 combination now, you could increase the chain ring size or just learn to spin faster.
08-16-10, 11:42 AM
I found out that we run out of gear at about 37mph, is this common and to be expected? Should I just enjoy the free speed and wait until the mph drops to a level where my feet can keep up?
Yes, Yes and Yes.
That is, unless you were doing 37mph on a dead-flat road and are some kind of cycling monster.
We routinely hit the upper 40's and low 50 mphs on many descents, and have topped 60mph (63mph to be exact on one occasion) a couple times and we weren't pedalling much above 45 mph: it's all about the grade and reducing your aero drag by tucking in... if you're so inclined to do stuff like that.
We previousy ran a 54t big ring with 11t or 12t small cogs, and now run 53t... Even 52t would be fine for non-competitive riding.
As someone else noted, the size of your current big chain ring would help, as a 'Burley Softride' could be any one of several Burley tandems, e.g., Duet, Rumba, Samba. Some have 26" wheels with off-road gearing, others have 700c wheels with road gearing.
08-16-10, 12:27 PM
Depends how badly you want to drop the pesky singles behind you. And sometimes a little extra Oomph is handy at the bottom of a rollercoaster.
We find the value added curve runs down pretty quickly above 42mph with a 54/11 combo. But we don't spend much of our time doing that. Our friends with a 60 front ring do a little more. If I had to chose between losing my high gear and losing my lowest, I'd hold onto the low gear every time.
08-16-10, 01:31 PM
We stop pedalling at something in the 45-50 km/hr range - that would be 28-31 mph for the metric-challenged.
But we are geared for loaded touring: 48T big ring, 11 or 12 in the back, depending on the wheel/cassette.
08-16-10, 06:35 PM
There is a point of diminishing returns on downhill speed. You "sound" young and if you and your stoker are strong then by all means attack those downhills and uphills. My observations based on a) only 15 months of tandem riding and b) living in an area not nearly as flat as Iowa, is that downhills are for conserving energy which will be definitely needed on the inevitable climb following the downhill. Now, we don't coast and on 3-4 % downhills we will use our 60-11, but working to get the last mph is out of the question. The worst by far are very short, steep rollers which give you no aero advantage on the way down and can take a log of grunt on the way up. This philosophy is what serves us on 100k and 100 mile rides. On shorter rides we can break these rules especially if we been passed by 15 singles on a climb; at that point some downhill effort is called for.
Don't know your team weight, but on steep downhills (for us 10% or so) you'll appreciate that drag brake if there are any switchbacks.
08-16-10, 07:16 PM
It's kind of funny, I've gone faster on my single than the tandem. 72mph on the single vs 68mph on the tandem. We usually spin out in the mid 40mph range but we also run big gears, 60-11 on the top end. TandemGeek hit the hail on the head with his answer "Yes, Yes and Yes." As long as you are happy with the gearing for the rest of your riding I don't see the point in changing. The amount of time you spend going down hill is pretty minimal compared to the amount of time you spend climbing.
08-16-10, 11:23 PM
Tuck it in, coast and do 50+ mph on the right downhill.
08-18-10, 08:26 AM
7 speed soft-ride-I'd say early to mid 90's. It sounds like you got a good value. The stock ring on that bike probably is 52 or 53 teeth. If that is still on, I would favor leaving it. Raising the tooth count substantially would really spread out your middle range cruising gears. When riding with a group, sometimes it would be a challenge to find the right cadence. I'd rather sacrifice some top end to this end. I, for myself, have found that if the grade is steep, gravity quickly takes over with a tandem and I get all of the excitement that I can handle! Unfortunately, it seems to take over alot faster when the climbing starts! I have a Santana of the same vintage, and I converted to 9 speed, which gave me the option of an 11 tooth cog. I tossed this in favor of a 12-34. Being a climbing slug, I went the other way!
It sounds like you are getting alot of fun for a very reasonable investment. Enjoy!
With only a 7 speed cluster you can't run a very high top gear unless you are willing to sacrifice your low gears (which you probably need to get up the hills you are racing down), or go to large jumps between the gears and put up with not being able to get the cadence you want.
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