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  1. #1
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    Why is the woman in the back?

    On my ride today before the wind really came up there were a bunch of tandem bikes on the trail. All of them were couples, man in front and woman in the back. When couples were traveling together the same seemed to be true, man in front and woman behind. Seems odd the woman should always be behind.


    Any ideas why?
    It is better to smell the flowers than taste the roots.

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    Senior Member Shimagnolo's Avatar
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    The guy looks better with bugs in his teeth than the woman?

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    It is MUCH easier to engineer a tandem to have the stoker be low and light. That would usually be the woman. I didn't fancy the idea of riding cheek-by-jowl all day, so my tandem can go both ways. That is, it is rigid enough for my 6'2" 200# hubby to be stoker while I'm captain. There is a weight penalty for this flexibility but it is well worth paying. I can't imagine not being able to see where I am going most of the time.

  4. #4
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    The way Tandems are made- unless you get a custom made frame- The rear compartment has a shorter cockpit than the front- hence the shorter rider is on the back. I have seen Females in the pilot position but that is exceptional. On top of that it does take a lot of upper body strength to control a Tandem so it is normally the Bigger- heavier rider that will be in charge of steering.

    As to females always being towards the rear in solo group riding- I would put it down to politeness. The Macho man will always try to shield the female rider from the wind and traffic-----------Providing he can catch and overtake her.
    How long was I in the army? Five foot seven.


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    Quote Originally Posted by stapfam View Post
    The way Tandems are made- unless you get a custom made frame- The rear compartment has a shorter cockpit than the front- hence the shorter rider is on the back. I have seen Females in the pilot position but that is exceptional. On top of that it does take a lot of upper body strength to control a Tandem so it is normally the Bigger- heavier rider that will be in charge of steering.

    As to females always being towards the rear in solo group riding- I would put it down to politeness. The Macho man will always try to shield the female rider from the wind and traffic-----------Providing he can catch and overtake her.
    As someone who's stoker outweighs me by 70#, if the stoker is a skilled, steady cyclist who trusts his captain, steering a tandem is no more difficult than controlling a half-bike (it does help if the stoker keeps his hands largely unloaded and towards the center). However, if the stoker is a bit of a wild-child (like my 215# son), it's a bit more trying. One real advantage of having a stoker who can see over the captain is the ability of both riders to work together to control the bike's direction. That really reduces the effort involved in otherwise difficult maneuvers.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Latitude65 View Post
    On my ride today before the wind really came up there were a bunch of tandem bikes on the trail. All of them were couples, man in front and woman in the back. When couples were traveling together the same seemed to be true, man in front and woman behind. Seems odd the woman should always be behind.


    Any ideas why?
    In relation to the singles, what you saw may have been just a snapshot. There are times when I am out in front of Machka, and there are times when she is in front of me. At the moment, I am generally the faster rider.

    Quote Originally Posted by TheHen View Post
    As someone who's stoker outweighs me by 70#, if the stoker is a skilled, steady cyclist who trusts his captain, steering a tandem is no more difficult than controlling a half-bike (it does help if the stoker keeps his hands largely unloaded and towards the center). However, if the stoker is a bit of a wild-child (like my 215# son), it's a bit more trying. One real advantage of having a stoker who can see over the captain is the ability of both riders to work together to control the bike's direction. That really reduces the effort involved in otherwise difficult maneuvers.
    Often (but not always) the stoker is the pilot's partner who may not be as fortunate as you to have developed the riding skills. Because often (but not always) they have rarely ridden a single any significant distance to develop those skills. Often (but not always) they are happy to accede the demands of bike control as well as observation responsibilities to the male. Often (but not always) the difference in size, fitness and riding skill mean the handling of the bike goes to the person with greater strength.

    One solution to the OP's questions is to stop and talk to the participants on both observations.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Mrs. Grouch and I have ridden tandems together since 1976 so we've got a lot of years experience. During that time I could probably count on one hand the number of tandem teams we've seen with the woman in front. (My daughter and her husband are one, by the way, he's legally blind.)

    In most cases the reason a couple buys a tandem is because they want to ride together but aren't evenly matched physically. Consequently, whichever rider has the better bike skills takes the captain position. Among the tandem teams that we've personally known, the male partner either has the better bike skills or the female partner makes him feel like he has better skills.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Latitude65 View Post
    On my ride today before the wind really came up there were a bunch of tandem bikes on the trail. All of them were couples, man in front and woman in the back. When couples were traveling together the same seemed to be true, man in front and woman behind. Seems odd the woman should always be behind.


    Any ideas why?
    Because....behind every successful man is a strong woman.
    Last edited by cranky old dude; 03-20-11 at 07:43 AM.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Looigi's Avatar
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    Genetic predisposition. If you say women are generally smaller, that's genetic predisposition. There are behavioral genetic predispositions that figure in as well. There are cultural influences of course, but these are often just stereotypifications of genetic predisposition.

    Vive la difference!

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Latitude65 View Post

    Any ideas why?
    So she can do her nails without having to hold the bars, of course.



    Ohh. No. Not the face. Oww, that hurt. No, enough now. Owww. Put down the mallet. Owww I was just .... Owww OOOf

  11. #11
    gone ride'n cyclinfool's Avatar
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    Does this have anything to do with the thread DF started?
    "Of all the things I ever lost I miss my mind the most." Mark Twain
    If all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

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    Senior Member ncbikers's Avatar
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    Maybe for the same reason that when I see a couple in a car the male is usually driving.

  13. #13
    Senior Member VaultGuru's Avatar
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    Pretty simple for us. We love to ride together plus, my wife doesn't like the mechanical aspects of riding - shifting, braking, etc. She can get a great workout plus enjoy the scenery. She points out things I would never see. Great combination.

  14. #14
    Senior Member rdtompki's Avatar
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    There are a number of valid and plausible reasons for the dominant configuration in the posts, above: easier to design, males unwilling to give up power, males usually more experienced, women more trusting (or braver!), better aerodynamics(?), but I do think that the greater the difference in size, the more it makes sense to have the physically stronger individual up front. The tandem is no more work than a single in the flat, downhill, at moderate effort levels, but when we're climbing slowly at our physical limit I'm getting quite an upper body workout and I think a 100 lb. captain might have a problem with a 200 lb. stoker climbing at lower speeds. Also, when turning I don't need help from the stoker, just someone (i.e., my DW), who stays balanced. I also find there are a number of circumstances where I'm applying "make-up power": cresting a hill, in a paceline, etc. Might be harder for a small captain to do this, but this is more a defect in my riding style than a requirement for the captain.
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  15. #15
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    On the tandems of old,
    The gentlemen I'm told
    Followed where good manners led.

    For when they went for a ride,
    They sat side-by-side,
    Or put the lady ahead.

    But they were men, too,
    Right through and through,
    And I doubt they cut us slack;

    For why, do you suppose,
    Once we got 'em in tight clothes,
    We put the ladies in the back?
    "When man first set woman on two wheels with a pair of pedals, did he know, I wonder, that he had rent the veil of the harem in twain? A woman on a bicycle has all the world before her where to choose; she can go where she will, no man hindering." The Typewriter Girl, 1899.

    "Every so often a bird gets up and flies some place it's drawn to. I don't suppose it could tell you why, but it does it anyway." Ian Hibell, 1934-2008

  16. #16
    Dharma Dog lhbernhardt's Avatar
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    The heavier rider goes in the front to optimize weight distribution. The front position is closer to the tandem's center of mass, so putting the heavier rider in front improves the bike's handling. Men are usually heavier than women; tandem couples are usually pretty fit. So in a population of tandem couples, the number of tandems with women in front probably reflects the percentage of women in this fit population who are heavier than their male partners.

    On a track tandem, the guy with the most experience always goes in front! Amongst tandem couples, the guy usually has more riding experience, and almost always more racing/close quarters bike handling experience. The driver has to be very difficult to initimidate, since situations will arise where decisive action has to be taken, and the driver has ALL the responsibility for what happens (Rule #1 - the stoker never makes mistakes).

    L.

  17. #17
    Old fart JohnDThompson's Avatar
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    If you were a woman on a tandem, would you want a guy slobbering down your back for the whole ride?

  18. #18
    jaywbee3 jaywbee3's Avatar
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    When we ride our tandem the female captain is in the back and the male pilot is in the front. I may steer the thing but I know who is in charge.

  19. #19
    Senior Member xizangstan's Avatar
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    Because men drive without stopping to ask for directions. Women are natural back-seat drivers.
    Who is John Galt?

  20. #20
    Old, SLOW bike rider! ;)
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    If we had a R-tandem, (someday), I'd be in the front cause, I weigh 100lbs. more than my wife. Now riding separate bikes, "SHE's" usually in front as I "Ride Her Pace", when we ride together! If I left her in the dust all time, since I'm the faster rider, she'd probably give up bicycling. That and to be honest, I kind enjoy her pace, you get to actually "SEE" the world your riding in. The only time I pass her is going up steep hills, then I wait at the top of the hill and she takes the lead again. May seem strange but it works for us!
    Take care, RIDE SAFE, have FUN!
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  21. #21
    Senior Member CACycling's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bjjoondo View Post
    If we had a R-tandem, (someday), I'd be in the front cause, I weigh 100lbs. more than my wife. Now riding separate bikes, "SHE's" usually in front as I "Ride Her Pace", when we ride together! If I left her in the dust all time, since I'm the faster rider, she'd probably give up bicycling. That and to be honest, I kind enjoy her pace, you get to actually "SEE" the world your riding in. The only time I pass her is going up steep hills, then I wait at the top of the hill and she takes the lead again. May seem strange but it works for us!
    +1 on all counts - even the "passing on hills part".

  22. #22
    Old, SLOW bike rider! ;)
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    Quote Originally Posted by CACycling View Post
    +1 on all counts - even the "passing on hills part".
    The only reason I "pass her" on steep hills, is that I have this "mental thing" about NOT using the "small chain wheel" (30T), unless I'm either pulling a full load in the "utility trailer" or packed heavy for "touring"! I run a 53/42/30, my wife is set up with a 42/32/22 and can "SPIN" up hills in her "Middle chain wheel", where I'm having to the "MASH", even with a 32T rear cog or "run over her". FYI.
    Take care, RIDE SAFE, have FUN!
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  23. #23
    Senior Member DnvrFox's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bjjoondo View Post
    The only reason I "pass her" on steep hills, is that I have this "mental thing" about NOT using the "small chain wheel" (30T)
    Sounds like you are a "Traditional 50+ male" to me.

  24. #24
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    The women in the groups I ride with are definitely -not- likely to be seen towards the back. In fact, I think there is a certain "feminine machismo", that causes some women cyclists to make darn sure they aren't following the men around.
    "If you're riding less than 18 MPH up a 2% grade please tell people Coggan is coaching you."

  25. #25
    Must... ride... more... Phil_gretz's Avatar
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    No Tandem Yet

    Quote Originally Posted by ncbikers View Post
    Maybe for the same reason that when I see a couple in a car the male is usually driving.
    My wife and I don't have a tandem [yet], and usually "ride her pace" when together. It's nicer for her, and I don't mind taking TWICE as long to cover the same distance I'd usually cover.

    Interestingly, my wife prefers that I drive - simply because she believes it's my role to do so. She doesn't like the appearance of a male in the passenger seat - having his wife drive him around...thinks he's shirking in some way.

    If I want to ride in the passenger seat (say, to eat an apple while we leave on errands), I'll ask if she minds driving. She'll always agree to do so, but expects me to drive otherwise.

    It's just a custom we've developed. May not work for anyone else.

    PG

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