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  1. #1
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    stokers who are experienced single riders

    My husband and I are trying out several tandems. Both of us are experienced riders, with more than ten years of riding on our singles. I am an endurance rider, doing double centuries, while he tends to do short, hard rides. (I do the short, fast rides, too, but am not as fast as him, though not far behind. We belong to the same group. However, he will not do the double centuries or the brevets, so I do these without him, with my riding buddies or alone if I have to. In other words, I don't mind riding alone, or virutally alone, for miles and miles.) I experienced the following problems and wondered if anyone had something similar.

    1. He rocks his hips (saddle too high) and bobs because of an uneven pedal stroke. First, the pedal stroke: When powering up, he comes down heavy at the 3 o'clock position, maintains pressure through about 5-6 o'clock and then lets up, which produces spikes in speed but also bobbing. I have an much more even pedal stroke, developed through long-distance riding, where sprinting is much less important.

    The rocking: This moves the seatpost side to side under me and causes me to have to rock my hips, which hurts my diaphragm and prevents me from placing power efficiently on the pedals--I can't produce my spin or rhythm because of the sideways motion. It also is very disconcerting to have the seatpost moving, so I find it hard to relax my upper body, which causes my muscles to tighten up like a drum. After 13 miles, my stomach hurt (I'm thinking of throwing up), my asthma was aggravated, and my hips, knees and ankles hurt. We lowered the seat, but the habit of rocking is still there.

    2. The stoker's position (inches away from my husband's back) makes it hard for me to ride in my favorite positions, which are in the drops and on the hoods (or just back from the hoods), with my back flat and lowered somewhat. Also, in these positions, all you see is a twisting, moving back a few inches from your face. Sitting more upright is not comfortable and something I rarely do on my single. I ended up holding my head up and back more than usual or turning it up and to the side to look sideways, giving me a sore, stiff neck. What's all this about all the things a stoker can see? I can see more of the scenery on the single by scanning left and right as I ride ahead or slowing down and glancing up.

    3. I find it hard to get used to not being able to see in front of me. I enjoy strategizing about what line to take on a descent and how to take the hill in front of me, when to shift, when to stand, how hard to pedal, etc. I enjoy the changing terrain and its various challenges (headwinds, curves, gravel, etc.). I like anticipating and planning my moves, becoming one with the bike as I move forward. As a stoker, I seem to be limited to being reactive/responsive rather than proactive and I feel like I'm just pushing the pedals around. It's kind of boring, since I seem to lack a lot of stimuli.

    4. The fun quotient. I find riding my bike a lot of fun and have since I was a teenager. Even the toughest double under the worst conditions is fun at moments. Sometimes I ride hard, sometimes I ride easy, but I ride because I enjoy it. There's no joy like seeing the crest of a hill before you and pedaling that last little bit until you feel the crest pass under you. Or looking back and seeing the mountain road curled up like a snake behind and below you. Maybe some of you long to share that moment with someone, but I don't have to. I haven't discovered that "fun" quotient on the tandem.

    5. Riding to get away from daily concerns. How do you do this when one of them is stuck right in front of you and you must work with him? Solitary bike rides or solitary moments, especially in the mountains or along the ocean, are quite nice for their ability to take you away from the daily world.

    6. Does anyone else have difficulty relinquishing control? It's not that I don't trust him -- but subordination is not usually my first choice.

  2. #2
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Well, first of all you need to read this article by Jim Riccitello:
    http://www.slowtwitch.com/mainheadin...lo/tandem.html

    Jim is a professional Triathlete and this past Winter stoked a tandem for US Pro Rider Gord Fraser at the 115-mile El Tour de Tucson where they placed first overall. The article is for mature readers but I think you'll find it both entertaining and insightful.

    Back to your situation. I guess a couple of questions quickly come to mind.
    A. Why did you two decide to take up riding tandems?
    B. Is there any reason why "Rocky" is up front and you're in back? Notwithstanding any significant body size differences, did you two discuss the possibility of having you Captain the tandem?
    C. What makes & models of tandems do you have access to?
    D. How serious are you two about making life on a tandem work and how much have you budgeted for your rig? I can recommend several builders who can build you a performance oriented tandem that will be designed to put both of you in your single bike riding positions, i.e., they're about 4" longer than almost any other production tandem you'll find.

    As for your specific questions:
    1. You both are experienced enough to know the answers to the rocking problem and allude to the solution in your post. His seat is too high and his cadence is too low. Great for time trials, bad for long enjoyable rides together on a tandem.

    2. How tall are you? See D, above. Glenn Erickson & Dennis Bushnell, along with a few other tandem builders, understand the needs of stokers who are seasoned riders. Let me know if you're interested and I can provide you with more information. FWIW, we own two Erickson tandems.

    3. Right now you're struggling with your differences which is very common when two experienced riders mount a tandem. Communication and cooperation is the key to getting past this phase. In fact, one of the captain's jobs is to communicate what's ahead or what he's thinking to the stoker; it's part of being a team. This is most important when a team is new to tandems or when an experienced captain takes out a new stoker. To illustrate with a vivid example, as you two talk about improving your tandem riding skills consider what it'd be like to ride technical single track on an off-road tandem and how critical communicating would be. Every bump, root, tree limb, turn and terrain change needs to be communicated -- even after you and your riding partner become proficient with each other. After riding as a team for a couple hundred miles -- assuming you both give a little to find that common ground on riding style -- you'll find your rhythm and will develop the ability to 'communicate through the pedals' that will make riding much easier.

    4. The fun factor on a tandem is tied to team work. For those of us who've found a passion for riding tandems AND single bikes we experience all of the things you do alone AND with our partners. Cresting a huge climb alone always brings about a tremendous feeling accomplishment -- doing it as a team with someone on the same bike is sometimes an even more meaningful accomplishment since you have someone to share it with. Sure, there are tense moments when fatigue sets in and you both think you're carrying the other one but as long as you both recognize that everyone has good days and bad days and you're riding together so you can be together you'll learn to suck it up. If you have a strong competitive spirit there's nothing more fun than riding in a well matched group of tandems.

    5. You must decide how to balance your riding needs. Taking up tandems does not mean giving up single bikes, unless you want to. There will be days when you'd just rather ride alone and as long as you both understand that, NBD. We have single road bikes, single mountain bikes, tandem road bikes and a F/S off-road tandem hanging in the garage for those very reasons. Sometimes you want to go into the woods or out on the road alone to get your head together and sometimes you both need to be with each other doing something you both love.

    Finally, I must volunteer that not everyone is cut out for tandems. In fact, it's been said, a tandem can either make a good relationship great or end a bad one.

    Best of luck to you and please feel free to ask more questions.

  3. #3
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    I think tandems are best for a more causal ride where the real objective is to enjoy some conversation while biking. This is especially true if the two riders wouldn't normally ride at similar speeds. For all out hammering single bikes may be better. Although, when the stoker and I are both feeling strong it is fun to hammer for about 10 miles or so, but then its back to a bit easier pace.

  4. #4
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Originally posted by blwyn
    I think tandems are best for a more causal ride where the real objective is to enjoy some conversation while biking.
    I would agree that tandems are perfect for casual rides, but would also suggest there are a large number of very active tandemist who don't fit the "Daisy Bell" scenario. I believe our group finished the Savannah Century -- admittedly a fairly flat ride -- in 4:25 (ET on the bikes) last year lots of go-fast single bike cling-ons in tow.

    Tandem racing, both on the road and off-road, is growing more popular as hard core riders introduce their partners to the sport, as single bike couples pair up for long term commitments and as riders who used to ride competitively but set it aside due to family demands return to bikes as the kids leave the next.

    We routinely ride with and are friends with many other tandem teams who are very competitive, some of who race both single bikes and tandems and others who are committed to tandems. There is also a growing number of serious off-road tandem teams who take on epic rides, compete in tandem classes at events like the Sea Otter Classic and tear up the single track all over the world.

    So, while the tandem is great for for those casual rides, the right type of tandem can also be a great machine for hammering to your heart's content, on or off-road.

  5. #5
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    First of all you both need to relax. I bet you are both highly motivated cyclists. Trust me on this, you will go much faster on a tandem if you are not fighting each other. Relax=go faster=life is good.

    We ride about 6,000 miles a year on the tandem and another 10-12,000 on our half bikes (including single speeds and track bikes). Our first 1,000 miles on tandems were ok but not great. We went through 3 tandems before we found one that works for us (a Titanium Santana).

    Tandems are like and unlike single bikes the best part is that we now make each other better on the tandem. I am faster, she is stronger. Now we are fast and strong on the tandem. Not that we ride it all the time-singles are fun too.

    In the summer she finds the back of the tandem way too hot but on a windy day there is nothing better than a tandem. And riding rolling hills on a tandem is sublime.....

    Hope it works out for you.

  6. #6
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    My husband and I were just married in March (we're ages 50 and 46); he is the one more interested in tandeming as I am his first significant other who rides. I am somewhat concerned that it will cut into my training for the double centuries, which consists mainly of distance rides, short and hard rides, and repeated loops with sections that have specific goals.

    We test rode an aluminum Santana, which had a little more room in the back; we also borrowed a friend's steel Santana, which was really cramped (claustrophobic). Two others (including a KHS mt tandem) were so short (and I'm only 5'2" and ride a 49 Litespeed) I could have used his saddle as a pillow. Another friend's Cannondale allows me to ride at least somewhat normally.

    Temperamentally, I am probably more suited to captaining, but at 115-120 pounds, I am 35-40 pounds smaller than my husband. He also has more upper body strength.

    Until we both enjoy tandeming (at this point, it isn't "enjoyable" for him either), I don't want to make a big financial investment -- we will probably buy a used tandem if we do. It is also unlikely to become our main ride, unless he wants to do the Furnace Creek 508, which is my goal.

    One problem may be that I am not really a team player -- I enjoy individual sports rather than team sports. On the tandem, I can feel what he is doing with his feet and the pedal stroke and I can follow it, but this is being responsive rather than proactive (not part of my temperament). I keep trying to shift (and end up asking him to shift a lot -- backseat driving). I don't like waiting for anyone's move and then responding. I'm actually quite comfortable when I take over from behind -- all I have to do is push a little harder than he is and I can control the pedal stroke from behind (especially if I up the power in the early part of the stroke -- the 12 to 3 o'clock positions -- as he applies power later) -- however, since I can't see where we are going, this is not a great strategy. I found I could do this the first time we went up a hill. I was afraid of "stalling out" on the hill because I wasn't sure he could clip out quickly and I thought we might fall, so in my panic I powered us up from the back.

    I'm not sure how much time to invest in this -- how long does it take to get "acclimated"? I enjoyed solo cycling from day one. Also, I'm not going to want to get on the tandem if all we do is short, easy cruises or flat centuries. I know we can't do fast if we can't do slow and smooth (my body won't take it), but I see the main advantage of a tandem as being able to fly along on the flats, where I am weakest. So a tandem would be good for long flattish rides, which I find somewhat boring on my single.


    Rowena

  7. #7
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    I take it you guys live in California. That's the only state I know where there are so many Doubles, Triples and the 508. There are several friends of mine who ride that series, one of them is a woman who is always stoking with different captains. She also does the doubles solo and has a combined record of 50.

    I only mention this as an alternative for those rides where your husband wants to tandem and you'd prefer to solo.

    If you think this would be a viable alternative send me a PM with a phone number and I will contact my friend to see if she would be interested. If so, I'll give her your number and she would contact you.
    ljbike

  8. #8
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    [QUOTE]Originally posted by rowena wildin
    [B]My husband and I were just married in March...

    Congratulations. You're in the right demographic for a lot of first time tandem riders.

    As for the bikes, the newer Santanas have longer stoker compartments than the earlier models (pre-95) and the pre-'98 Cannondales were also longer than most other tandems in the back. Burley's new Aluminum tandems are also longer in the stoker compartment that most others as are Co-Motion's Supremo & Robusto performance tandems. The rest of the production models tend to be about the same.

    Used tandems are a good bet and there are plenty of them out there. You might want to ask sellers to measure their tandem's rear top tubes -- captain's seat post to stoker's seatpost parallel to the ground -- since it sounds like you're looking for a bike with at least 28" or more out back (FWIW: Debbie at 5'2" has 31.5" on the Ericksons). If you haven't already found them, there are quite a few good used tandem resources/classified ad sites on the Web; we have them linked off of a special section on our Website which you can get to using this URL:
    http://home.att.net/~thetandemlink/t...#anchor1146367

    Regarding your pedal strokes, you two might be good candidates for riding "out of phase", i.e., set the Captain's cranks at 3 & 9 O'Clock so that yours are at 12 & 6 O'Clock. This eliminates the flat spot in the power strokes and has some other benefits for certain teams. The downside is, it makes riding out of the saddle together a challenge and the Captain needs to be mindful of his pedal postion in the corners to ensure you're not caught with a pedal down. It's not the most fashionable looking way to ride a tandem but, again, for quite a few people it's been a boost to their riding performance and/or enjoyment.

    Getting acclimated? Hard to know; for some it happens quickly for a few teams it never clicks.

    As for the riding possibilities, if you can ride a single up it you can ride a tandem up it. My example of the Savannah Century was meant to illustrate that you can hammer on a tandem all day, if you so desire, and really have a ball with 20 single bikes in tow. We also ride in the mountains and, while it's a bit more challenging, it's certainly enjoyable as well. However, climbing efficiently on a tandem takes a lot of team work and focus. Likewise, decending big hills takes a lot of trust and responsibility: bad things can happen fast at 60mph.

    Bottom Line: I always liken riding a tandem to ballroom dancing. Some people love it, others have no interest. Those who do it well make it look effortless, while those who don't often times still have a great time and get better each time they do it. However, like dancing, you gotta decide who's going to lead and who's going to follow and work together all the time.

  9. #9
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    I know the California woman who has done 50 doubles, some of them on her single and some on the tandem. We're both from SoCal. She's slower on her single and faster on the tandem. On a recent double, I followed her and one of my friends on the tandem through a straight stretch (wheel sucker), then went ahead on the hills. They caught up with me near the finish.

    One crucial point: I don't want my single performance to suffer because of the tandem riding. I'm the one with the interest in doubles, not my husband (who's never done one), and I generally put on more miles. It is probably going to be hard to get him to do a double, whether on the single or tandem, since he has been a short, fast specialist. Therefore, I think the tandem riding will always be a sideline. Maybe some fast centuries.

    Thanks for the tips on finding used bikes and identifying the ones with the longer top tubes in back.

  10. #10
    MB1
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    Double Centuries on an aluminum Santana.

    We have done quite a few doubles and brevets on Santanas. Our first 4 were an the aluminum Soverign-that is why we bought the Titanium. The rear was far too stiff for my stoker-it beat her up even with the suspension seatpost. I was spending too much effort watching the road for bumps and such.

    On the Ti tandem we have removed the suspension posts-don't need them. We were comfortable and relaxed right away-a big improvement for us over the aluminum. One note; we weigh maybe 250lbs total and are in our 50s. Heavier, younger teams seem to like aluminum better. 200 miles is a long way to ride a stiff bike. We love the ride of our Ti tandem and the bare metal finish is very easy to maintain.

    Hard to find somebody to loan you a Ti tandem for a Double Century test ride though.....

  11. #11
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Originally posted by MB1
    Hard to find somebody to loan you a Ti tandem for a Double Century test ride though.....
    Maybe, maybe not. Not sure exactly where you are, but Dick Powell at the Bicycle Outfitter in Los Altos, CA, always seems to have the most incredible tandems available for demo rides. I believe he even has a Calfee Tetra Tandem in the shop that he lets folks test ride.
    [http://bicycleoutfitter.com/site/index.cfm]

    Rick Steele at Gold Country Tandems & Recumbents near Sacramento also seems to have some high-end hardware sitting around. Heck, I think Rick & Anne have a Calfee too...
    [http://www.tandems-recumbents.com/]

    However, getting back to reality, given your budget / commitment issues you'll want to look for a used steel tandem (best best) or an aluminum one that has 36h rims. On the aluminum tandems, you can take a lot of the harshness out of the ride by riding on 40h or 36h rims laced 3x (pretty common) with larger cross section tires (700x28 or 30) at the manf. recommended pressure. It won't corner like crit bike, but it will be laterally stiff (good for power transfer) without beating you up with road shock/fatigue and that ain't all bad given what you've told us about "rocky's" riding style.
    Last edited by TandemGeek; 10-10-07 at 07:58 AM.

  12. #12
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    Confessions of a Backseat Driver

    Since no other stokers replied I thought I'd throw in my two cents.

    First of all, the guys here gave GREAT advice.

    Here is my experience:
    Similar to your "team",Captain is a strong 3 who mostly races crits(~1 hr) and considers himself a sprinter.

    I race MTB, most of my races are ~ 2 hours, and I enjoy 24 hour races and other endurance-freak sports.

    My optimal cadence is ~110-115. He's happiest at 95-100.
    I get the cadence computer on the back, and pretty much I'm in control of our rpms. Sometimes I'll just apply a biiiit more pressure to the pedals and start spinning at the rate i want. Sometimes I'll actually shout "cadence" when i really want him to pick it up.

    One thing i reall really appreciate/admire about my captain is his strength and power. I know what a "sprint" IS, but i had never actually felt a bike MOVE under me like that until the day i shouted "dog left!" and he hammered away. That burst of speed is exhilarating, and, barring illegal substances, i'll *never* feel that kind of power on my single bike.

    The second thing i like about my captain, since he does crits, he has great bike skills. I've been on some scary-fast training rides with him and it's nice to know we are "in good hands".

    I never really get bored on the tandem. When we are alone having a mellow cruise, it's usally a great talk time. When we are out with fast racers it's fun to cruise along at 25+ mph, hold a conversation...then glance back and realize the pack is having to work to keep up.

    Another fun thing to do is work on your climbing. Blowing by single riders on the UPhills is always great fun.

    Take scary descents faster than you *should*. The addreneline rush should spice up the ride.

    Take a camera on "touring" rides and take pictures from inside-the-ride. Interesting new perspective.

    You can also play around with physics on the bike. Practice your cornering. You should practice weighting the outside pedal and weighting/unweighting the rear of the bike. You'll be surprised to find out that you actually have a LOT more control back there than you think!

    Somedays I'm cranky and really want to steer the bike. Captain reports that he *can* feel when i am "driving" from the back.

    When I am feeling really whiney and we are on a group ride i start complaining that my "handlebars are broken!!!".

    It's all what you make of it. I'd never give up my single bikes, but I wouldn't give up stoking either.



    p.s. perhaps you can get DH to work on his uneven pedal stroke by doing some "one-legged" spinning on his single bike? just a thought.

  13. #13
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    Originally posted by rowena wildin
    My husband and I were just married in March (we're ages 50 and 46); he is the one more interested in tandeming as I am his first significant other who rides. I am somewhat concerned that it will cut into my training for the double centuries, which consists mainly of distance rides, short and hard rides, and repeated loops with sections that have specific goals.
    .....
    Temperamentally, I am probably more suited to captaining, but at 115-120 pounds, I am 35-40 pounds smaller than my husband. He also has more upper body strength.

    Rowena,

    If you want to be the captain, I don't think the weight differencial is a real problem, except maybe in technical trails. It might be a problem, however, if he tries to steer you from the back seat. Besides, if he is taller than you, your team will be a bit less aerodynamic, but both of you will see.

    Someone was also referring to "that other woman in Califormia who was looking for partners to ride her tandem". Maybe you should try a century with her, so you will have the tandem experience with a good tandem rider.

    Finally, if you just want some "decent conversation" with your husband, there are 2-way radio systems that would enable you to have good conversations with your husband, even when using two single bikes. It might not work during a double-century (he stays home), but it would work well for all your more leasurely rides.

    Regards,
    Michel Gagnon
    Montréal (Québec, Canada)

  14. #14
    Oh God, He's back! 1oldRoadie's Avatar
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    Tandems are relationship intensifiers, and I don't think you will enjoy the direction that it will take you.

    The stroker, be bigger or smaller or taller or more or less experienced MUST give total control to the captain, and from the way you talk I don't think that is part of your physical makeup.

    If you as the stroker sees what is happening up front and decide to turn right at the bike will go right from your lean and the person steering the bike has lost control.

    I really mean absolutely no offense!!!!

    But two people can not control the same bike at the same time. If your husband is the more casual type maybe he could enjoy the scenery from the stroker seat. It makes no difference who drives a tandem.

    Look up the 800 number for Santana and give them a call. They are great people and really really know tandems, and visit with them about the whole think. They can give you some realy insight.
    I can't ride and Frown!

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    I've kind of given up the tandem idea for a while. My husband is working on the rocking, but it is still there. I won't get on the back with that rocking.

    Also, I really enjoy RIDING my bike, with all that that entails, watching the road for potholes, strategizing, picking a line, etc. I love being aware of my surroundings and being one with the bike. I enjoy pushing myself and really prefer pushing and backing off at my own discretion.

    And as one person commented, I don't like relinquishing control (no offense taken!). I don't think being the captain will work either, because although my husband is saying he would be fine as the stoker, he also doesn't like giving up control, although to a lesser extent and in a different way than me.

    There are activities that I don't feel passionate about and am glad to follow someone else's lead, but cycling isn't one of them.

    Rowena

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    Oh God, He's back! 1oldRoadie's Avatar
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    Rowena; are you from creek county, OK? I used to live next door to a girlwith that name.

    Is your husbands seat too high? That is the usual reason for someone to rock.
    I can't ride and Frown!

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    Originally I'm from Iowa, but I'm a Californian now.

    My huband's seat was a little high so he lowered it (on all his bikes), but either not far enough or the years of riding with it high have made rocking a habit because he's still rocking (perhaps not as much). Although I'd like to tell him to lower it more and see what happens, I think I'll wait until he is more aware of what he is doing or the need to change -- perhaps he needs to see a videotape of him riding from behind. Or perhaps he needs a coach or fit expert to tell him (of course, he'd have to consult that coach or expert first, whether for the rocking or another reason.)

  18. #18
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    If you were on a tandem, and you was riding behind him, and you had a stright pin, and........
    I can't ride and Frown!

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    Hi, I see this is last summer's thread but as a new member I've only just read it. I was quite intrigued by your post and wanted to make a couple comments. The folks who suggested that your husband's seat may be too high were probably spot on, but get him fitted to his bike by a competent bike mechanic. Even if the two of you never tandem together, your discription of his body mechanics screams "FIX ME". His time on his single could be so much more pleasurable for him, it's even possible it would change his attitude about longer rides. A question, does he have one knee thown out to the side? Does he have unequal leg lengths? If yes to either question there is a retail product out there called "Big Meat" (really) probably available at your LBS which is a shim to be placed under his cleat which may address those issues.
    Tandems obviously aren't for everyone, but I enjoy them so much I want everyone else to get to have as much fun. They are just a hoot. Captaining and stoking are just different. I do both for two different folks and love doing both. I honestly wouldn't want to miss out on either. Unless you and your husband are very close to the same size you have to choose. If your husband is only 20 to 30 pounds more than you I would say go ahead and try captaining. If hubby says he's game, go for it. If you do, get fitted on the bike, both you and your husband. Get it done by someone who knows and then after you have some miles as a team go back and get finetuned. The front of a tandem doesn't require that much more upper body strength than a single, (a good tandem should ride stable "no hands" just like your single) but it can seem that way initially when everything is new and you are still fighting it instead of letting it roll. This is when having that "good fit" on the machine will really make all the difference. (Well, also at the end of that hilly double century.)
    Even if he is stoking that pedal stroke has to get fixed. It would still drive you nuts.

  20. #20
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    This might be a little late for you, but here goes.

    1. You could be the captain and he the stoker (of course he will have to stay still unless he tells you).

    2. My husband and I switch positions on the tandem as comfort requires it. We are fortunate that we are only 6 inches a part in height. When I ride in front it is a bit of a stretch for me, and a little cramped for him. Our next tandem won't have this problem.

    3. Being an endurance rider vs. a short hop rider, I don't have a solution for. My husband and I were both riders long before we got married and the tandem was a 25th anniversary gift to each other.

    4. Keep in mind a great number of married tandem riders don't ride as a couple.

    Diane

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