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.