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Tandem Cycling A bicycle built for two. Want to find out more about this wonderful world of tandems? Check out this forum to talk with other tandem enthusiasts. Captains and stokers welcome!

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Old 09-07-05, 12:05 PM   #1
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Tandem Fitting & Seat Pain

Hi Folks,

My wife and I bought our new tandem in early June and have gone on successively longer rides since then, mostly on weekends. Last Sunday we rode 53 miles, and good lawd, does my behind hurt! I've been on much, much longer rides on other bicycles, and can't figure out why the tandem does this to me.

The bike is sized properly; if anything it's a little small, but since I'm the captain it works better that way. When standing over the top tube, I can support the bike with my legs apart enough that the pedals don't inflict damage.

I thought the original Serfas saddle was reasonably comfortable, until we did our first ride over 30 miles. After that my behind really started to hurt. It felt like riding on the edge of a steel door. I kept changing positions on the saddle but nothing seemed to help.

For our next long trip I ordered a Terry Fly, which is the same saddle I have on my road bike. I've ridden my road bike over 70 miles a few times this year without any significant discomfort. This felt a little better on the tandem, until I got up to 40 miles. Then the same pain came back with a vengeance.

Our tandem a Santana Arriva. I had a longer stem than normal installed, because I have relatively short legs and long torso. Now I'm wondering if I should have gone with a short stem and just sat more upright. One of the problems I've noticed with the tandem is that I can almost never get off the seat, unless we stop. I ride out of the saddle periodically on my road bike, and this must be helping a lot.

I can get out of the saddle on the tandem very briefly, but longer than that and it throws us out of balance. Sometimes, the pain is bad enough that I have to pull our tandem off the road now, and just stand for a few minutes. I've ridden bikes for many thousands of miles, but never with pain like this.

Believe me, I'm not overly sensitive. I ride a mountain bike on rough singletrack and can manage it for a few hours. Even then it isn't the part on the saddle that winds up being sore; usually it's my wrists, leg muscles, and neck that start to get fatigued.

Has anyone dealt with pain like this specific to tandem riding? I'm not ready to trade in for a recumbent tandem yet, but the idea has crossed my mind. I'd like to rule out some more possibilities first, if there are any.


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Old 09-07-05, 12:32 PM   #2
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Unless you have incorporated regular out-of-the-saddle climbing or short bursts similar to how you would normally ride your personal bike, with the exception of Jan Ullrich, most folks who ride and upright tandem MUST take periodic butt breaks. If you don't you and your stoker will invariably find yourselves in a "spot of bother" with regard to posterior pain.

They don't need to be long stints (5 - 10 seconds every 15 minutes can be enough) and can be easily accomplished while coasting down short or long hills and on the flats for a few moments, either by standing together or one at a time.

Bottom Line: Next time your ride your road or mountain 1/2 bike take notice of how often you're up and out of the saddle in comparison to how often you get out of the saddle on your tandem. The disparity is usually quite eye opening.
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Old 09-07-05, 12:35 PM   #3
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I think that you need to stand on the tandem, at least for a few strokes (20-50) as often as you do in your single. Shift your gears up so the pedals will support your weight as you stand and stroke down. As you stand, try to keep the side movement to a minimum. Ask your stoker not to fight (try to correct) the frame movement. Tell your stoker that you will get better at standing without ecxesive movement. Hope this helps.
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Old 09-07-05, 12:40 PM   #4
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After the first half hour, it's done on every downhill:

Call goes out for 'butt break', pedals stop.

Both riders slide butt of the back of seat and grip seat with thighs (or, just stand).

We also practice climbing out-of-the-saddle as much a possible. It takes time and we still wobble now and then or I pick the wrong gear, but if you never practice, you will never master.....
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Old 09-07-05, 01:33 PM   #5
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My wife and I experienced the same thing that you described and like you it always seemed to occur around the 40 mile mark.

We're riding the same bike you are and have made the following changes:

1. New Brooks B17; a B17 has worked for me for 33 years on the single I commute on. I tried the Terry Fly and it wasn't working for me.

2. New Tamer seat post that uses the twin bolt method of adjusting the saddle tilt; seemingly minor changes in the tilt angle made a significant difference for me.

3. We make a habit of standing for several seconds every twenty minutes. As "galen" mentioned, either of us calls out "butt break" ... the pedals stop and we stand with all our weight on our left leg ... after 30 seconds I call switch and we then rotate the pedals to stand on our right leg.

All of the above have helped but I believe that standing up is probably the most important for us.

Since making the above changes we haven't been limited by saddle pain ... now if I could just stop the pain in my left scapula/shoulder.
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Old 09-07-05, 10:12 PM   #6
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It's not very exotic, but we've been using the Specialized BG Comfort saddles plus butt breaks and we've done okay. Anybody else using this one?
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Old 09-07-05, 10:17 PM   #7
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Try a bit less weight on pilot's sitzbones by lowering the pilot's handlebars just a tad (nothing drastic, a 1/4 of an inch could do it).
Also if you have drop bars, change hand positions more often: from the full drops to the hooks, to the brake levers to the center of the bar . . . will change pressure points on saddle a bit.
Changing out to a *harder* saddle than the soft Serfas could help if previous hints don't work out.
Give that a try!

Pedal on TWOgether!
Rudy and Kay/zonatandem

Pedal on TWOgether!
Rudyand Kay/zonatandem
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Old 09-08-05, 04:17 AM   #8
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I've been tandem riding for a short period, but have had no such troubles. I took great pains to ensure that the tandem fit exactly like my road racing bikes. Fit, fit, fit..... if your road bike works fine, measure everything and make it all the same- angles, distances, etc... (the saddle, bars, etc...). I ride the tandem 75% of the time on aero bars, so I can personally attest to there being no reason you'd ride a trandem more upright than another bike. It's a bike.
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Old 09-08-05, 08:23 AM   #9
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Hi Scooter,
My wife and I bought a Santana Arriva a few years ago and I had the same problem you described. The tandem came with a Terry Fly. I tried that for awhile and got lots of butt pain after about 30 miles of riding, then I tried switching to a Seras "anatomically correct" seat - similar to what I had on my single. This time I started having pain in my leg - almost like the circulation was being cut off. So, I then tried a Terry Liberator Gel seat. That has been the ticket! I have done back to back centuries and many long rides. Still have a bit of soreness after a couple of hours but I think that is to be expected with any seat when you ride long distance. Anyway, I think between that and the other suggestions you received (like "butt breaks" occasionally) it should fix your problem. But like one person suggested, my Liberator Gel may not work well for you - each person is different.
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Old 09-10-05, 07:08 AM   #10
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"Butt breaks" has been the best tandem advice I have ever been given. When I heard it, I had to think about it for a second, because I was thinking it must be a "fit" problem. You generally are off you single's saddle more than you realize. It worked for me anyway.
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Old 09-11-05, 09:45 PM   #11
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i think zonatandem's comments make good sense. many people mistakenly believe they will be more comfortable with a very upright position, and for short rides this works. but if you spend alot of time on your bike you need to be in a postions which spreads the load out over your hands and back and shoulder and butt. too upright and eventually your butt cannot take all the weight. by extending your handlebars away and down you will allow your body to choose different areas to take the weight. also changing the postions of your hand on the bars helps. but the best way to take the weight off your butt is to pedal really hard with your legs, which takes the weight off your butt.
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Old 09-12-05, 05:09 AM   #12
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I made the same mistake .. I just kind of eyeballed it ... bad very bad idea. miles .. saterday evening (before our first tandem originzed group ride wilson 100) I spent 2 hrs with a tape measure and allen keys .. setting the to big for me tandem to match my road bike 100% .. no variations .. exactly the same fit.

it worked we did a 60 mile option on the wilson and it was not untill the 40 mile mark where I began to expearince any discomfort.

it was by far one of our best rides. and our longest.
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Old 11-08-05, 09:15 AM   #13
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Hi Folks,

This post has a happy ending. Earlier this year, I saw a talk by the author of this book, at a Carolina Tarwheels meeting in Durham, NC. He described a new saddle design that measurably improves the blood flow that is constricted by the bicycle seat designs that are currently popular.

The author, Joshua Cohen, has made an arrangement with Performance Bicycle Shop to manufacture the seat. There's a link that describes it in detail here.

I picked up the less expensive, gel model about a month ago in Chapel Hill. Since then I've been on three rides on our Tandem, one of them over fifty miles. So far, I'm feeling much better than before. The saddle's nose is in the right place, but towards the back it is nearly flat from side to side. This causes the sit bones to support more of my weight, without the "wedge" affect.

I'm also learning to get out of the saddle more often, but I still can't do it as much as I would need to in order to feel good with my previous saddle.

Sorry if this reads like an advertisement. I have no connection with Performance, Mr. Cohen, or the E3 form seat other than being a fairly happy customer.

Scott C.
Cary, NC

Last edited by Scooter123; 11-08-05 at 09:18 AM. Reason: URL had an error.
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Old 11-08-05, 02:11 PM   #14
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I am fine as stoker on our T but then we do rest the butt on the downhills, and the bike has been set up to suit the riders. I ride offroad, and recently got a Thudbuster suspension post and Boy does that work-Takes all the sting out of both the big and little unexpected hits. What is does not do though is Take the saddle soreness away. That still takes Butt resting to ensure it is not unbearable. However a month or so ago- 20 miles into a ride and I hurt. The saddle had moved back on the rails by about 1". No easy cure as it took different tools that I had forgotten to put in the tool bag. Easy cure for the pain was to drop the saddle by 1". It worked for comfort, but not for pedalling efficiency.
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Old 11-08-05, 04:10 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by tornadobass
It's not very exotic, but we've been using the Specialized BG Comfort saddles plus butt breaks and we've done okay. Anybody else using this one?
Works for us. Does your partner snap the back of your shorts when your shirt rides up too?
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Old 11-08-05, 06:17 PM   #16
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My stoker and I, after getting our tandem fitted properly, adopted regular butt breaks as part of our routine. Thankfully there are a lot of rolling hills here in MD, so most of the time it's just a natural part of the ride. We still have to be cognizant in the flats, though. Easy to forget.

I found that a carbon seatpost was also very helpful for my numbness issues in the old nether regions...

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Old 11-08-05, 07:45 PM   #17
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It's a pain that just makes me cringe to think about it!

We picked up an inexpensive Mtn bike tandem this summer. I use a terry butterfly on my singles, but had to change to the terry liberator on this bike. I believe the more upright position was part of the problem. I made an effort to ride out on the bar ends more, changing my position, and that helped some. Also started using chamois cream and that helps a bit as well.

We just brought home an Arriva a couple weeks ago. It came with the fly/butterfly. I don't know if this bike just fits better or what, but we both have no pain at the end of our rides. Both of us are kind of achy after longer rides, even on our singles, so I'm amazed at how pain-free our rides have become. I never thought bike-fit would make so much difference.

After a certain number of miles, we have to take regular "butt breaks" that become more frequent as the miles add up. We stand with the right pedal down-stretch a cheek-then carefully rotate the left pedal down and stretch the other cheek. We haven't mastered the fine art of actually pedaling out of the saddles yet. If we don't take breaks as we need, sooner of later one us will just suddenly stop pedaling and have to stretch. It's almost involuntary.

With the Arriva, we haven't needed to do this as much, but we haven't done more than about 40 miles a ride yet, so time will tell how we do on longer rides. This is the first bike where the bike guy tweaked it here and there to be sure it was the right size and fit for us and it sure made a difference! Dh also uses a specialized body geometry saddle that came on his single.

Just don't ask me about the ride where our derailleur fell off -
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Old 11-09-05, 01:22 AM   #18
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Lots of good comments in these threds - I hope everyone is wrong about the theTerry Fy - I just put that seat and the Butterfly on my new Co Motion. In the past on our other tandems we've done double century's in a day without problems. But we built up tolerence. We tried lots of seat combinations and stem length, and seat tube adjustments prior to then and I kept a journal of what did and didn't work and I kept tools with us on the road to make spot adjustments real time. Invariably none of this had to do with the seats themselves, but making sure seats were level, correct heigth, etc. Dialing in a bike takes alittle time and is not always about the right frame size. I agree with everone's comments about "cheek breakes" we take them regularly and tell each other when we are about to take one and on a coordinated effort just as important as standing to climb. Just a comment we found that comfort and the cost of the seat have little to do with each other!
Which make's wonder about my $200 dollar investment in the 2 new Terry's.
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Old 11-09-05, 01:47 AM   #19
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I love my butterfly. It was just on the one tandem that I had trouble with it, but on the new one and my singles it has worked pretty good. Dh initially didn't like the fly when he first tried it, but he likes it on the Arriva, so it may have been more of a bike fit issue than a saddle issue. We now know our road bikes are a little too big for us, but then, they're mostly collecting dust since the whole tandem thing started.
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Old 12-04-05, 03:19 PM   #20
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Maybe this is obvious: I had a lot of seat pain on our tandem, even after installing the same Serfas seat as I have on my single; then I tried chamois cream, which I never bothered to use on my single (my husband uses it all the time). It seems to have made all the difference. Just got back from a 4-hr. ride with pretty much zero discomfort.
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