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  1. #1
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    Wow.... Now What?

    Greetings: I am usually over in the "folding bike" forum as I commute on a Giant 1/2way. Last week I met a lovely blind woman and as our first date we rented a tandem from the Central Park Boathouse and managed to complete 2-1/2 laps of the park before calling it a date. I was very upset with the management of the bicycle rental because the tandem's brakes were worn to the clips and stops took 20 feet and with both of us pedalling we could easily overpower the brakes and keep going!!! I can stop my 1/2way in less than 6 feet so I felt completely out of control. The rental outfit refused to admit anything was wrong with the bicycle and tried to 'prove' to me that it could stop adequately by performing stupid rear wheel dragging displays. That being said the date was still a success. I had never ridden a tandem before, she had but had not been out for over 10 years. It would have been heartbreaking for her to have gotten so close and then have to postpone so I kept the speed down and planned stops well in advance. Thing is, in spite of myself I enjoyed the outing. We really got bombing a time or few and I can't complain about the ride quality too much. My questions are this: "W", my date wanted me to announce when I was going to stop pedalling or start and other maneuvers. Mostly I tried but mostly I didn't. I noticed that without my saying anything she was easily able to pick up the fact that I was beginning to pedal and find my cadence without any prompting. So what is correct? Do good teams become attuned to each other and not need verbal communication or should I try and communicate more? Because she cant see at all she wanted me to tell her in which direction we were turning so she could lean in with me. I couldn't really tell a difference in how well we tracked the turns if I announced them. My last question concerns getting a tandem of our own as I have a very strong suspicion that this will not be our last date. The bike rental waived their usual $21.00 and hour rate because of "W"'s disability which probably didn't help in our efforts to have proper service made on the bike. I wonder however if there may not be some other avenue of locating a reasonable quality tandem at a reasonable price. On Craigslist there is only one tandem for sale in the entire Bicycle For Sale category. It looks very similar to the bike we rode in CP but it has been listed over 50 times in all capitals over a period of months and the seller sounds qute a bit stressed. Any advice as to tandem technique and the location of a donor or partial assistance towards the acquisition of a tandem would be very much appreciated. Take care.

    H

  2. #2
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    Waow, this sounds like a wonderful story, only beginning . Like any second date, don't go too fast as to for example buying a tandem (like you wouldn't buy a restaurant because the service during a first date was lousy ). Maybe try to find another rental place, better go to an LBS who specialize on tandems good tandems and see if they would rent you one, talk to them about the date.. no matter what the rental fee is gonna be.

    Maybe later you'll buy a tandem. And even ad a tag-along to it

    Ps; don't worry too much about the voice warnings, I bet she can read your mind.

  3. #3
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    My daughter and I have been commuting together (first by trailer cycle, now by tandem) for four and a half years. We're to the point where I don't really verbally communicate anything at all about the operation of the bike. About the only things are indications that it's ok to mount or dismount. Even many of those are mutually understood, particularly the arrival at school in the morning or the arrival at home in the afternoon.

    However, it is generally good form to do loads of communication when you're starting out as a new team. Announce everything, assume nothing. Apologize when you (as captain) screw up. Also, you, as captain, need to learn apologize to the stoker even when the stoker screws up. (If you can master this last bit, you will have many happy miles.)

    I recently started riding from time to time with another stoker, and it took loads of communication at first. TONS. I found our first ride to be mentally exhausting. Things have greatly improved with stoker #2 after a couple hundred miles or so, but I still verbally communicate a lot.

    Odds are that, after enough riding together, you will find yourself talking very little, or maybe not at all.

    Google for Bill McCready's write-up of what he calls "the proper method".

    Happy pedaling!

    -Greg

  4. #4
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    Coincidence or not, but last Sunday, I came across a group of blind cyclists on tandems. One Thing I did notice was that verbal communication was a lot more than we use. The stoker needs enough communication at the best of times, but things a normal sighted person would take for granted, require some prewarning for a blind person. When a "Team" get together, when to coast or put in power, will be felt, but they were even saying things like hill ahead, Left hand bend ahead, and one I did not get was when a truck approached. Then the truck arrived and the Sideways draught could be disconcerting if you did not know it was coming.
    Tandem riding is fantastic, but for a blind person that loves cycling, it must be unbelievable. I think you have a learning curve to go on that will be slightly different to that which most of us have experienced, but make certain that you have a good voice and foresight to read the road before the problem arises. Keep communicating, and search for your new Tandem with advice from this forum

    Good luck

  5. #5
    Senior Member bentbaggerlen's Avatar
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    I've ridden with many blind stokers, 128 at last count. Working with Ski for light, and the local AYH ride with the blind program. A few I have done multi day tours with and others have even ridden off road on single track with me. But for the most part I would only get to do a one or two rides with each of them. Riding with them was very rewarding for me, and I leaned quite a bit. But it could also be very challenging at times. You really have to try riding with someone that has never ridden a bike before, who out weighs you by 100 pounds... In Boston traffic! Its a long story but to make it short they printed two sets of cue sheets. One in print and one in braile, the braile cue sheet for the 15 mile ride and the 50 were mixed together.

    The first thing you have to keep in mind is the amount of trust she is placing in you. If you can find someone with a tandem who is willing to take you for a ride. And try ridding as a stoker, blindfolded. Its a whole new world to ride without sight. I've done this with many people that volunteered to captain tandems for the AYH. It was a great way to show them what it was like to have to place that much trust in someone else.

    I hope you don't mind the old cut and paste....

    "my date wanted me to announce when I was going to stop pedalling or start and other maneuvers. Mostly I tried but mostly I didn't.I noticed that without my saying anything she was easily able to pick up the fact that I was beginning to pedal and find my cadence without any prompting. So what is correct?" What ever your stoker wants, if she wants you call out every turn and shift then try to. But at least try to call out bumps, pot holes and ruff pavement. Or anything that may startle your stoker.
    "Do good teams become attuned to each other and not need verbal communication or should I try and communicate more?" Yes to both. Teams that ride together often will get attuned to each other, and any tandem team can always communicate more.

    "Because she cant see at all she wanted me to tell her in which direction we were turning so she could lean in with me. I couldn't really tell a difference in how well we tracked the turns if I announced them."
    On a better tandem she will be able to pick up signals though the frame of the bike as to the direction of the turn and angle. On lesser bikes the frame can flex so much that she may think your turning right when your turning left!

    "My last question concerns getting a tandem of our own as I have a very strong suspicion that this will not be our last date. The bike rental waived their usual $21.00 and hour rate because of "W"'s disability which probably didn't help in our efforts to have proper service made on the bike. I wonder however if there may not be some other avenue of locating a reasonable quality tandem at a reasonable price."
    What price range are you looking in? Tandems for the most part have a very good resale value. The better tandems that sold new in the $1500 range would be the place to start looking. Less expensive tandems have heavy flexible frames, poor components and even worse brakes, and a crappy bike takes away from the ride. I've gotten lucky on e-bay as well as my local paper and tag sales. Tandems from Cannondale, Trek and Burely can often be found at a good price when people want to "trade up". Also have you thought about building up you own tandem from a frame set? Chuck's bikes has tandem frame sets starting around $500.00 http://www.chucksbikes.com/ I've seen a few built up and for the money, not bad at all. If your realy into the folding bike maybe you can find a Bikefriday tandem. Co-Motion, Montague and Redlof all offered folding tandem at one time as well.

    Feel free to contact me off the list if you would like.
    Last edited by bentbaggerlen; 09-13-05 at 06:52 PM.
    Bentbaggerlen
    "When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking." - Arthur Conan Doyle

  6. #6
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    I have been riding a tandem with my daughter (now 9 years old) for the last 2 years. I also have a 5-year-old daughter on a trailercycle behind that, and I am not a talker, especially when riding or driving. So here are my thoughts:

    1. Pedalling.
    At a traffic signal, I will generally announce that we are about to have a green light, but that's it. I generally have a constant pedalling rythm; I don't coast, unless there is a red light ahead or we are zooming fast downhill... However, compared to the single, I have learned to make my transitions much more smoothly. In other words, on the tandem, I take one or two crank revolutions to stop pedalling.

    2. Having one's feet attached really helps, especially at the beginning. If you use "The Proper Method" (see links at the bottom), she will have her feet attached all the time and you will be the one putting a foot down at stops. I think the rear compartment is more important than the front one. She could use toeclips or SPDs (some rental shops would substitute the pedals if you bring your own), but shoes with a stiff but grippy sole would offer a decent support on a standard pedal.

    3. Leaning in curves.
    Actually, in a curve, there has to be a precise amount of leaning, whether you, she or both do it. It's probably easier to both stay in line with the bike and tilt the whole thing (man + woman + bike) all together.
    On my single, I had a tendency to lean the bike more and to stay straight, especially when facing crosswinds. I try to avoid extremes on the tandem.

    4. Obstacles
    I don't know how you ride your single, but avoid zigzagging back and forth between parked cars, hugging the curb, parked cars... A few reasons:
    - a tandem is less manoeuverable than a single, therefore you need more free space;
    - the stoker has no control and is frightened when she suddently sees cars and trees too close for comfort; even a blind stoker will feel that the air reverberates differently when riding close to a car.

    5. Bumps.
    I know everyone says to call out bumps and I don't. But if I were to do, I would say "bump" or "pothole" all the time.

    6. Gearing.
    Especially when going uphill, shift the front derailleur well before you need it. You'll need more co-ordination here.


    As for tandem bikes, I think you generally need to stay away from old (pre 1975 or 1980) tandems because they aren't rigid enough. In the "new bikes department", KHS and the low-end Burleys could be decent buys which would allow you to decide whether both of you like it or not. And if you do, it will give you time to decide whether you prefer a racy road tandem with narrow high pressure tires, a fully-suspended mountain tandem or something in between.

    See the tips on Gear To Go Tandems page.


    P.S. Good luck!
    Michel Gagnon
    Montréal (Québec, Canada)

  7. #7
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    Hi I have a tandem which we don't use much any more are you interested you can email me at stapaj@comcast.net

  8. #8
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    Sincere thanks to all who posted information and links in this thread. I could only wish that my colleagues on lists where I am much more expert (brass instruments, indoor gardening) could do as well. I find myself filling in their blanks to the point of exhaustion. The thoughfullness and comprehensive nature of all the replies is most welcome. I don't think my new sweetheart will hurt me if I reveal that she is over 40 and I am a couple of years older than she is, an 'add on' is biologically possible but not exactly welcome Cycliste, thanks but no thanks (emoticon). Wait, whats this... someone wants to give us a free tandem. I'm there...

    H

  9. #9
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    I was only kidding (xcuse the pun ), but serious about doing another rental!

  10. #10
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Communication is the key to a successful tandem team.
    Have ridden with blind stokers, and it is a real treat; you can also describe the scenery, other cyclist, etc. to her as a 'visual' description.
    Anything you plan to do while riding tandem you should communicate: pedal, coast, braking, shifting, stopping, etc. Stoker has the job of doing the hand signals: You, the pilot, voices: left turn, right turn, slowing, stopping . . . and she gives the proper hand signal.
    Also call out the bumps and road hazards.
    Communicate and U-2 will enjoy tandeming more!
    Pedal on TWOgether!
    Rudy and Kay/zonatandem

  11. #11
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    Just got done with Google and the telephone. With another weekend coming up I wanted to see what options there might be for rentals if the weather holds. They aren't as good as it seems to be thought. I live in North Brooklyn and commute daily to lower Manhattan. Bicycle Habitat and Gotham Bikes do not rent tandems. None of the stores in Park Slope, Brooklyn rent tandems. Toga Bikes uptown will rent a tandem at $75.00/day plus a clear $2000.00 on a major credit card. That Kent tandem is looking better and better. I doubt very much that the Central Park Boathouse isn't using those very bikes and with the exception of the abysmal condition of the brakes I found nothing really to complain about. If there are any other rental sources I missed please let me know before 10:00 a.m. Saturday. Have a nice Friday everyone.

    H

  12. #12
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    Well we did it. "W" and I are still an item at 3 weeks (and counting) and we wanted our own tandem so as not to be limited to Central Park's rental facility. So we did the next best thing. Bought the Kent tandem. Sorry, but that is our budget. Actually just went to look at it, was really considering the Mantis tandem (an ugly bike IMO but nicely equipped for the $$) but they hadn't sold it in so long they said we could have it as a clearance item. Sixty bucks off a tandem that is already under $300.00. We figured if we rode it only twice we would come out ahead of renting.

    So our second tandem ride was in New Jersey traffic (Secaucus to Hoboken) after dark. I have strobes front and rear on my commute bike so I felt pretty naked with just the stock reflectors. Was going pretty slowly all things considered so cannot tell you much about the handling. I saw in the archives that there is at least one couple on this forum that has purchased a Kent. I have counted the rear sprockets and it is a 13-28 freewheel. I have not the patience to count the front chainwheels so I wondered if anyone knew offhand what they are. I actually called Kent Manufacturing and even they don't know! I have asked them to send me anything they can find on the bike but that will be a few days in coming. I would rather use my time to actually get the bike setup and equipped for riding than counting teeth on chainwheels. But of course I will do so if I must.

    What I can tell you is that the Kent tandem has the exact same components as my $500.00 (folding)single. It is heavy but not more so than two of my singles and they do not have mountain bike wheels. Will actually be able to take it out tomorrow so more later.

    H

  13. #13
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    I'm lost. Is it the tandem that you liked, except for the poor brakes?

    If so, I suggest that you check the brakes and replace the brake pads with Kool Stop pads. They are generally better and last longer than regular pads. And if the bike presently has old brake pads, the new will be more flexible and will work better than the old.

    Check also that the brake cable mooves freely, that there is no rust on it, and that the brake pivots are well greased. If so, lube it a bit.

    Oh! Good luck !
    Michel Gagnon
    Montréal (Québec, Canada)

  14. #14
    Senior Member bentbaggerlen's Avatar
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    I saw the Kent tandem in a Wal-Mart in Rumford Maine on our last tour when I need a spare tube. For $256.98 I was going to pick one up to use around town. But it would have been a real bear to load in the BOB trailer for the next three days.
    Bentbaggerlen
    "When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking." - Arthur Conan Doyle

  15. #15
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    To make things a little more clear. The tandem with the horrible brakes was from the Central Park Rental Center. I do not know the make of that bicycle. It has a similar design to the Kent tandem (Wal-Mart) but it is not the same bicycle. They are outfitted similarly with rotary (indexed) grip shifters. I am used to these as my regular commute bike has them. The tandem we purchased has 'V' brakes and being new with new pads they stopped us very well. The seats will have to go, immediately. The handlebars and handgrips will eventually (soon) be replaced. The pedals will also be replaced, if not with SPD units then with the 'powerstrap' pedals. Has anyone seen these? I first saw them in a recumbent application where they seem to be popular. I have since learned that they will also work for upright bicycles.

    I am impressed with the Kent componentry. Brand name (Shimano) throught. Some time spent with a crayon and pen and paper have yielded the following data:
    Rear freewheel - 14,16,18,20,22,24,34. Yep, thats right a 41% jump from 24 teeth to 34 teeth. Its called a Megarange freewheel. Front chainrings are 28,38,48. Wheels are 26 x 1.5" and tires are 2.125" MTB. What kind of shifting pattern would work best with that setup? Top gear is 'only' 88.9", this is higher than my commute bike (74") but that only has a single chainring. I was thinking a 52t chainring for a 96" high gear.

    I have read the "Proper Method" and we gave it a try Saturday. She stayed 'clipped in' at all our stops. Even with less than 50 miles between us I am able to sidle alongside slow traffic and even make "U-turns" without putting a foot down. We are having great fun. But speaking of road manners. Michael I think it was advised me not to "ride too close to parked cars". I remember that being possible 20 years ago. Now that I have been riding in traffic after a long hiatus I find less space than ever for cyclists on the road. I ride less than 12" from parked traffic and still I get honked and sometimes have to duck a shoulder under SUV side mirrors! With the tandem it is a similar deal. On some streets in Jersey cars refuse to pass us but their impatience to get around us is obvious. What to do?? Anyway, next week we plan to open her up on a closed course away from traffic (CP) to see what our average speed is for club ride ranking purposes. "JW" tells me that Wednesday will make one month.

    H

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