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  1. #1
    Senior Member mtbcyclist's Avatar
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    Before I get started, I KNOW that everybody is different and what works for my stoker might not work for your stoker and vice versa. That being said my stoker and I ride an 2005 Burley Rivazza which is an aluminum frame. She complain a lot about sore elbows and sore neck/upper back (near shoulder blades). Sore neck I think is from a pulled muscle but I think it has healed (hopefully for good). We have about 500 mile on the bike and I picked it up from the shop in the second week of July.

    I think some of this may be becasue she is a total newbie to the bike and before riding she was NOT athletic at all but has taken to the tandem quite well (I am lucky). Because of that I am hesistant to make any big changes because she is new and is still getting use to it. Most of us expereicned folks forget about how long it takes for the body to get adjusted to a bike and the road shock. I know tons of tricks to fit a bike as I have been an avid cyclist for 15 years, but do the same rules apply to a stoker? Anyways I was going to start by raising the handlebars a bit. Right now they are level with the stokers seat.

    I was also going to look into either a carbon seat post or a suspension seat post. Question is will a carbon post make that much difference? Who makes the best suspension seatpost for ROAD bike usage? Was going to hold off on the seatpost thing until I tweak the setup a bit and do a bit of trial and error. Would a seatpost help with the sore back in the shoulder blade area? Seems to me that is a function of handlebar setup (guessing here).

    All this being said any advice would be appreciated. My stocker wants to go on LONG rides and our longest so far is 60 miles. So if I keep her comfy the long rides WILL happen which I am looking forward too becasue that is what I enjoyed doing on my single.

  2. #2
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Could be none of the above . . .
    Could be that your stoker is quite tense on the tandem. Do some stretches, neck rolls, etc. on a daily basis (even if you're not going tandeming).
    Also,she/you are pushing the *long* mileage thing a bit too hard and too soon. Ride a bit lesser distance at a more relaxed pace. Yes, stop once in a while during the ride to admire the view, have an ice cream/coffee, chat with other cyclists or whatever. Life/tandeming is not a race, although it can be if we want to make it so. Remember, she is an admitted newbie and non-athletic, it takes a while for a body to adjust.
    Also, make sure she is not riding 'stiff-armed' back there; there should be a bend to the elbows so arms act as shock absorbers, rather than riding stiff-armed, which transfer all those bumps through to the shoulder/neck area. And with drop bars,she should change hand positions every so often from in the drops to the hooks, from the stoker dummy levers to the center of the bar.
    Are you, as pilot, calling out the bumps for stoker? If not, you should be so she is forewarned to get weight off the buttocks a bit . . . another cause of back/neck pains. Stoker takes the 'hits' on a tandem as she sits over the back wheel, while pilot doesn't feel a thing, as he has the luxury of sitting in the middle of that long tandem frame.
    Minor adjustments to equipment (bars height/distance/angle, seat angle/height/setback, all are important issues. A c/f seatpost or suspension post could help, but try that if all else fails.
    All pilots should have the opportinity to do a long ride as stoker, just to see how important a team's communication (or lack thereof) is. Just to experience what it's like not to have a direct view ahead of the road and not being a mind reader.
    It can take over a thousand miles before you become a tandem team . . . patience and communication are the key.
    Personally, it takes us up to 3 months of 'tweaking' to get a new tandem set up correctly.
    We teach tandeming, and while an experienced single cyclist knows how to ride, that does not automatically make 'em a good tandem rider!
    Teamwork/communication will make you a great tandem team!
    Good luck!

    Pedal on TWOgether!
    Rudy and Kay/zon atandem

  3. #3
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtbcyclist
    Anyways I was going to start by raising the handlebars a bit. Right now they are level with the stokers seat.
    Probably not a bad move if she's got a lot of weight on her hands. Of course, this begs the question, is the reach properly adjusted and have you got the saddle's nose up, down, or level? Reference another thread on stationary trainers, this is one of the reasons that I put Debbie on the tandem on a trainer early on... noting that it was the only way I could see how she was actually sitting on tandem while underway. There were clues that she was doing some funky things back there from photos that had been taken of us when riding, e.g., ballerina toes all the way around her pedal stroke, stiff arming, etc.


    Quote Originally Posted by mtbcyclist
    I was also going to look into either a carbon seat post or a suspension seat post. Question is will a carbon post make that much difference? Who makes the best suspension seatpost for ROAD bike usage? Was going to hold off on the seatpost thing until I tweak the setup a bit and do a bit of trial and error. Would a seatpost help with the sore back in the shoulder blade area? Seems to me that is a function of handlebar setup (guessing here).
    Carbon or Ti might "feel" a little different, but not enough to fix a big comfort issue. However, the aches and pains you're describing don't sound like impact issues -- those usually manifest themselves in the fanny or lower back. I would definitely focus on the fit issues and also make sure she is paying attention to her posture by keeping her elbows rolled-in and bent so that her head and neck don't sink into her shoulders. There's a story I told years ago about someone who asked Davis Phinney why their neck was always so sore after a long ride. He purportedly told them to hold their arms straight out and parallel with the ground, and then to try and touch their ears with their shoulders... "and that's why your neck hurts".

    As for shock posts, we don't use 'em (we have tough stokers and smooth roads here in Georgia); however, having spent a few too many hours reading other folks comments over the years the two that always seem to come to the top of most lists are: 1 - RockShox telescoping model, and 2 - Cane Creek's Thudbuster's parallelogram model. The Thudbuster design has been picked up by others as well. Both of these posts require that the stoker have at least a couple inches of exposed rigid seatpost showing to support their minimum height requirements, remembering that actual seat height will have to be adjusted once you have adjusted the amount of progression you're stoker will need/be comfortable with as it will also affect how much sag (shock travel) is used when your stoker is sitting on the saddle.
    Last edited by TandemGeek; 09-13-05 at 07:07 PM.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by TandemGeek
    As for seat posts, we don't use 'em (we have tough stokers and smooth roads here in Georgia)
    I am suitably impressed.

    -Greg

  5. #5
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    I was surprised to see that your Burley doesn't come with a shock post, and looking at the Burley site, none of their road tandems do, except as an option. I just checked around the web and found that Trek, Cannondale, and Co-Motion, for example, all come with a shock post.

    When we tried a Trek T-2000 (with a shock post), my wife thought the ride was rougher than she wanted...we ended up with a used Burley Softride.

    Would most stokers on aluminum tandems want a shock post for basic comfort?

  6. #6
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tornadobass
    Would most stokers on aluminum tandems want a shock post for basic comfort?
    Not that it means a darn thing, but I don't think of the 15 or so teams we ride with on a regular basis -- here at home or from the surrounding states -- has a shock post on their road tandems and there's not a fat-tire in the bunch. Interestingly enough, I think all of us had them on our first tandems and either had problems with them (stiction, bolt breakage) or, like Debbie, decided no shock post was the lessor of two evils vs. having a saddle that moved around.

    As I've mentioned in other posts, I suspect that if we lived where the roads were not in good repair or where expansion joints were plentiful, a shock post would make a lot more sense and earn its keep. As for aluminum tandems, they continue to get a bad rap with regard to harshness. Yes, they're usually quite stiff, but just as with some of the stiffer steel tandems, ride comfort can easily be tuned via your tire, tire pressure, and wheel selection.

  7. #7
    Senior Member mtbcyclist's Avatar
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    As usual a wealth of info provided. Thanks guys. I totally forgot about the seat angle thing. This is going to sound weird but is the typical ladies set set up differently due to "plumbing" difference in the sexes? I know my seats are always level to just barely nose down. If I go nose up at all I go numb as heck and get chafing big time from the seat. Took me about 350 miles to get the captian (my) setup just the way I like it.

  8. #8
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gregm
    I am suitably impressed.

    -Greg
    As well you should... if in fact we did ride without seat posts

    My bad. That should have been shock posts

  9. #9
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtbcyclist
    ... is the typical ladies set set up differently due to "plumbing" difference in the sexes?
    Whatever works. Debbie has always been set-up with the saddle tilted up ever so slightly.

  10. #10
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    I need a Suspension seat post, and looked very closely at the options, before replacing my cheap 1" travel post. I ride offroad, so differ in your usage, but also ride onroad with all the potholes and cracked surfaces that abound in my area. I still need a suspension post for ON-road.

    I went to the Cane Creek Thudbuster with 3" travel. Very expensive, and maybe over the top, but this works. The 3" travel may be too much for road use, but as far as the Thudbuster is concerned- the best investment for comfort I have made yet.

  11. #11
    Banned. galen_52657's Avatar
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    The fact that you are already doing 60 miles with a 'total newbie to the bike and.... NOT athletic' stoker is quite an accomplishment - on her part! My stoker/girlfriend is good for 60 miles max after almost 9 months of conditioning. An hour and a half to two hours of riding are more like the norm.

    All of the suggestions posted are good. It sounds to me like her reach may be a little long and/or she is riding with locked elbows. I would like to add that if she did some core strengthening workouts off the bike, it might help also. If her torso were stronger, she might have better posture on the bike.
    Last edited by galen_52657; 09-14-05 at 11:20 AM.

  12. #12
    Mad Town Biker Murrays's Avatar
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    I thought I would jump on this thread with our problem:

    Background-My wife/stoker is a very experienced cyclist with thousands of miles on her Waterford single including numerous centuries & weeklong cycling trips.

    We purchased a Co-Motion Speedster last year and we enjoy it very much. Weíve ridden nearly a thousand miles including two centuries.

    The problem is that my wife gets a pain in her side between her ribs after around 15 miles. The pain can be quite bad. She does not get the pain on her single.

    Iíve photoshopped her bike on top of the tandem to verify the position of the saddle & handlebars. She is more upright on the tandem, but she seems to think that more upright is better.

    She has a RockShox seat post. Is it possible that the movement in the seat could be causing the problem?

    I believe the handlebars on the tandem are wider than her single. Iíll have to double check.

    She seems reluctant to change anything to see if itís better or worse. Perhaps Iíll just change some things and see if she complains

    Any thoughts?

    -murray
    "I feel more now like I did than when I first got here"

  13. #13
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Murrays
    She has a RockShox seat post. Is it possible that the movement in the seat could be causing the problem?
    One sure way to find out.... change it out for a rigid post and give it a go.

  14. #14
    Senior Member mtbcyclist's Avatar
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    The fact that you are already doing 60 miles with a 'total newbie to the bike and.... NOT athletic' stoker is quite an accomplishment - on her part! My stoker/girlfriend is good for 60 miles max after almost 9 months of conditioning. An hour and a half to two hours of riding are more like the norm.
    She really digs it (and I am a lucky captain). I leave it TOTALLY up to here. I always "suggest" long rides but if she is not up to it I change the route out based on what SHE wants. The great thing is we are starting to get fast. We have even started doing some group rides and enjoy those as well. Latest challenge is learning to stand and do it "naturally". We can do it but we have only had a few times where it felt right, but I knwo it will come eventually.

  15. #15
    Banned. galen_52657's Avatar
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    Well, standing takes some teamwork. We are getting pretty smooth at standing and climbing but sometimes mess up and waddle all over the road. Nancy gets a little spooked if a car comes up to pass when we are standing or planning to stand so I have to take that into consideration but otherwise we have made a lot of progress on that skill. My favorite time to stand is when rolling along a flatish road to get over 'sprinter's hills' - little short rises. I can downshift one or two gears, up we go and power over the hill. If you keep your speed up on these little bumps, when you crest you don't have to re-accelerate the bike.

    On steeper granny ring stuff, I find it's best to upshift one or two cogs before standing. If we are seated and slogging away but want to stand to get over a tuff spot or just for some relief, if I don't upshift, we will spin out the gear I was in when seated in about 3 pedal strokes.

    On middle-ring climbs, as I get into the hill, I let the bike slow down to match the gear so that we are overgeared by one cog, then stand and climb.

    If it is a long climb with a more-or-less constant gradient, we just stay seated untill the very top when we might want to stand if we have any energy left......

    I have found a mid-to-slow standing cadence works best for us. We also rock the bike a little.

    Now I will stand on the flats just for to take a butt break.

  16. #16
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    We do most of the same things that Galen described. We also do alternate standing on rolling hills. I used to take the longer ones and my stoker/wife the shorter ones. Lately has been very close to a even split. In the very steep streches (>10%) of a long climb (>3 miles) It is still usually me who stands.

    On the topic of suspension seat posts. My stoker rode without one for several years. Then about a year ago we upgraded to a Santana that came with a "Tamer pivot plus" She absolutely loves it! For the type of roads in the Sierras of Madera, Fresno, Tulare, and Kern counties it comes very handy.

  17. #17
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    A seatpost will probably not solve the items you mention. This sounds more like a fit issue. Neck problems would most commonly be caused by the bars being too low so you're crimping your neck back to see. Elbows? Would have to see how the stoker is holding their arsm during a ride. You have to try adjusting the bike during a ride to solve most of this sort of stuff; a bike shop won't be very helpful. Eddy Merckx used to adjust his bike DURING stages of the Tour.

  18. #18
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Instead of investing in a shock absorbing seatpost, a sprung saddle (like some of the Brooks) could be an answer if all other adjustments fail.
    Pedal on TWOgether!
    Rudy and Kay/zonatandem

  19. #19
    Senior Member mtbcyclist's Avatar
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    Tilted the seat back 5 degrees and that made a big improvement. We did 34 miles tonight and we both had a off night but her elbows were not hurting nearly as bad. Going to raise the handlbars about 1/2 to 1 inch and see how that helps as well.

  20. #20
    Mad Town Biker Murrays's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtbcyclist
    Tilted the seat back 5 degrees and that made a big improvement. We did 34 miles tonight and we both had a off night but her elbows were not hurting nearly as bad. Going to raise the handlbars about 1/2 to 1 inch and see how that helps as well.
    One adjustment to reduce the load carried by your arms/hands is to move the saddle BACK which allows your legs to carry more load. See this: http://www.peterwhitecycles.com/fitting.htm

    -murray
    "I feel more now like I did than when I first got here"

  21. #21
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Murray:
    Try using a standard seatpost; with the nice tubing on your Speedster, bumps should not be that big of an issue and the suspension seatpost can always be re-installed.
    Kay has never ridden any of our tandems with any type of suspension seatpost (30+ years, 200,000+ miles). A tough little 70-year-old!
    However we have test ridden many tandems and the only 'suspension' she really liked was the Alsopp beam.

    Pedal on TWOgether!
    Rudy and Kay/zonatandem

  22. #22
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    After reading this discussion, I switched seat brackets this morning on our Burley Rumba Softride from the short standard one to the taller one (pic attached) that also has some setback. My stoker/wife was asking for a lot of butt breaks and I wondered if this would help. Our bike is a size medium and she's 5'7", toward the top of the height adjustment with the standard softride seat bracket.

    I spent a little time with seat height until she was happy, but didn't mess with the handlebar adjustments.

    We went on a short ride out in the country around Solon, Iowa to the Sutliffe Bridge...hilly and about 9 miles each way.

    The setback on the seat must have stretched her out enough to shift some weight from butt to arms, because she didn't ask for a single butt break. I'll need to see if she's still comfy on a longer ride.

    The idea came from the Peter White link that was posted here...it emphasized balance of weight distribution over some of the usual considerations like knee position.

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