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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 11-01-05, 08:20 PM   #1
karinbur
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Tips for stand-and-pedal?

My husband and I have been out a couple of times on our new Co-Motion Speedster and we love it. We're both cyclists and we love to climb. We know the tandem isn't built for climbing, but where we live we'll need to get comfortable with a lot of fairly small hills (around 1-2 miles long, grades up to 12%).
He's the captain and I'm the stoker.

Does anyone have any suggestions to help us with the stand-and-pedal learning curve? We've tried it once for a minute, but I'm unclear on how we should coordinate ourselves to keep it from becoming precarious. We can stand and coast pretty comfortably, to give our butts a periodic rest, but we're eager to learn how to power up a hill together, step by step.
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Old 11-01-05, 08:48 PM   #2
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From a previous post...

Here are a few of my thoughts for new teams learning how to stand and ride out of the saddles on a tandem:

1. Riding a tandem is like ballroom dancing: You’ve got to dance to the same tune, someone's got to lead, someone's got to follow, and it takes practice to do it well.

a. By dancing to the same tune, the implication is that both captain and stoker(s) will need to use a similar out of the saddle riding technique or style. Some cyclists are bike throwers who use a lot of upper body strength to throw the bike back-and-forth as they climb, whereas others keep their bikes perfectly upright. If the captain is a bike thrower, then both riders will have to stand and ride out of the saddles, otherwise, most stokers will feel like a sack of potatoes on the back of the tandem, making them uncomfortable and the tandem hard to control. It’s worth noting, even smooth captains or teams will “rock the bike” if they use a pedal cadence that is too slow or as they tire: not even the pros are immune to this.

b. By leading and following, this reinforces the idea that both riders need to work as a team if they want to enjoy a smooth transition from sitting to standing and back to sitting. Part of this is tied to communication (addressed below) as verbal or in some cases physical or visual cues are needed to make sure the captain and stoker stand and sit in sync. It is noted that a light touch or hand signals are used by most teams who race, so as not to tip off the other teams that an attack is about to be launched.

c. Practice is another way of saying “Just Do It”.

2. Communication is essential: Use lots of verbal commands while you are practicing, encourage your riding partner to provide lots of candid feedback on what they are experiencing, and then critique your sessions and discuss what you think you could do next time to solve any noted problems.

a. As you refine your technique, your commands can be reduced to something like “Lets stand”… “OK”… “Ready”… followed by “Ready to sit”… “OK”.

b. Note that either the captain or stoker should be able to initiate the request to stand or to signal when it’s time to sit.

c. You’ll find that some teams use the “Let’s stand… on three”… “One, Two, Three…” to coordinate their stand while others will just key off of the captain’s movement, i.e., when captain stand, the stoker goes up. When the captain sits down, the stoker sits.

3. Learning to Walk Before You Run: Some teams do best by working up to standing and pedaling while others just “go for it” and work off the rough edges. For those who want to work up to it, there are a few things you can do as you ride to sharpen your skills and work off any anxiety.

a. The easiest first step is to simply find a relatively flat road where you can coast and then stand together without pedaling, aka. ‘The Butt Break’. Taking butt-breaks not only helps you to avoid saddle fatigue, it affords an opportunity for a tandem team to practice their communication skills as they prepare to stand, stand, and then sit while coasting and without the added movement caused by the pedaling motion. Teams can experiment with standing independently (best done only by the stoker, for obvious reasons to the stoker) or together, and can shift the down leg from right to left to get a feel for how the tandem will react as their weight shift from one side of the bike to the other (hint: if you lean left or right the tandem will too).

b. From standing and coasting it’s a pretty easy step to your first pedal strokes. As you are standing and coasting the bike should be slowing down which is good as -- assuming you haven’t shifted gears – you will have a bit more pedal resistance under your feet vs. what it was when you stopped pedaling and began coasting. As with standing, one of you will need to call out the command for, “Ready to pedal/go/whatever on three…” and then “one, two, three”. Away you go. Pedal a few strokes and then coast again or sit down and resume your ride. Critique your performance as you ride, decide what adjustments you need to make, and then give it another go. You could find you master this on the first try while others may have to keep at it a bit

c. Once you have a basic feel for how the tandem will react to how you move when you stand and feel comfortable with it, head for a moderate climb and give it a try there. However, do yourselves a favor by not letting your cadence / pedal rpms drop below 75 on your first tries. Again, pedaling at a low cadence invites bike rocking and the more the bike rocks, the harder it is to control. So, keep your cadence up on your first small hill climbs and you should find that you’ll have a bit more control and less bike movement. If you wait until you’re slogging up the hill at 45 – 60 rpm when you decide it’s time to stand, it WILL be significantly more challenging and that can be self defeating when you’re trying to learn. Over time, you’ll most certainly find yourself in situations when you’ll need to stand and grunt-out a climb but, it’s counter-productive when you’re trying to learn. Again, learn to walk before you run…

4. Advanced Skills: Once you have the basics down you’ll be able to work on improving your form.

a. If you have STI or Ergo shifters, you’ll also be able to practice shifting the rear derailleur while standing and pedaling out of the saddle. This is a normal thing for many teams to do, as when you get ready to stand on the flats or when attacking a hill you’ll always want to shift up into a next (harder to pedal / taller) gear so that your increased power will be matched with added resistance. Once standing you may find that you need to shift the rear derailleur up or down a cog and, so long as you’re still carrying a moderate degree of pedal cadence (~75 rpm), shifting shouldn’t cause you to loose too much momentum or cause the chain to slip on the cogs. The latter happens when your cadence drops and the drive train is loaded up with tons of torque as you grunt out each pedal stroke. Moreover, if you’re in a 28t or 30t cog, it’s rather easy to bend or fold a cog while shifting under a heavy load at a low RPM.

b. Perhaps one of the most exciting things to do with your standing skills is the bunch sprint... particularly for a county line sign. Again, if you can master the hills, you can master the flats.

Remember, the real key is practice, practice, practice combined with lots of communication.
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Old 11-02-05, 06:15 AM   #3
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Why do you say the tandem isn't built for climbing? It's not that different from a single, just takes a few tries to get it down. If you can't stand easily, then gear the bike so you can sit. NO reason to make life more troublesome.
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Old 11-02-05, 09:29 AM   #4
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I found that taking the tandem out solo and making a conscious effort to reduce the tendency to flop the bike side-to-side while standing helped out a lot. It actually took a good deal more effort than I'd expected to learn how to keep the bike (fairly) vertical while standing on my own, but it seems to have paid off.

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Old 11-02-05, 09:40 AM   #5
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After my post about riding to learn, not reading to learn, I hesitate to post this: try keeping the nose of your saddle touching the inside of one thigh when off the saddle. Makes it a bit easier to balance the bike. Also can't get too far over the bars.
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Old 11-02-05, 02:11 PM   #6
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When we were first riding our tandem, I used to say "one, two, three, stand" and always stand on the downstroke of the left pedal. This really seemed to help us get used to standing smoothly together. We still usually stand on the downstroke of the left pedal, but I find I don't need to say anything anymore in situations where it's obvious that we're going to stand (like when I shift to a harder gear as we're climbing, or when we take off from a stop).

We both rock our single bikes when we climb and we have always rocked the tandem as well. It's always easy to tell how in synch we are by how smoothly we are able to rock the bike while climbing. Some days are definitely better than others!
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Old 11-02-05, 03:33 PM   #7
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We rock the bike also.

It's something that just takes practice. Sometimes, on the first hill, we will be off. Or, I will be over/under geared. She does not like it when I shift while standing, so I try not to. So, if I am undergeared, we just settle in, let the speed match the gear and tempo it out. If I am overgeared, we just grunt and I will hear some crap about it at the top!
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Old 11-04-05, 10:17 AM   #8
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In addition to the above, it helps to gear up when you stand. Your rpms will drop, but you're producing more power standing. Particularly when you're getting comfortable with it, the lower cadence from gearing up (typically 2 cogs, but it depends on your gear spacing) should help you get more comfortable.
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Old 11-04-05, 11:23 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by merlinextraligh
In addition to the above, it helps to gear up when you stand.
Yes, yes -- a thousand times yes. This was a lesson I had to learn, and it was a key to making standing reasonably possible at all.

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Old 11-04-05, 01:04 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by merlinextraligh
In addition to the above, it helps to gear up when you stand
This is especially true for climbing in the granny ring. Otherwise, you can spin the gear out in one or two pedal strokes. The only time I would suggest not gearing up is if you have been slogging away in your lowest gear on a steep hill and have become fatigued and you have to stand just to keep from stopping. Then in the interest of not having my stoker yell at me and want to get off, I would leave it in low gear.
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Old 11-04-05, 01:17 PM   #11
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The take-home message from the "gear up" idea is that for a given road speed + grade, you'll probably want to stand at a lower cadence than you would choose to pedal comfortably while seated.

I'm still experimenting, but it's looking like I like to maintain a cadence of roughly 65-72? rpm while standing. Sitting I go "ugh" down at 85, and will often hang out 90ish to low 90s when cruising. For common zones of my usual cassette config, this works out to about two cogs to go between these cadence ranges.

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Old 11-06-05, 03:57 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by K&M
We both rock our single bikes when we climb and we have always rocked the tandem as well. It's always easy to tell how in synch we are by how smoothly we are able to rock the bike while climbing. Some days are definitely better than others!
We are trying NOT to rock the Tandem by putting all the effort into the legs instead of the arms. Found it more effective, but to see what I mean- Take a spinning class where "Honking" out of the saddle is a bit difficult on a bike fixed to the floor. Doesn't take long to find the new technique and it does work.
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Old 11-06-05, 05:35 PM   #13
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We tried it for the first time today after our ride. Found a big parking lot and started off in a huge gear just slowly turning a pedal stroke and then another without rocking the bike. I'd say STAND and we'd go up. After about 10 passes through the parking lot we were working great together and rocking the bike like I always do on my single. I think she just had to learn to trust that I wasn't letting the bike go down and then we were like butter. Hardest part was letting her know when to sit back down. We fixed that by me saying oooooooooooookkkkkkkkkk, Sit. LOL The long ok gave her time to realize it was coming and then we'd sit on the right stroke. Can't wait to work on it some more on the next ride.
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Old 11-06-05, 08:00 PM   #14
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We haven't had the tandem out in about a month, but today we tried standing together up a fairly steep hill that requires our lowest gear if we sit. It worked fairly well for awhile. I tried to keep the bike level rather than rocking.

After awhile, my wife asked to sit and spin because she was getting winded (me, too, a bit). We shifted down to the granny and spun our way up the rest of the way.

She told me tonight that her knees also were hitting the handlebars (bull horns). A bike is a Burley Rumba Softride.

Is getting winded common at first with standing? What about the knee bumping part (the bike is the right size for both of us)?

Also, does standing put an unusual amount of force on the chain or other components?
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Old 11-06-05, 08:38 PM   #15
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Getting winded is common at first and, for many teams, will remain so.

Hitting the handlebars with your knees can be indicative of not having enough room between the saddle and handlebars (aka, reach) or having the upper body too far forward... see ElRey's post which mentions keeping the saddle's nose between your thighs as a way of manging your upper body position over the handlebars.

Finally, does it stress the drivetrain and other parts? Yes. The drivetrain, handlebars, forks, and wheels can all be subjected to higher than normal loads and the more you throw the bicycle from side-to-side the more stressful it is to the fork and wheels which aren't optimally designed to heavy manage side loads. Now, here's the good news... unless your team is incredibly heavy or generates mosterous amount of power, most tandems can handle these extra loads with few ill effects. However, that said, if you try and shift gears while you've got the drivetrain loaded up with gobs of torque (grinding away at 60 rpm) you can break a chain, fold a cassette cog, or wrap up your rear derailleur and chain... all of which would be bad things.

Last edited by TandemGeek; 11-07-05 at 10:24 AM.
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Old 11-07-05, 09:20 AM   #16
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I try to momentarily support a lot of my weight on my arms if I'm going to shift while standing. Any other approaches?

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Old 11-07-05, 10:30 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by gregm
I try to momentarily support a lot of my weight on my arms if I'm going to shift while standing. Any other approaches?
If you anticipate and shift early enough to keep the "revs" from falling out of the 70's you avoid the problem altogether.

It's only when folks who haven't used up all their gear options get themselves into a situation where they are struggling to turn over the cranks before making a shift that drivetrains falter or fold.
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Old 12-04-05, 03:25 PM   #18
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Thanks so much to TandemGeek for the great advice. We just got back from a great 40-mile ride, and accomplished 3 or 4 small standing climbs! Practicing on a little hill with some pedal resistance really helped a lot, plus talking, talking, talking. Now we feel like we're good to go.
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