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  1. #1
    Member Archeomason's Avatar
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    Very green cyclist with very green tandemist

    My wife has expressed an interest in going biking with me. I'm very excited because in the past she was a little fearful of falling. I ride my bike pretty regularly (commute at least 2 times a week, mtb once a week or so...) so I'm fairly confident on two wheels.

    For our first ride together I was wondering if us riding tandem would be a good way to get her back on bikes and feel more confident in having me there to help. She hasn't ridden bikes in years and I haven't ever ridden a tandem.

    Is this a good idea or suicide? Should we go with two separate bikes?

    Any advice would be appreciated.
    Snakes... Why did it have to be snakes?

  2. #2
    Long-time Curmudgeon DrPete's Avatar
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    My fiancee/stoker hadn't ridden in 15 YEARS before we got on a tandem... She had a crash in high school where she was hit by a car and needed facial reconstruction, the whole 9 yards. I was a pretty hard-core cyclist, and we decided to give tandeming a shot as a way for her to get into riding where I could take care of all the traffic, braking/shifting/cornering, etc.

    Our first test ride was at a shop that had 1 tandem in stock. It was the wrong size and we got NO instruction on how to ride it. After a brief stint we decided to go to a good tandem shop.
    The next test ride was almost disastrous. We were making a left turn and our communication wasn't so hot yet, so I thought she had told me we were clear in back. I started to turn and found the car that was coming up on us--fast. I swerved and missed the car, but she was FREAKED OUT given her history...

    After deciding to go eat some lunch, we came back to the shop and rode again. This time it was fun, and she found herself really getting into it. We rode 5-10 miles until we came to the realization that they didn't have the bike we were looking for in stock. We went and did some online searching and found Mel at Tandems East, who had the tandem we were looking for in stock.

    The next weekend we went to Mel's and test rode the Burley Tosa. We put about 20 miles on it and took it home. The next day Mollie and I went for a 25-miler. After that ride, she was clammoring to do the half-century that was scheduled for the following weekend. Within 3 weeks of owning the Tosa, we had ridden a 67-mile tour.

    So, the moral of the story is, BE PATIENT, and remember that your single bike ways are no good on a tandem. You have a passenger now, and she will most likely be a little freaked out at first. You just can't ride as aggressively on a tandem. Period.

    The other key is to go to a shop that will take the time to teach you and let you try out a couple different brands/models. Without that I'd bet your tandem experience will be a rougher one.

    Good luck to both of you! It CAN be done!
    DrPete

  3. #3
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    The tandem has increased our "ride together" time greatly. We prefer it to riding road singles almost to the point of dust gathering on our other bikes. We still like mtb'ing on the singles. I would advice you to try it because we wasted several years discussing it before we got one and you can't get those years back. Many Tandem dealerships allow you long test rides or a rent for the day. Good luck.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    A tandem offers a number of huge advantages over two single bikes:
    1. If your wife hasn't ridden in a while, she may be uncertain about her ability.
    2. With two single bikes, no matter how good the intentions of the stronger rider, at some point you will find yourself at the top of a hill with your wife nowhere in sight.
    3. Even if you manage to stay close together, you will find yourself doing the "after you" thing everytime a car approaches you from the rear.
    4. Never underestimate the togetherness factor. When you get it right, it's a love machine!

    Tandems also have a few drawbacks:
    1. They cost more than I think that they should.
    2. How are you going to transport it with your car?
    3. If you want to just put your head down and go fast once in awhile, you have to work it out with your wife.
    4. Your wife may turn into a full time stoker and never ride anywhere by herself.

    I say: "Go for it!" Buy the best tandem that you think that you can afford and just do it.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Retro Grouch
    A tandem offers a number of huge advantages over two single bikes:
    1. If your wife hasn't ridden in a while, she may be uncertain about her ability.
    2. With two single bikes, no matter how good the intentions of the stronger rider, at some point you will find yourself at the top of a hill with your wife nowhere in sight.
    3. Even if you manage to stay close together, you will find yourself doing the "after you" thing everytime a car approaches you from the rear.
    4. Never underestimate the togetherness factor. When you get it right, it's a love machine!

    Tandems also have a few drawbacks:
    1. They cost more than I think that they should.
    2. How are you going to transport it with your car?
    3. If you want to just put your head down and go fast once in awhile, you have to work it out with your wife.
    4. Your wife may turn into a full time stoker and never ride anywhere by herself.

    I say: "Go for it!" Buy the best tandem that you think that you can afford and just do it.
    Why is number 4 a drawback?

    We say: Do not buy the best tandem you can afford until you know that you are going to use/enjoy it. A quality entry level bike or a used one may be wiser.

  6. #6
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Archeomason
    Is this a good idea or suicide? Should we go with two separate bikes?
    IMHO, I think the tandem approach is an excellent way to re-introduce her to road cycling. Stoking on the tandem will allow her to observe how a bicycle "should" interact with traffic and/or other bicycles and get her acclimated to sharing the road clad in nothing more than cycling gear with motorists. Moreover, it will also let her to unlearn and bad habits from childhood (e.g., pedalling in squares and low cadence) as she learns to match your pedal stroke and also build up the necessary level of fitness she'll need to have the best possible initial experiences on a 1/2 bike.

    Another suggestion based on what worked for us was to put her on a resistance trainer on her first road bike with a training video where she can learn to shift the gears in a very controlled environment.

    With these basics being addressed, her likelihood of a positive first on-road experience will be much higher than putting on a multi-speed bike "cold" where she'll be faced with trying to simultaneously learn all of the aforementioned skills + starting, steering, and stopping. While many folks successfully learn to ride "cold", a lot more simply give up after bad first experiences.

    This is how Debbie made her transition and despite be terrified by riding with traffic on our first several rides, she is now an accomplished solo rider who is at ease riding alone.

    As for your "tandem newbie" status, given that she's not already a cyclist you'll do fine: tandems take some getting used to but given that your stoker will be in the learning mode on the tandem that's not necessarily a bad thing. Give it a try... but if possible under the tutilage of an experinced tandem dealer.

    Just my take...
    Last edited by TandemGeek; 11-12-05 at 06:35 PM.

  7. #7
    Singletrack rider(s)
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    I think the tandem ride is great idea. A tandem equalizes fitness levels. We kept the first few rides simple, fun, and low on exertion.
    My wife is fearful of falling when riding single track. She really enjoys tandem riding the same trails. In the last six months she has ridden more road and trail miles on our tandem than she had in the past three years riding her fs single. Try a tandem ride and prepare to buy a tandem.

  8. #8
    Member Archeomason's Avatar
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    Thanks for all of the positive advice! I think that next weekend we may go out for a ride. I'll just rent one from the local bike shop here (Bicycle Sport Shop). They should be able to help us out... Though I am wondering how I'm going to get that thing to and from the shop in my Jeep... Hmmm...
    Snakes... Why did it have to be snakes?

  9. #9
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    When we first considered a tandem as the best option to even out our cycling abilities, we hired one for a weekend. Despite a couple of mechanical problems with the rental bike, we loved it. We bought a KHS Tandemania Elite, which was I guess mid-range in price and equipment. 4 years on we're still riding regularly and now have a child seat on the back for our 2 year-old.

    Just try to read up on how to start and stop in particular (try Sheldon Brown and the UK Tandem Club websites for advice) and talk to the people in the shop.

    Ian

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