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  1. #1
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    Is it hot in back?

    I've been asked to be a stoker on a tandem team. He is 6'3, I am 5'4 and we are both strong riders (although he is probably stronger). There is another couple who will also be riding the tandem with the same height for stoker and captain. So, three people are pressuring me to ride as a stoker so they can buy one bike to share. What I am concerned about is whether there is a noticeable lack of air flow to the stoker. Does it feel like riding a stationary bike? How do you cool off in the summer? I have complete confidence in the fellow's riding ability, but wonder if you get used to giving up total control. Any help would be appreciated.

  2. #2
    Licensed Bike Geek Davet's Avatar
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    My wife and I are a new tandem team, having ridden 'half' bikes previously. My wife said the biggest change for her, as a Stoker, was getting used to having no control. Not that she was frightened or my driving was bad. She was used to turning, shifting and controlling the bike. When I would start to initiate a turn she would want to 'help' me. I finally took her out on our motorcycle. she as a passenger, so she could see what I wanted her to do when I told her to follow me through the turn.

    The biggest thing I found out about tandeming is good communication between the Captain and Stoker. Calling out turns, bumps, holes in the road, shifts, things like that. You do need to practice with your Captain. If they are experienced, they will have discussions with you about how to enjoy being on the back.

    You won't have the direct airflow as a Stoker, as you would on your solo bike, but the air isn't stagnant either. You will have plenty of cooling air, even on the warms days.

    Tandeming is a hoot! Once your team gets it all together, you'll be surprised what you can do and how much fun you're going to have.

  3. #3
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    Thanks Davet, I am often a passenger on my husbands motorcycle so I am used to no control. When we drive in the car, I'm always complaining, but on the motorcycle I can't see so I have nothing to complain about. But to have to pedal and have no control?? I could probably adjust, mainly concerned about not getting enough air.

  4. #4
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    As stoker, it is a bit like riding a stationary bike in that you don't have to shift or brake, but you are moving so there is air flow.

    You have to have confidence in your captain's bike handeling skills to give up complete control.

    The thing I don't like about riding tandem is that as stoker, I can't ride the drops. Tandem requires a different style of riding and is a great way to keep cycling fresh and interesting. When things click between captain and stoker it is a hoot!

  5. #5
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    Thanks Barbie for the info. I rode a hybrid my first year and bought a road bike this year, what a difference. Well, this is my first winter riding, and after seeing how much salt and mud collect on the bike I switched back to the hybrid. It was hard getting used to the flat handlebars again. Then Ihad problems keeping up with the club on the weekend, so I switch back and forth during the week between the bikes. Hopefully I'll be able to do the same on the tandem.

  6. #6
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Originally posted by barbie
    The thing I don't like about riding tandem is that as stoker, I can't ride the drops. Tandem requires a different style of riding and is a great way to keep cycling fresh and interesting. When things click between captain and stoker it is a hoot!
    Sounds like you need a tandem with a longer rear top tube... It's really a shame that so many tandems are built with little regard for how much room is really needed by the stokers who are seasoned road cyclists. If you find that you really want to get serious about your tandem riding, such as taking it up a notch into competitive cycling OR you'd just like to be able to ride in the same position as you do on your single consider having a custom tandem built by someone like Glenn Erickson, Dennis Bushnell or Angel Rodriquez - tandems by the same name. Glenn in particular has made his mark on the tandem world by pioneering tandems designed to fit stokers. Debbie's rear stop tube is about 31" long, whereas the average Santana, Co-Motion, Cannondale, etc... are 28.2".
    Last edited by TandemGeek; 01-30-05 at 07:40 PM.

  7. #7
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    Yes, Mark is right about the top tube length. My wife really likes to stretch out on her single road bike. Our stock Co-Motion has her sitting up a bit more than she'd like in a perfect world.
    To help her out a bit I changed seat posts in the front and rear. On the stoker's post I put one that is a laid back to scoot the saddle back a bit.
    On the captain's post I changed over to one that the saddle mounted straight in line with the post. The one that came stock on ours had about an inch set back on the micro adjust. I also put my seat as far forward as I could.
    She's still not as tucked as she'd like but, it helped out enough so that she can get in the drops without head butting me in the back.

    Mark, you've got quite a head full of tandem knowhow. How long you been into the sport?

  8. #8
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Dwan and the guys at Co-Motion make nice tandems and are really nice folks to boot.

    In regard to squeezing out room by sliding seats forward or backward -- and perhaps you know this already -- you need to be mindful of how far off you may be throwing your saddle set-back position. For anyone reading who may not know, saddle set-back determines how your body is positioned over the cranks and is perhaps the most important adjustment to get right since it drives all of the other ones. I won't delve into the "knee over pedal" discussion since I don't buy into it. In fact, if you want to read a very well written discussion on bike fitting this would be the one:
    http://www.PeterWhiteCycles.com/fitting.htm

    Anyway, back to saddle set-back, to me the key for cyclists who already have bikes that are adjusted the way they like them is to transfer the saddle set-back from their single bike to the tandem (along with most of the other dimensions/setting). Set-back is easily measured by placing both bikes in the same place on a fairly level surface (note, if the floor isn't exactly level for the single bike it won't be exactly lever for the tandem so this really does work) to transfer the measurements.

    First, to find out what it IS on your single bike get a helper. Have your helper hold the bike as you put your cranks at the 9 - 3 o'clock postion with the left side back and have the helper hold a plumb-bob (a large nut tied to a string with do) against the nose of the saddle as they bike leaned over to the left just enough to let it hang freely along side the crank. Then you, armed with a good ruler, measure how far back the string is from the center of the crank axle. This is your approximate saddle set-back dimension. It's approximate because you may have different saddles on the bikes which may alter how you sit on the two different saddles. While you have the helper go ahead and get the saddle height -- measuring from the bottom of the pedal's axle at its lowest point (not the crank axle) to the top of the saddle -- the reach, i.e., th distance from the nose of your saddle to the center of the handlebar, and if you're really looking to get it all dialed in check the difference between the height of your saddle and the height of your handlebars, not just the height of the handlebars from the ground as differences in bottom bracket height could throw off your measurements. If you have a level you can also check the tilt angle of your seat. Hold the level so it's, well -- level -- and eyeball the amount of space there was between the level and the low-end of the saddle; that's what you'll want to see when you adjust the saddle's tilt angle on your tandem.

    Now set the single bike aside and get your tandem. Repeat the process with the tandem except set the saddle height and tilt angle first. Then check the saddle set-back. Guess what, you'll need to go back and check the saddle height again if you moved the saddle back or forward. Now check the reach from the nose of your saddle to the handlebars. Guess what, there's a good chance it's not the same as it is on your single bike and to "adjust it" means you'll need to buy a stem that's the right length to get it where it should be. This is why most bike's are NOT fitted properly since the easy way to adjust the reach is to move the saddle forward or backward. But, before you shell out any money for a stem you'll want to check the height of the handlebars to see how they feel. If you have a quill stem this isn't such a big deal since you can raise and lower the stem. However, if you have a threadless MTB style stem -- which most newer tandems/bikes have -- then you may need to have a stem with both a specific length and rise to get the bike set up properly. Then again, you may be able to flip the stem and move it above or below the spacers to get the right bar height. Now I will note that lots of folks who ride tandems tend to like the handlebars to be a bit wider and a bit higher than they have them on their road bikes.

    Reality Check: Does it really have to be this complicated? No, but if you want to be sure your bike "fits" this is pretty important stuff. I've encountered far too many cyclists who either ride in pain or don't ride as much as they could because they were riding the wrong size or mis-fitted bikes and tandems.

    End of sermon. I just think bike fit is a really important thing for folks who plan to spend a lot of time on a bike or tandem.

    Anyway, to your last comment, thanks. I'm humbled and appreciate the kind words. I've been screwing around with bikes since 1972 and tandems as a hard-core junkie since 1996. They -- tandems -- are simply the neatest way to spend time with the one's you love.

  9. #9
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    Yes, all the folks at Co-Motion are top notch. Not only am I still thrilled that I went with Co-Motion, I've not second guessed my decision once, I'll do it again if we are ever in the market to upgrade to S&S couplers.

    Yes, good call on seat position. Since I've made the changes we've only been able to put like an hour saddle time in. It felt fine and dandy but, hard to tell in only an hour. It actually helped me a bit as well as the stem was a tad bit long. Moving the seat up the little bit I did fixed that up.

    Never herd of the knee factor you mentioned. Dont think I want to know as it'll just give me a reason to have knee pain

    I'll post another msg when we get more shammy time in. If it works out ok for us, maybe it will for someone else as well.

    See ya.

  10. #10
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    Thanks for the tips. I don't ride tandem enough to warrant making changes to the bike or getting a custom made bike. The guy I ride with once in a while has a Co Motion racing tandem. It is a nice bike.

  11. #11
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    I have been stoking for three years, and have not noticed a difference in temperatures. I don't think I get sunburned in front eg my face and eyes, as much as on my half bike.

    We ride in Indiana and Michigan. I would not reccommend co-owning a tandem, you might all want to go on the same rides, and who gets to do the big rides?

    Good Luck,

    Diane

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