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  1. #1
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    Suggestions for Beginners

    I have been riding a single for about 20 years. I have always wanted my wife to ride; but, showed interest. To my surprise, she suggested a tandem and I was delighted to hear that. I have read some of Sheldon Brown's remarks on Tandems; but, I would like to hear some suggestions from BF members. Nightmares, mistakes, great days, best advice you can think of. I would really appreciate some insight. By the way, I ride on the average of 4000 miles a year and I know patience ranks way up there.

  2. #2
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Test ride/rent/borrow a tandem first. Have someone who is a tandemist show you how to mount, ride a tandem. First ride it solo, so you learn how to handle a l-o-n-g bike.
    If possible, ride with an experienced tandem rider, both as stoker and then as pilot. Only when you gain some confidence should you put your wife on the bike.
    Key to riding as a tandem team: Communicate!
    Pilot/captain (the person up front) must tell stoker/rear admiral (the person in the back) what they are about to do. Voice the command: shifting, braking, coasting, pedal, coast, stopping, slowing, etc.
    Stoker does all the signaling (left, right, slowing) upon captain's request, that way you keep your hands on the bars.
    Stoker feels totally helpless as she can't really see what's in front of her and has no control whatsoever.
    However it relieves her of the responsibilites of steering/braking/shifting.
    If you take it easy and ride predictably, she'll readily take to riding 'in tandem.'
    We've been doing it for 32+ years and many thousands of miles, and are still happily married!

    Pedal on TWOgether!
    Rudy and Kay/zonatandem

  3. #3
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    Thanks for the advice. I do understand the patience, communication and not immediately doing a century with a new rider. I know that would be the easiest way in the world for total discouragement. But, your point about the experienced cyclist with no experience on a tandem to hook up with an experienced is absolutely brilliant! Once again, great suggestion.

  4. #4
    Cyclist- Bike 'n a half
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    Quote Originally Posted by zonatandem
    Test ride/rent/borrow a tandem first. Have someone who is a tandemist show you how to mount, ride a tandem. First ride it solo, so you learn how to handle a l-o-n-g bike.
    If possible, ride with an experienced tandem rider, both as stoker and then as pilot. Only when you gain some confidence should you put your wife on the bike.
    Key to riding as a tandem team: Communicate!
    Pilot/captain (the person up front) must tell stoker/rear admiral (the person in the back) what they are about to do. Voice the command: shifting, braking, coasting, pedal, coast, stopping, slowing, etc.
    Stoker does all the signaling (left, right, slowing) upon captain's request, that way you keep your hands on the bars.
    Stoker feels totally helpless as she can't really see what's in front of her and has no control whatsoever.
    However it relieves her of the responsibilites of steering/braking/shifting.
    If you take it easy and ride predictably, she'll readily take to riding 'in tandem.'
    We've been doing it for 32+ years and many thousands of miles, and are still happily married!

    Pedal on TWOgether!
    Rudy and Kay/zonatandem
    That is very good and learned advice. I heard the same from other experienced tandemists when my non-cycling wife decided she was game to give it a try.

    Instead of following their advice though, I bought a used early 90's Burley Duet in good condition. Our first ride was about two miles, our second was just under 20, five weeks later we did our first tandem metric.

    Three months later I found a second hand, but barely used Trek T2000 at a very reasonable price and sold the Burley for what we paid for it. We've been riding the Trek for almost a year and a half.

    Considering the costs / benefits of lots of other hobbies and interests, I think this has been a very minimal investment to find out if this is something that we want to pursue for a longer term and spend more money on.

    We've had an absolute blast all along the way since we've started tandem riding and have made some wonderful friends among other tandem riders as well as the single riders who like to draft behind us.

    We're now shopping custom travel tandems that are priced exponentially higher than our initial purchase less than two years ago.

    Rent it or buy it, the most important thing to do is ride it!

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by MICHAELM
    ...and I know patience ranks way up there.
    Hmmm. That sounds like the wrong attitude to this stoker. I'm guessing you didn't intend it, but it seems a mite condescending. This will be a learning experience for BOTH you and your stoker. Why not say, "I know we're both going to laugh a lot while we figure this tandeming thing out."? You've gotten some good suggestions from others: have an experienced captain show you the ropes and communicate -- as in: listen to and believe your stoker.

    Tandeming will highlight the good and bad parts of your relationship with your stoker. And, since stokers are not identical in responding to the tandem experience (although this particular thread is nearly devoid of stoker postings so the captains can make it seem like we stokers are monolithic in our experiences and reactions), our suggestions may or may not be helpful for your particular situation.

    For me, I LOVE riding with my captain, getting some great exercise, chatting about our surroundings, zooming around our gorgeous cities, lakes and rivers, and laughing -- a lot. I also holler loudly when I get scared or surprised by stuff like unexpected turns or stops, but that's how our relationship works off the bike as well. One of the things I really appreciate is that my captain deliberately plans things I enjoy such as visits to a new coffee shop or a favorite lunch spot. Maybe your stoker has things she would enjoy: a picnic, a ride through her favorite state park, etc.

    I generally find that captains who are interested enough to ask the questions you're asking make excellent captains and, consequently, their stokers discover just how wonderful time on a tandem can be. Good luck and let us know how it goes!
    ________________________
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  6. #6
    BudLight
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    Don’t know where you live, but when you get the chance on a decent weekend, borrow or rent a road tandem from a local dealer for a weekend and ride it.

    We started tandeming in ’06 and what made it work for my wife / stoker was her confidence in me as an experienced rider. She may not have a lot of confidence in other things I do, but she knew I could handle a bike and that she could completely trust me to handle a tandem with her on it. With your biking background, you have that to offer also. If she can feel rock solid on the bike, in the pedals, at all times, you should be good to go. It will be much more work for you, but it will be worth it. You’re going to have to carry the load sometimes, as she will not be able to keep hammering with you until she gets her biking muscles and stamina. But, as we say, that’s life in the Big Ten. Great training for your single rides.

    When I met my wife two years ago, she was riding a 40lb cheap cross bike on local paved trails. She was not too keen on riding the roads, in traffic. Now she has a very nice roadie and a new lightweight urban setup for errands. Sometimes she says, “naah, let’s leave the tandem home and take the singles.” (She lets the dog out and runs with him a bit.) Very cool.

    Also, if you like tandeming, get the Tandem-Com intercom for more and better communication while you ride. We won’t leave home without it.

  7. #7
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lakes and River
    I generally find that captains who are interested enough to ask the questions you're asking make excellent captains and, consequently, their stokers discover just how wonderful time on a tandem can be.
    Note: To the mega-Type A personalities that have passive spouses, none of the following will make any sense. That said...

    Not surprisingly, this is the "best" advice I've read so far given what you shared with us in your original post. All of the other "stuff" pertaining to the "captain's" view of the learning process is useful and important, but a sincere interest in learning your stoker's view of the tandem and motiviation for suggesting it will yield the most useful information for a successful experience.

    Debbie was not a cyclist, per se, when we brought home our first tandem. She was excited about it, generally in good shape, tough and competitive, but she hadn't spent a lot of time on a bicycle saddle in some 30 years. However, before we actually went for the test rides we spent a good amount of time talking about our views of what cycling was, what it wasn't, and the like. I was full of knowledge (perhaps full of myself) and she was interested in spending time with me and getting in better shape.

    With a general idea of what the long term goal was -- fitness, fun, hopefully new friends, and time together, not competition or banging elbows with the racer boys on Saturdays -- our first rides were about 7 mi long. Short for me, but longer than anything the'd ever done and she was hurtin' after those first rides. On our third outing -- after making some adjustments to her riding postion after each outing -- instead of telling me that she wanted to turn around at the 3.5 mile mark she said let's do the whole (14mi) loop. It was her call and she did fine. We did that loop several times over the next week and two weeks after we started riding the tandem we did our first group tandem ride. 25 miles on very hilly roads with 14 other tandems and she was hooked. A month later she did her first metric century at a local charity ride that five couples from the previous month's tandem ride rode as a group. Although it's not essential that you ride with other tandem teams, it sure does drive home the social aspects of tandeming. Throughout this process and, to a certain extent even today, I have had to compromise on my cadence so as not to "spin her legs off". Of late, she's not as fearless which is also causing me to modify my riding habits on the tandem, e.g., taking it a bit slower on the descents and through the corners. That's just the way it is IF you have a give and take relationship.

    I'll spare you the rest of the anecdotals. However, my recommendation for all new teams is to discuss your mutual goals for riding in general as well as for each ride with your wife before jumping on the bike, e.g., how about 10mi today and lets take it easy. Also, let her know it's OK to say "I think we need to turn around" or "lets go short today" without feeling as though you'll be disappointed. In time, you may find her saying "let's do another loop" or "let's go long today". It's these incidental discussions before during and after each ride -- basically demonstrating a sincere interest in your stoker's viewpoint, feedback, and suggestions by your actions and not just good intentions -- that will yield the best chance for long-term success as a tandem team.

    Bottom Line: Communicate, communicate, communicate doesn't mean over-communcating only while riding, it's best assumed to be "before, during, and after".
    Last edited by TandemGeek; 01-03-07 at 04:27 PM.

  8. #8
    n00b no1uno's Avatar
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    My 2 cents: when you rent/borrow a tandem, try to get one that isn't a total clunker. We rented a clunker and just barely decided to go ahead and buy one -- I was concered by how terribly it handled (it was exhausting to steer). By contrast, our CoMo Mocha rides beautifully.

    (You may not have an option, but we did and I've realized I was wrong to rent such a cheapo.)
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    2006 Co-Motion Mocha (ours)
    2005 Fuji Cross Pro (his)

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lakes and River
    Hmmm. That sounds like the wrong attitude to this stoker. I'm guessing you didn't intend it, but it seems a mite condescending. This will be a learning experience for BOTH you and your stoker. Why not say, "I know we're both going to laugh a lot while we figure this tandeming thing out."? You've gotten some good suggestions from others: have an experienced captain show you the ropes and communicate -- as in: listen to and believe your stoker.

    Tandeming will highlight the good and bad parts of your relationship with your stoker. And, since stokers are not identical in responding to the tandem experience (although this particular thread is nearly devoid of stoker postings so the captains can make it seem like we stokers are monolithic in our experiences and reactions), our suggestions may or may not be helpful for your particular situation.

    For me, I LOVE riding with my captain, getting some great exercise, chatting about our surroundings, zooming around our gorgeous cities, lakes and rivers, and laughing -- a lot. I also holler loudly when I get scared or surprised by stuff like unexpected turns or stops, but that's how our relationship works off the bike as well. One of the things I really appreciate is that my captain deliberately plans things I enjoy such as visits to a new coffee shop or a favorite lunch spot. Maybe your stoker has things she would enjoy: a picnic, a ride through her favorite state park, etc.

    I generally find that captains who are interested enough to ask the questions you're asking make excellent captains and, consequently, their stokers discover just how wonderful time on a tandem can be. Good luck and let us know how it goes!
    "Patience" was not meant to be condescending. I am by no means an expert as it will take patience for me to learn. I meant only from a non-cycling stoker (my wife) if I go out and immediately beat her to death she will quickly become discouraged. I need patience only from the standpoint that we both will learning something new. I have always wanted her to ride; but, only when she was ready. I am excited and through my excitement I must realize that patience for us both is important as we learn. Several years ago, I taught tennis. I learned early on that adults in general don't have the patience to learn and practice, as soon as they picked up a racket, they were ready for Wimbledon.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by TandemGeek
    Note: To the mega-Type A personalities that have passive spouses, none of the following will make any sense. That said...

    Not surprisingly, this is the "best" advice I've read so far given what you shared with us in your original post. All of the other "stuff" pertaining to the "captain's" view of the learning process is useful and important, but a sincere interest in learning your stoker's view of the tandem and motiviation for suggesting it will yield the most useful information for a successful experience.

    Debbie was not a cyclist, per se, when we brought home our first tandem. She was excited about it, generally in good shape, tough and competitive, but she hadn't spent a lot of time on a bicycle saddle in some 30 years. However, before we actually went for the test rides we spent a good amount of time talking about our views of what cycling was, what it wasn't, and the like. I was full of knowledge (perhaps full of myself) and she was interested in spending time with me and getting in better shape.

    With a general idea of what the long term goal was -- fitness, fun, hopefully new friends, and time together, not competition or banging elbows with the racer boys on Saturdays -- our first rides were about 7 mi long. Short for me, but longer than anything the'd ever done and she was hurtin' after those first rides. On our third outing -- after making some adjustments to her riding postion after each outing -- instead of telling me that she wanted to turn around at the 3.5 mile mark she said let's do the whole (14mi) loop. It was her call and she did fine. We did that loop several times over the next week and two weeks after we started riding the tandem we did our first group tandem ride. 25 miles on very hilly roads with 14 other tandems and she was hooked. A month later she did her first metric century at a local charity ride that five couples from the previous month's tandem ride rode as a group. Although it's not essential that you ride with other tandem teams, it sure does drive home the social aspects of tandeming. Throughout this process and, to a certain extent event today, I have had to compromise on my cadence so as not to "spin her legs off". Of late, she's not as fearless which is also causing me to modify my riding habits on the tandem, e.g., taking it a bit slower on the descents and through the corners. That's just the way it is IF you have a give and take relationship.

    I'll spare you the rest of the anecdotals. However, my recommendation for all new teams is to discuss your mutual goals for riding in general as well as for each ride with your wife before jumping on the bike, e.g., how about 10mi today and lets take it easy. Also, let her know it's OK to say "I think we need to turn around" or "lets go short today" without feeling as though you'll be disappointed. In time, you may find her saying "let's do another loop" or "let's go long today". It's these incidental discussions before during and after each ride -- basically demonstrating a sincere interest in your stoker's viewpoint, feedback, and suggestions by your actions and not just good intentions -- that will yield the best chance for long-term success as a tandem team.

    Bottom Line: Communicate, communicate, communicate doesn't mean over-communcating only while riding, it's best assumed to be "before, during, and after".
    You have given some absolutely great advice, thanks again. I apparently offended a stoker about using the word patience. The communication is the key off the bike and on. Since the weather is going to get a little tricky here in the next month or so, will give us an opportunity to communicate off the bike. I would love the prospect of her wanting to do long rides; but, just like a single when I first started, rides in the neighborhood in the beginning then hopefully a little further, etc. The key for me is not to push; but, to encourage and continually letting her know, just because I have ridden a single for 20+ years, on a tandem, we are a team and more importantly we are equals. Is that condescending? I have looked at this not only an opportunity to do something together, which I have wanted; but, heck, gives me another day of actual training. One other point. A couple of years ago, we tinkered with the tandem idea but never really followed through. I visited my LBS. The owner told me a story of a very head strong husband who came in to purchase a tandem. His attitude on the tandem lasted for 2 days and he returned it on his way to the attorneys office. I never forgot that story; but, some of the advice you have given has given me more specific ideas and attitudes in venturing into what I think could be a blast.

  11. #11
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Sounds like you're on the right track, MichaelM!
    Good luck to the 2-of-you!

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by MICHAELM
    I apparently offended a stoker about using the word patience.
    You see why stokers so rarely post in this forum: thin-skinned captains.

    If you'll recall, I merely suggested that you shift your thinking slightly. TandemGeek was much more eloquent than I, but we essentially said the same thing. And if you'll look even more carefully, I did manage to compliment you on your approach and predicted success for your tandem team.
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  13. #13
    BudLight
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    Oh for Pete's sake; just find a bike and ride it. This isn't church; this isn't rocket science; this isn't sensitivity training; it's not that hard to do; and it's a hoot. If you're a goomba off the bike, your're gonna be one on the bike. So just do it and let us know how you liked it.

  14. #14
    TWilkins
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    Quote Originally Posted by MICHAELM
    I have been riding a single for about 20 years. I have always wanted my wife to ride; but, showed interest. To my surprise, she suggested a tandem and I was delighted to hear that. I have read some of Sheldon Brown's remarks on Tandems; but, I would like to hear some suggestions from BF members. Nightmares, mistakes, great days, best advice you can think of. I would really appreciate some insight. By the way, I ride on the average of 4000 miles a year and I know patience ranks way up there.
    I think the best thing we did when we first got our tandem was to plan the first ride as a "let's figure this thing out" ride. We didn't get on the road, but found a large empty parking lot first. Our specific plan was to try and get comfortable starting, stopping, and standing together without the distractions of traffic and road conditions to deal with. On that first ride, we put 5 miles on the bike just practicing the basics. Doing that helped us get those issues behind us in the safety of a parking lot, and our first "road ride" the following weekend found us both extremely comfortable with what we were doing together.

    I think the other thing we do that really keeps my stoker interested is making most of our weekend rides a "destination ride" where we have a specific goal in mind...for example, we might ride a 50 mile loop with plans to stop at a specific cafe for lunch, or ride out to a small town for breakfast.

    One additional thought that comes to mind is that my wife was badly intimidated by big hills. While I considered her a strong rider on her single, her climbing technique wasn't the best, and she generally hated anything that was half way challenging. Needless to say, I avoided the big ones for the first several rides, then when we started tackling them, I would talk her through the climb before we started. I would tell her what to expect in terms of shifting and our efforts. For example, I would tell her that as we started up, I would run down three gears on the back then shift from the middle to the small chainring on the front. Over time, she learned how we worked together and with the gearing on the bike to conquer the big climbs we encounter. Now we're both of the mindset that there isn't a hill out there that we can't climb together on our tandem!

    Good luck, and have fun!

  15. #15
    half man - half sheep Doggus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lakes and River
    You see why stokers so rarely post in this forum: thin-skinned captains.
    You have scientific or just anecdotal evidence to back this statement up?
    "The cycling community is so small that it is nearly inbred." - Steve Tilford

  16. #16
    ES&D t4mv's Avatar
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    Having been both captain and stoker on our tandem with all manner of people and riding skills, I'd agree with renting, borrowing, whatever, the best quality tandem you can get ahold of because a whippy one will really make the experience a negative one. Communication is indeed high on the list as well as a clear understanding between the two of you regarding responsibilities. As much as a stoker must trust a captain implicitly, the reverse is also true since it is definitely possible to steer from the rear, and it's a very disconcerting feeling at inopportune times (as is crashing when you have no control as a stoker ).
    Seek out big empty parking lots, and work on those low speed turns, too...

  17. #17
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    Yes, a good tandem is very much the key to having a positive experience. I remember when I was a little kid and rented a tandem for an hour or so from a local hardware store, and it was like riding a big, wet noodle. Needless to say, that was an experience that lasted with me for quite some time. However, some 25 or 30 years later when my wife suggested purchasing a tandem, we took a spin on one and fell in love with it. We've now had the bike for over 20 years and still very much enjoy riding together.

  18. #18
    Don't mince words Red Rider's Avatar
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    Contrarian view here...I'm the experienced roadie & hubby not so much. Out of the blue last Oct. he started researching tandems (actually, I think he wanted to share the fun that my friend, her hubby & I were having with club rides and centuries). We talked to our local dealer, borrowed one, road 8 miles mostly uphilll one way, and decided coasting for home that this was for us. He had no experience as a captain; I had 2 rides as a stoker, but we knew in a visceral way that this was for us.

    Fast forward 3 mos. and about 500 mi.: The bike hasn't changed -- oh, yeah, we have new saddles, I have extensions on my bars, but essentially it's the same bike. My husband has taken being captain to heart & is open to learning, has learned to cue like crazy, and has taken on some of the toughest hills in 3 counties, no questions asked. If I say we can do it, he believes it & makes it so.

    As his stoker I hang on for the wicked fast downhills & put out whatever effort he asks. That isn't to say I won't mention some quick changes he makes, but it's all part of the learning process. Remember -- it's a process, not an event.

    To wrap it up: I advocate patience on both parties' parts, and a sense of humor. Remember, if it isn't fun, it won't be done.

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