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  1. #1
    Just Say No to 26" Wheels
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    City commuting/transportation on a tandem...

    I was curious if any of you use your tandem for transportation/commuting/bike pooling in and around the city? We currently live in Vienna, Austria and traffic is so bad during the warmer months that a bike is always faster at getting around town due to the bike paths and marked off lanes for bikes.

    As the Cannondale MT800 is our first tandem, I guess I don't know if there are any special protocols when using a tandem for transportation. So let me explain the bike's first utilitarian use that it experienced yesterday within the realm of the parent providing shuttle service for a child.

    My son had a baseball game yesterday after school and I had to coach my daughter's team at another field about 2 miles from where my son was playing at the same time. So I hauled my son to his field which took about 50 minutes from our home and then rode off in solo mode on the tandem to the field where my daughter's team was playing. My wife brought my daughter to the game following her Girl Scout meeting and then drove to the other field to watch my son's game and then took him home after the game. Follwing the game I was coaching, my daughter caught a ride home with the other coach and his kids who live near us here in Vienna because she was too "tired" to ride the uphill 1 hour trip home (since she had been on a 2 hour ride with me the day before and it was already 8PM on a school night - I decided to send her home with the other coach). The good news is that both kids really like the tandem and squabble with each other as to who gets to ride with Dad.

    I rode home solo on the tandem and was surprised that I was able to ride so well and power the bike very easily by myself. It was actually easier and faster than having one of the kids as a stoker. The only problems encountered were some of the steeper hills had me selecting different gear ratios than I would use on my single bikes and standing for short steep hills didn't have the best of traction due to the obvious no weight on the back end.

    So the question is - "Am I nuts to use the bike around town to drop off kids or my wife somewhere and then ride home on the tandem solo? (Or the reverse of picking them up?)" I am hoping it is not considered bad form because it sure cuts out having to wait in traffic, fight for parking, saves on fuel, doesn't create pollution and is a real blast to tool around town.

    BB

  2. #2
    Marathon Cyclist MediaCreations's Avatar
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    That is so fantastic. What a great idea. I think I'm going to head home now and convince my wife that we need a tandem.

    There's no question about it. You're doing a wonderful thing, especially as you're teaching your kids that a bike is the best kind of transport.

    Thanks for the post. You're an inspiration.

  3. #3
    Sophomoric Member UncaStuart's Avatar
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    Originally posted by BruceBrown
    So the question is - "Am I nuts to use the bike around town to drop off kids or my wife somewhere and then ride home on the tandem solo? (Or the reverse of picking them up?)"
    My answer would be, "No, you are not nuts at all." My wife and I would commute a couple of times a week on the tandem. We'd sometimes ride the 12 miles to her work, them I'd hop on a train to go up the line a few stops to get near where I worked. Other times we'd ride the 20 miles to the train station near my work, she'd take the train down to her work, and I'd ride the tandem solo the mile and a half to my office. Obviously we'd reverse this in the evening. Other times I'd ride the bike solo the three miles to the LBS for service, etc. So, to me there's nothing bad form about having that seat empty every once and a while. The only downside I can think of is the number of people who will comment, "hey, you lost something!" as they drive by.

  4. #4
    Just Say No to 26" Wheels
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    I didn't get any comments from other cyclists or anyone passing by while I was riding solo. Maybe the fact that her helmet was hanging on the back bars was a clue that I had indeed lost my partner.

    Took the tandem out today to deliver mail to the post office with my daughter and she purchased some stamps for her stamp collection. Then we rode home via a nice road through the vineyards and hit a fire road to make a loop near our home. I am starting to feel more comfortable with the handling, but every now and then when the child twitches or leans the wrong way it really throws me for a loop. No chance for not paying attention while riding as captain.

    BB

  5. #5
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    Man, that's too awesome! I'd do the same thing in a heartbeat if the logisticks were condusive to doing so. Times that I've gone from point a to point b riding solo on our tandem I've always gotten coments of "you lost somebody, yuk yuk". One of the cool factors of having a tandem is people always enjoy seeing a tandem team and maybe cut a little slack for you on the road(maybe, maybe not).

  6. #6
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    I know of several... UK couple living in Japan who commute to work (road and some days via off-road trail), couple living in Washington, D.C. who commute to work, single parent father and two daughters who chauffers them to school / into town via a Santana triple on Martha's Vinyard, etc.... VERY COOL indeed.

    However, and not intending to be a party pooper... here is a re-run of a posting I made to Tandem@Hobbes a year or so ago on riding tandems solo.....

    Tandems are designed to have two riders. Any time one end of a tandem is significantly heavier than the other it is unbalanced and, therefore, less stable. So, despite how it may "feel", riding a tandem without a stoker or with one that is very light -- such as a child or a very small adult -- demands much more attention than riding one with an adult on board. This is not to say it is unsafe; however, to be safe the captain must recognize that the tandem's ability to stop, corner and climb are diminished when there is no stoker or a stoker who is much lighter than the captain.

    BRAKING: Without a stoker or a very lightweight one on board you can easily unweight the back end of the tandem enough to cause it to jack knife. This tandem-specific hazard can occur at speeds well below 20mph on relatively flat roads given the right (or wrong) conditions and as the speeds increase on downhill descents or perhaps even on slippery or gritty roads conditions and bad luck can combine to create a very unsafe condition.

    CORNERING: Also at issue is the diminished cornering ability of a tandem without a stoker or with lightweight stokers are on board. Unlike your single bike where the CG sits under you and just a few inches in front of the rear wheel, on a tandem the stoker's weight (or some form of dead weight) is needed to move the CG of the tandem back so that there is enough load on the rear wheel to maintain traction through hard or high speed cornering. If a tandem's rear wheel/tire isn't bearing enough of the load through a turn the back end of the tandem can loose traction and slide out (i.e., fishtail or jack knife) and cause a crash at a much slower speed or higher lean angle than would be expected. This is, in fact, what solo tandem riders or captains riding with kids-back need to be most concerned with and attentive to. Obviously, applying the rear brake to a front-loaded tandem in the middle of such a turn would significantly increase the chances of the rear wheel skidding. This same type of crash is not uncommon with single bikes, but you've got to really have the bike leaned incredible deep into a turn or encounter slippery pavement or debris before it happens. Same thing goes for a tandem. The point is, on a tandem being ridden solo or with a very lightweight stoker this can occur at much slower speeds and under less severe cornering.

    CLIMBING: Simply put, you have less traction and may find the rear wheel breaks loose in low gears on steep climbs or on slippery or debris covered roads. Standing and climbing out of the saddle will only make it worse.

    BOTTOM LINE: Riding a tandem solo or with a child's not necessarily unsafe, it just demands attention and respect -- kinda like steep hills and wet pavement.

  7. #7
    Year-round cyclist
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    Bruce,

    Regarding using the tandem for commuting, I have done similar with my daughter on her trailercycle. A real tandem will come next year so I can attach the second daughter too.

    As to actual commuting situations, where one would bring the daughter to school then go to work, one typical problem involves parking the bike at the office. My parking is outdoors and in a few places, one could litterally sneak in a bike. Parking a tandem outside might be a bit risky and sneaking one through the elevator is a tight situation (goes vertical -- with fenders?).
    Michel Gagnon
    Montréal (Québec, Canada)

  8. #8
    Just Say No to 26" Wheels
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    Thanks for the solo riding on a tandem information, Mark. I wonder if the sizing on the tandem I bought helps minimize some of those issues. The frame is XL up front and S in the rear on this Cannondale MT800. Regardless, after dropping off my riding partner, I will take care to ride conservatively and be aware of braking issues, climbing issues and the cornering issues. They all seem to make relative sense and warrant caution.

    Michel - you are correct in one having to have adequate parking space for commuting to work. I don't ues the tandem for that as I ride my solo bike to work and back. Rather, since getting the tandem, I am using it for some around town after-school and weekend shuttling as well as errands after school/work. The past 5 years we have lived one block from the school where my children attend and 7.7 kilometers from my work - so I only had to worry about parking my single bike. Next year will find us in a new country living 2 blocks from the kids' school and one block from my work - so there will be no use of commute riding. Everything will be errands, exercise/pleasure riding. I am really going to miss that year round commute that I have grown so accustomed to over the years...

    BB

  9. #9
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    I take my 9 year old daughter to school every morning on a tandem and then ride home solo. We go right past the car line (much fun). She gets quite upset when it rains and and we need to take a car.
    I also have an 11 year old son and have the same problem as you with who rides with me. I bought a Trek tag-a-long, but even though it has a 24" wheel, it is a bit small for my daughter and as wobbles too much. So.....I am now looking for a triple.

  10. #10
    Just Say No to 26" Wheels
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    That's interesting that the 24" wheeled Trek pull bike is a wobbly one. We used the smaller wheeled pull bike for both kids for a few years each and I have since passed it on to a colleague of mine who uses it every day with one of his children.

    A triple may be in the cards...?

    BB

  11. #11
    Year-round cyclist
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    Originally posted by tiride
    I take my 9 year old daughter to school every morning on a tandem and then ride home solo. We go right past the car line (much fun). She gets quite upset when it rains and and we need to take a car.

    My little one would ask you Why?

    She only wants to play outdoors when it rains.
    Michel Gagnon
    Montréal (Québec, Canada)

  12. #12
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    A detail that I failed to mention was that my daughter is tall for her age and about 85lbs. She is at the upper end for fitting on the tag-a-long. It would probably work much better for a smaller child.

  13. #13
    Just Say No to 26" Wheels
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    "A detail that I failed to mention was that my daughter is tall for her age and about 85lbs. She is at the upper end for fitting on the tag-a-long. It would probably work much better for a smaller child."

    Understood. I have not seen (in person) the 24" tag-a-long Trek bike to see if there is much more room for the rider than the 20" wheel based tag-a-longs. Knowing how much my daughter grew from last year to this year, I assume that by the time she reaches age 9 next June, she would also be cramped on a 24" wheeled tag-a-long. Regardless, we have the tandem now and the crank shorteners arrived yesterday.

    Best of luck in your search for a triple.

    BB

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