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  1. #1
    Just Say No to 26" Wheels
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    Riding a tandem in large group rides...

    I was curious what any of you have observed in riding your tandem amidst large groups of bicyclists on some of the organized group rides? Specifically, safety issues dealing with speed, maneuvering and being courteous.

    The reason I ask is that we will be riding in the Iowa RAGBRAI in late July and the information booklet they sent to me had a few paragraphs on riding a tandem in this large group ride. The way it was worded made it sound like in previous years on that specific ride, tandem riders (or at least some of them) were not very courteous and this caused the author of the book to say what was said because something was tarnished. Do tandems really "tick off" other cyclists? I have to assume that it must have been some specific riders who were not being courteous, but I don't know.

    The basic things mentioned in the booklet for this large group ride said that tandems are like 18 wheel trucks - slower on the climbs which has other cyclists passing you and then struggling to get out of your way as the tandem speeds down the descent. In addition, the booklet mentioned the reality of taking more time to stop, more room to turn and maneuvering issues of a larger wheel based bike.

    Just curious what you all have experienced with regard to the reaction from non-tandem riders in large group rides.

    BB

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    i got no idea about what you wanna know, but I thought that I might add that from the POV of a single rider, I have great respect for the tandem riders in large groups, mainly because of the extra skill and co-ordination required to ride it. dunno what others think but thats my thought.........
    Sam

    a few b0b sh0rt 0f a p0p tart

    "What goes up, must come down, and it must come down at least 5x as fast as it went up"

  3. #3
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    My guess is, the information regarding tandems was written by someone who doesn't ride a tandem nor have they taken time to understand how to ride in a group with tandems....

    Assuming you have a group of riders on tandems and single bikes who would all ride as equals on single bikes, a well-matched tandem team would climb as fast and decend faster than the single bikes and they would also be faster on the flat sections. Gord Frasier & Jim Riccitello teamed up on a tandem for the 2002 Tour de Tuscon and demonstrated this when they won the event outright. http://slowtwitch.com/mainheadings/f...lo/tandem.html

    However, in most cases what you'll encounter in the real world of RAGBRAI, BRAG, and other group rides will be tandem teams made up of riders with different levels of fitness and riding skill. As a group, if you went to a tandem rally with 100 tandem teams you'd find that the tandem teams would end up riding in different groups based on their riding abilities just as you find when a bunch of single bikes attend a group ride. At the front of the pack are the fast teams who train hard and who can ride long and hard all day. A few miles behind them are the weekend warriors who only get to ride on the weekends and who are fast on the short rides but who eventually get dropped into no-mans. It is their lack of time in the saddle puts them off the back of the fast teams somewhere between 20 and 30 miles, but usually put them still ahead of the the next somewhat slower group, and so on.... In other words, as a group, tandem teams end up riding just like single bikes.

    Now, to your question regarding what happens when you put tandems and single bikes together at the same event. When the terrain is flat or lightly rolling, you'll find that a given tandem team will normally be as fast or faster than single bike riders who are individually stronger cyclists than the average of the tandem team. So, on the flats, the single bikes will tend to "suck wheel" and ride in the draft behind the tandems because it's an easy way to cover a lot of miles without working really hard a bit faster than they could on their own.

    When this group gets to a hill, guess what... the tandem team will be dropped by the single bike riders who have been resting in the draft of the tandem who even on their best day would still not be able to climb as fast as the single bikes using the same amount of effort. So, the single bikes move ahead as fast as they can while the tandem team works it's butt off to stay as close as they can to the single bikes up to the crest of a the hill. On shorter climbs, towards the top of the hill the tandem team will usually be near the back of the single bike pack that was following them and then the tables do turn... due to physics. Your average single bike rider (male) will be somewhere around 175 lbs while the average tandem team (male / female) will be 290lbs but with out any more wind drag than the single bike. Which one would you think would be faster? So, the tandem team ends up re-passing all of the single bikes that fall in behind the tandem's draft and the cycle of "Draft - Climb/Pass - Decend/Re-Passed - Draft" continues. If it's a very long climb, the tandems will likely be dropped for good by the strongest single bike riders and may be able to hold their own against the weaker single bikes who they've been riding with.

    If you are single bike rider who's trying to "drop" the tandems while they are at a disadvantage on climbs for whatever reason, this pass / re-pass scenario will frustrate you -- think ego's and being a road biker of a given ability who is being matched on the road by a married couple who are a bit older, a bit more out of shape and who are riding a 40lb tandem with a rear rack and trunk pack and you get the idea.

    For single bike riders who know how to leverage the strengths and weaknesses of a tandem, almost the same thing happens on a ride except that the single bikes work with the tandem by making sure it gets paced up the hills in the middle of the pack so that the entire group can get into it's draft for the descent down the hill. On the flats, the tandem will normally take longer pulls than the single bikes, but the single bikes will share the work so that they don't "burn-out" the tandem.

    Back to the basic question of courtesy, when riding in a group the key is communication. Let single bikes know if they are welcome to ride in your draft or not, ask them if they are willing to help pace you up the hills and take a few turns pulling, etc... By the same token, don't jump on the rear wheel of another bike or tandem without asking the other rider(s) if it was OK. If you find yourself jocking back and forth with other riders, see the comments above: Communicate!!! Sometimes riders just don't want to "share their ride" with people who they don't know and what may appear to you to be a good natured "speed competition" is, in reality, another cyclist struggling with how to get ride of you. This works both ways too, i.e., tell another cyclist if you'd just rather ride alone if you aren't comfortable with them being so close. Also, if you find yourself flying along the flat sections or down hills and passing other bikes, always make sure you pass at a safe distance and let them know you are coming up behind them by saying "on your left", "good morning" or some other friendly greeting to alert them to your presence. "Blowing By" other riders can make you feel great but, at the same time, a little PR goes a long way.

    Bottom Line: Riding in a group with single bikes takes a lot of effort. As noted in the RAGBRAI article you cited, tandems may or may not stop as fast as single bikes under the same conditions, they carry momentum a lot further but they also accelerate more slowly (these two things combined are what can make pace lines with tandems and single bikes a nightmare), and are also less manueverable. Know your limitations, communicate with other riders and always keep in mind that these are "fun rides" not races. Be cordial if not friendly with the other riders to keep it fun. If they're being ugly, get away from them so they don't diminish your enjoyment of the event.
    Last edited by livngood; 05-31-03 at 09:09 PM.

  4. #4
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    I've found that people on large rides usually like tandems. As Mark mentions they love to draft behind tandems. I find most riders are polite and ask if they can draft with us, and I don't mind them following along. On a ride we were on last year a group of guys who pace lined together all the time always ask us to join their line every time we met. We would take a couple rotations through their line and crank the pace up, then drop off and catch up with them at the next stop. They would whoop and hollar everytime we revved it up for them. Just warn people if you are passing them (a bell is nice) and leave plenty of clearance.
    The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice. M.L.King

  5. #5
    Sophomoric Member UncaStuart's Avatar
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    My wife and I fall into Mark's category of teams made up of riders with different fitness levels, so we are well acquainted with the "tandem leapfrog" in large group rides. We've never done anything as large as RAGBRAI, but have done of number of California AIDS Rides, centuries, and doubles. In these thousands of miles of riding, we have never had any bad experiences in the realm of courtesy, with the one exception where I was snarled at by a hard-of-hearing older gentleman for whom my "on your left" was not loud enough to be heard. Most of the time, we as tandem riders have gotten a lot of support from other folks on the ride, with them giving friendly greetings and comments as they pass us on the uphill, and thanks after they have taken advantage of a tandem draft at other times.

    On a ride where there is a wide variety of skill and experience, there are places where a tandem has to exercise extra caution. For instance, in the case of rollers, the extra momentum afforded to tandems will often bring you into a gaggle of less-experienced riders who have slowed more quickly on the upgrade and will start to weave as they bunch up. As Mark said, communicating and passing at a safe distance is crucial. We try to stay enough to the left to not get trapped by a rolling roadblock of slower riders, while also not impeding the faster riders that will pass us once our momentum has run its course. It's just a part of being alert in the middle of a big ride.

    On a large multi-day ride like the AIDS rides, we've found the first 10 miles to be the most perilous. This is when the shaking out into different riding groups takes place, so there is a lot of jockeying where faster and slower groups intermingle in cramped quarters. Definitely the place for enhanced alertness and communication!

    Hope you have a grand time on the ride!

  6. #6
    Just Say No to 26" Wheels
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    Thanks to everyone for sharing their experience riding tandems in large groups. I was thinking of installing a bell as I can imagine riding in a group of 10,000 that it might be easier than calling out umpteen times a day or more, but I know that the sound of a bell irritates some people - so I am still toying with that decision.

    I have been riding the tandem with my son and daughter on the bike paths here in Vienna the past few weeks. On weekends they tend to be crowded with lots of bell ringing and stops and starts at intersections. So I have been getting some experience on a tandem in crowds and maneuvering pretty well. Yesterday was a round trip of 25 miles to and from a Little League baseball game with my 8 year old daughter. We are both starting to get comfortable with the tandem and had a nice trip.

    Here was the text in the RAGBRAI material that I was making reference to in my initial post:

    =====
    Tandems on RAGBRAI

    --This guide is for those of you thinking about or planning to ride a tandem bicycle on RAGBRAI. Please read the following information carefully and be prepared to observe the safety and courtesy guidelines discussed.

    Why do people ride tandems?

    --The most common reason people ride tandems is that it allows couples of unequal ability to ride together and stay together. For some it is the thrill of going faster. Bikers of equal ability will go faster on a tandem than on individual bikes. Many enjoy the companionship of a friend or family member.

    What problems can tandems cause in large group rides?

    --The most common problems is excessive speed. Compare the tandem bike to the 18-wheeler on the road. You pass it going up a hill on the interstate, but then can't get out of the way going down the hill. A second problem with tandems is maneuverability. Like the large trucks, tandems need more space to corner and stop.

    How do these concerns relate to RAGBRAI?

    --Tandem bicycles have become more numerous in recent years. Resentment by other riders has risen disproportionately to the actual number of tandems due to the lack of courtesy shown by some tandem riders as they speed down the highway, passing everything in sight and demanding more room on the road. It may be an awe-inspiring sight to see a tandem couple in matching outfits fly down the road, leeading 15 sleek racers in a draft line, but it is not appropriate behavior while sharing the road with bicyclists of all ages and skill levels. It not only is dangerous, but it is also extremely discourteous to other riders.

    How can these problems be eliminated?

    --Tandem bicycle riders need to use the same approach as over-the-road truckers. They must ride safely, be courteous at all times, and give more than enough room to the other bicycles they share the road with. These simple measures would go a long way toward improving the image of tandem riders. Owners of tandems have made a large investment in their equipment, and it's time they become more concerned with their image, as well as with the safety issues involved in group riding.
    =====

    Perhaps I was simply too sensitive to some of the "tone" used in the above text, but I couldn't help miss the "improving the image of tandem riders" as if the writer of this text felt just because two people are on a tandem they automatically fall into a rogue rider category.

    BB

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    Put all of the RAGBRAI material into context. They also have paragraphs about recumbents and riding in pace lines so they're not just picking on tandems.

    RAGBRAI is a huge ride and attracts a lot of riders who have "questionnable" skills. You need to be aware of whose around you all the time. As long as you ride your own bike with reasonable caution, talk to the riders you are passing to let them know you are there, look behind you before changing lines and don't expect everyone else to do the same, you'll be fine.

  8. #8
    SDS
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    The Ragbrai instructions are just plain wrong. They single out a particular kind of bike for blame when in fact the problem is caused by variation in speed of traffic, and the problem is therefore caused by poor manners and/or stupidity of all the riders who do not "stay to the right except when passing." A single bike doing 27-30 mph with a tailwind would have the same problem.

    I haven't done RAGBRAI, but I'll bet it's done on two-lane roads. Two people riding side-by-side take most of a lane. Mix in oncoming motor vehicle traffic on the other lane, and you get a lot of same-lane passes by bicycles that are only marginally safe and apparently rude. Calls of "on your left" do not always work.

    The real problem is that cyclists in the vast majority do not use mirrors and do like to ride side-by-side for social interaction or because that way they take the whole lane, which makes for safer motor vehicle passes because the motor vehicle has to get all the way over into the other lane, instead of the variety of uncomfortably close same-lane passes by motor vehicles we would otherwise see. Reading John Forester and riding on the two-thirds line (two-thirds of the way to the left side of the lane) helps make motor vehicle passes safer, but it does aggravate the car drivers a little because they do not see the point of giving one bike a whole lane when passing.

    In Texas, spotting an overtaking car (mirror), and making a deliberate and evident move to the right, and then waving the car past with an outstretched left hand works great, because then the car feels obliged to clear the outstretched hand, which gives you another whole two feet of clearance. No reason not to do something similar for overtaking bicycles...

    Because the vast majority of cyclists do not use mirrors, they cannot detect overtaking bicycle traffic and move to one side to make space to allow a safe pass. The really surprising thing about this is that they don't find the absence of a mirror to be a problem that needs to be immediately corrected. Everybody on a bike should have and use a good mirror.

    "In the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king." I use a Tiger Eye mirror, and I know almost everything that is behind me almost all the time, and knowledge not only sets you free, but makes you powerful. I win sprints and hills while working only as hard as necessary to do it (which means I win the next sprint too) because I know where all my competitors are. I also can make gaps for closing traffic from behind (pulling forward and then to one side leaves a gap where I was), and setup leadouts for others who want to use me for a draft to win a sprint. If I see one of my friends launch off the back of the pack in the mirror, I can motor off the front, they'll catch my wheel and I'll punch it, and with the sprint line coming up they can come off my wheel for a win. This tactic is an almost unanswerable validation of intellectual superiority and teamwork over a small advantage in strength. If you want to sit on the front and pull, but also manage the speed to keep all of your drafters, you almost have to have a mirror.

    Hill climbing on a tandem is mostly a matter of power-to-weight ratio. The drivetrain is almost as efficient as a single bike. A tandem with a power-to-weight ratio equal to a single will actually outclimb the single, because the small loss in drivetrain efficiency is more than made up by the aerodynamic advantage of the tandem. Drafting does work at low speeds, and, for example, is banned in Olympic Trials qualifier marathons (they call it pacing) because even at 12 mph there is an advantage.

    Because of the aerodynamic advantage, tandems may go faster downhill, and may carry speed farther up an uphill off a flat or downhill. That's where using a mirror and making room should happen. It's not an issue where there is room to safely pass.

    Few mixed-gender teams will have the power-to-weight ratio of a man riding a single, and the ones that don't will not climb as fast.

    Good single bike riders never cause trouble for a tandem. Any stoker willing to give up the control that comes with a single bike is deserving of a safe experience. Keeping the stokers happy means that as a single bike rider near a tandem, you never do anything that might expose the stoker to increased risk.

    The other side of that coin is that single bike riders can find meritorious work by teaming with a tandem. They can take "first seat" behind a tandem, and keep the space relatively free of flaky inexperienced single bike riders who only want the draft and don't understand how tandem performance is different. After taking advantage of the draft on the dowhills and flats, they can put a hand on the stoker's back (stoker willing, mind you, also, warning: good bike handling required) and stuff the tandem up the hill to the top. Two single bike riders can do this from both sides at once. The single bike riders can also give a little bit of a draft at the crest and the beginning of a downhill, before getting out of the way and falling back into the draft behind the tandem. Three or four dedicated single bike riders can do a good job of keeping the tandem free of the flakes and the teamwork is very rewarding. If you don't have prearranged rear wheel guards, your stoker can arrange this: "You're welcome to the draft, but please leave room for us to move side to side, and keep bad riders away from us." They'll do it.

    Imagine if instead the RAGBRAI ride instructions had said "all riders must use a good mirror (specify brands; there are some crummy ones that shake too much or are poorly positioned)," and "move to the right to make room for overtaking bicycle traffic or take the bus home." Bicycle riding is not a vacation from the responsibilities of motor vehicle operation. All riders must have a safe vehicle (helmet/eyeglass mounted mirror; I like helmet mount) and operate it in a safe manner.

    With a mirror bike riders can move to the right to make room for overtaking bikes that they can easily observe. Without a mirror, there is no difference in the responsibility to "stay to the right to make room to pass" for a single bike, between tandems and single bikes, because the bikes being overtaken will have insufficient time to take anticipatory action.

    I have heard that some of the faster, better riders at RAGBRAI start early and finish early. I've also heard that some of the hard partying riders also start early so they can party longer at the next town. Probably the thing to do is to enter into a long-term relationship with some compatible, same-speed, early-starting single bike riders who will ride with you and stop with you for the length of the event.

    I have a low opinion of the quality of the quoted tandem advisory:

    1) "The most common problem(s) is excessive speed." Noooo, the problem (as seen by the author according to following text) is "excessive VARIATION in speed."

    2) If you are going to make motor vehicle comparisons, you have to follow motor vehicle operation rules in your comparison. It is the obligation of the passer to conduct a safe pass, and that means you cannot pull back in front (into the same lane) of the vehicle you have just passed at a distance that is unsafely close. The nominal figure used for combined heavy truck / passenger vehicle operation is that an eighteen wheel truck will take 180' more to stop from 60mph than a car. You can find this in most state driver handbooks. If it was possible to show that a car had passed an eighteen wheel truck and pulled back into the same lane closer than the difference in stopping distance, and then had stopped with a high rate of deceleration, the accident would be the fault of the driver of the car.

    3) "...can't get out of the way going down the hill."(?). Indeed! If you know the larger, heavier vehicle WILL go faster down the hill, the ethical issue of obstructing the travel of the vehicle by traveling in front of it at a lower speed than it will (at least momentarily) achieve after you have passed arises in BOTH CASES. Yes, certainly eighteen wheel trucks may exceed the speed limit going downhill, and you may not choose to do so, but the author neglects to consider that interstate highways almost always have two lanes, and therefore in the vast majority of instances it will be possible for "you" to move to the right and for the "eighteen-wheeler" to safely pass on the left. RAGBRAI would be just as safe if bicycles moved to the right after passing. The author seems to be lacking in knowledge of interstate highways (two or more lanes almost all the time) and safe motor vehicle operation practices and ethics.

    4) As noted above, "courtesy" by itself on the part of the larger vehicle with more variation in speed and longer stopping distances will not provide absolute assurance of safety.

    5) Mark Livingood might be willing to tell us that tandems can make shorter controlled stops than singles because the rear wheel will not lift off for hard stops on tandems. This is not something I can say, because it slightly exceeds my skill level, because it is not an experience to which I care to expose a stoker! How many stokers would be willing to ride a tandem after repeatedly being exposed to such stops by the behavior of single bikes? If true, however, it would be yet another point on which the author of the tandem advisory text is wrong.

    In short, the RAGBRAI tandem advisory text reads as though it is poorly reasoned garbage fluff intended to conceal the fact that the RAGBRAI organizers are unwilling to establish and enforce safe vehicle equipment (mirrors) and operation (stay to the right except when passing) practices, so instead they blame a small user group (tandems) and even attach the blame of some single bike riders to them ("le(e)ading fifteen sleek racers in a draft line." Are we to suppose the "sleek racers" would be innocent if they weren't following the tandem?).

  9. #9
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Originally posted by SDS
    Mark Livingood might be willing to tell us that tandems can make shorter controlled stops than singles because the rear wheel will not lift off for hard stops on tandems.
    All things being equal except for the tandem team's higher combined weight (i.e., brake technology, skill level, road conditions), a tandem cannot stop in less distance than a single bike -- it's simple physics.

    My "may or may not" comment relates to reality where all things aren't equal and where the biggest variable on stopping distance is reaction time, i.e., where the rider's experience, bike handling skills, judgement and paying attention all come into play. This is the wild card when you get large mixed skill groups on the road at the same time.

    As a general rule, we will not let inexperienced cyclists knowingly ride in our tandem's draft nor will we ride on the back wheel of a squirelly rider or pace line that can't hold a steady pace (the slinky-effect). It's just too stressful to be fun. This is one of the reasons that I strongly encourage tandem teams looking to ride with other fast tandem teams to attend tandem rallies. This is the only place where you'll have a chance of finding enough tandem teams who are roughly able to ride at your same skill level who you can safely share pace lines, hill climbs and descents with given that the machines are all well matched relative to their inherent performance.

    The only thing tandem teams will need to start being mindful of are the newer tandems being fitted with mechanical discs as their primary front or rear brake systems. While the various types of rim brakes (arch, cantilever and linear pull) all have very similar stopping characteristics under the same conditions the mechanical disc brake-equipped tandems will be able to out-brake (i.e., deccelerate faster and come to a stop in less distance) rim brake equipped tandems dramatically in wet conditions and even quite dramatically in dry conditions as well. The disc brakes also tend to be more difficult to "feather" for speed adjustments such as in pace lines vs the rim brakes (a little disc brake action goes a long way). Therefore, be sure that any time you are riding in a group of tandems where someone has disc brakes that y'all remind each other about the inherent difference in braking abilities. The last thing you want to have is the fastest ride on a dual-disc equipped road tandem initiating a panic stop during a 40mph descent with 10 rim-brake equipped tandems in tow.... It could get ugly if the disc-equipped tandem captain doesn't take the other tandem's braking limitations into consideration.

  10. #10
    Just Say No to 26" Wheels
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    SDS - After reading your post, I am glad to see I wasn't the only one who questioned the wording of the RAGBRAI tandem guidelines. I felt a little as if I was being scolded even before showing up and riding. I was planning on helmet mirrors for both my wife and I as we captain our kids on the ride.

    Thanks for your post, by the way. It was really detailed and covered a lot of ground. I'm still wondering how other tandem riders have been received by the general mass of cyclits in a large group ride. Is it for the most part positive, or is it tarnished like the author of the RAGBRAI guidelines mentioned in the tandem section?

    The booklet emphasizes that RAGBRAI is not a race and it is a leisure ride, etc... . I did see mention of anti-pace line sentiment and still am wondering how every tandem somehow became acquainted with a pace line in this particular ride. I guess I will give tandems a bad name by not being in a matching outfit with my stoker, not leading a pace line and eating too many Dove Bars along the way. And I'll be running 26" X 2.35 fat slicks! Toss in having a single digit aged kid as a stoker and the probability we will be making a lot of stops throughout the ride and I may end up doing my part to giving tandems a "good leisurely name" on the ride.

    Reality is that we know within a group of 10,000 riders the word "leisure" could involve a lot of variables. Some may find 8mph to be a leisurely pace, others may find 13 mph to be a definitive leisurely pace, others 18 mph, while yet others would find 20mph to be within their reasoning of leisure based on their conditioning and stamina. So I liked your explanation that the real issue is variation in speed - which is not only confined to a tandem going through the physics of climbing/descending as well as power/weight ratios, but also due to the variants of all pedal powered vehicles on the ride covering the full gamut of a pace that may or may not be leisurely to others.

    Mirrors, helmets and common sense safe riding will all be ready to go before I pull out in heavy cycle traffic in late July.

    BB

  11. #11
    SDS
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    Well said, Bruce. Thanks.

    I guess I missed one mark:

    "Thanks for your post, by the way. It was really detailed and covered a lot of ground. I'm still wondering how other tandem riders have been received by the general mass of cyclits in a large group ride. Is it for the most part positive, or is it tarnished like the author of the RAGBRAI guidelines mentioned in the tandem section?"

    Tandems in general are not tarnished, they are polished to a high luster. Kids see something special that will get them the attention they crave, and adults of all strengths, see an enabler (ride together!). Other riders see the giant vacuum cleaner that will pull them down the road to a better time or an easier day. Parents see more quality time with their kids. Observers see nearly seamless teamwork. How on earth do those two, visibly connected only by the timing chain and what the stoker sees of the captain, and communicating less than they ought to have to, do what they do so well? Tandems are an object of marvel.

    The above description is what I hear in the aggregate from all the tandem teams. We're beyond accepted, shoot, we're popular and in demand. Tandems are not "resented."

    Now there could be a bad tandem team out there that is unpopular, but I personally wouldn't expect them to last very long at all, because the stoker is going to dump the loser captain with poor judgement and consequent unsatisfactory riding habits.

    My experience has been nothing but very positive. I've got the bike handling skills and I think way ahead so all the moves I make are gradual, and given that power is a variable that cannot be expected to meet all demands (what? we're only going to let strong teams ride tandems? not when we also expect them to be the enabler and the "great equalizer."), that's all you can expect from a bike. In addition a tandem brings to the table the big draft. The presence of the fairer sex or a child makes those long training/century/tour miles go by a lot faster. It is a civilizing influence on the all-male pack. It is a (slightly) civilizing influence on car drivers.

    The all-male pack may realize for the first time that they can indeed get their significant other (or child) fit and bring her along on the time they were apart from her. This can solve a big lifestyle problem, so they would LIKE to see you with them and they would LIKE to see it work. Tandems HAVE to be popular.

    I have heard not one complaint ever, whether cracking through the turns in the last three miles up to the finish sprint line, or beating into the wind with a long tail of single bikes, or slugging uphill jamming down through the gears, or bombing downhill. Not even in the middle of a tight pack.

  12. #12
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Actually, George Carlin nailed this entire issue many years ago in one of his stand-up routines where he was talking about driving cars. Cutting to the chase, and modified for cycling vs driving it goes like this...

    Anyone who is riding fast enough to pass you is a MANIAC, while anyone riding slower and impeding your progress is an IDIOT!

    Apparently, the writer of the RAGBRAI FAQ is not immune to this self-proclaimed "centrist" view of cycling that is most likely reinforced by his or her riding peers who share the same view, i.e., the "other riders" inferred by the general comment regarding, "Resentment by other riders...".

    I'd be curious to know what they wrote about Recumbents and fast single bikes. Actually, what I'd really like is the name of the author....

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    Mark,

    The section they wrote with regard to recumbents was pretty darn favorable - no scolding, etc... . Until the last paragraph under the recumbent section labeled "Tandem Recumbent" where it says this:

    --See the section regarding Tandems. These points are "doubly" true for a recumbent tandem.

    So I guess a tandem recumbent really gets the blood boiling of the author if they feel that such a bike is "doubly" evil. :fun:

    "Actually, what I'd really like is the name of the author...."

    You think a little advocacy from some tandem groups might be worthwhile? :thumbup:

    Funny, the booklet doesn't list the author. It is put out by the Des Moines Register newspaper and includes a welcome by the event director - Jim Greene and a section on how to prepare for the ride by the event host Brian Duffy.

    Pretty much the only references made to single bikes or in general regarding speed and passing were these:

    "--Don't draft. Drafting in a crowd is dangerous to yourself and others around you. There is no place for it on RAGBRAI. Drafting vehicles is also dangerous and will not be tolerated on RAGBRAI."

    "--Sound off when passing. Use phrases such as "on your left," "on your right," or "coming though the middle."

    BB

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    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    I've already written to Jim Greene and asked the Tandem Club of America to give me their assessment of the material and an indication if they see a role for themselves in helping to re-shape the message regarding tandems.

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    Sounds good, Mark. I'm all for no discrimination...

    BB

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    Here's a first installment regarding RAGBRAI's history with tandems based on some feedback from my inquiries.

    Apparently, there was a serious accident involving three tandems several years ago. The accident and subsequent court case hardend what was already a strong bias against tandems by the RAGBRAI organizers. At some point after that RAGBRAI apparently contemplated an outright ban on tandems at the event. Several tandem enthusiasts worked with the organizers and prevailed on them to soften their stance against tandems. While the folks who were running RAGBRAI at that time have moved on, the concern with tandems remains.

    My only hope is to suggest a more positive message for their note to tandem teams and to get the word out regarding the spotlight the current organizers have placed on tandems at RAGBRAI and to reiterate in a positive way the need to be extra-courteous to their fellow riders.

    Look to see some additional comments under the Editor's Column in the next issue of "DoubleTalk", the magazine of the Tandem Club of America. If you're not a member of TCA please consider becoming one -- more information is available at http://www.tandemclub.org


    More to follow....

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    Just Say No to 26" Wheels
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    That's an interesting history with tandems on the RAGBRAI event. I am curious why they don't mention the history within the section on tandems because it is a strong lesson. The reason I say that is because they do mention another serious accident under the RIDE RIGHT rules involving a single bike where the rider was not granted enough passing space and got pushed out into the oncoming traffic lane of the highway and was killed.

    For what it is worth, my wife and I will do our very best on the ride to be courteous and to chat with other tandem teams we see with regard to the image and history at the event.

    BB

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    I don't mind tandems, they are generally really nice people. Whenever I saw a tandem team on my first 100km ride I would yell out "tandem power!" they really liked that. On that same ride, I was in between small bunches, gaining ground. Next thing I know some nice lady on the rear of a tandem is yelling "Jump on!" and I slipped into the draft, and kept with them for about 20km while they were gaining ground (I couldn't pull them at all, it was my first 100km race and they were MOVING at about 50kmh in places), until they settled in a bunch. I have been contemplating what it would be like to be on a tandem...... I am a pretty fast rider and would love to barrel along the flats on one!

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  19. #19
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    In South Africa we run very large races. Of note is the ARGUS Cycle Tour in Cape Town and the Radio Highveld 94.7 Cycle Classic. The ARGUS had 35000 entries this year and roughly 32000 finished. It is 108 Km long and winds through the picturesque Cape penisula. (visit http://www.cycletour.co.za/ for more info). The 94.7 race had 25 000 starters. Other races of between 1500 and 10 000 competitors are regularly run.

    Cyclists here are seeded by competing in "qualifying races" and a National Seeding Register is also kept in place. (I am seeded roughly 8200 ot of 85 000 registered cyclists) The ARGUS starts at 06h00 and the seeded bunches depart reougly five minutes apart. The last cyclists leave after 10h00!!!!! We have total road closure for the day along the route and the organising is a mammoth task.

    We have done two cycletours so far. In the first ARGUS in 2002 re two tandem categories namely elite tandems and social tandems. A small part of the elite tandems compete with the elite or A groups and log a very respectfull time. The rest are sacttered along the way. In 2003 they seeded us with the "half" bikes. The tandem community were very indignant about starting with the "unwashed" crowds. The result was that we finished the race in the "W" start group and never did we have to duck for fast bundles passing us.

    Our regular weekend Gauteng North Cycling Federation races pull between 400 and 1500 people for the race abd races are held over varying distances of normally 100; 30-50 and 10 km. One very important factor is that races are run in two main categories being Elite and Funrides. The elites are teams that race in very much the same way as the one day classics foloowd by the bunches seeded to rtoughly the same speed.

    I have waffled enough. Tandems and "half" bikes can race competitively in synargy and we have proved it here in South AFrica.

    Keep those wheels spinning!!!!!

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    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Originally posted by BruceBrown
    That's an interesting history with tandems on the RAGBRAI event. I am curious why they don't mention the history within the section on tandems because it is a strong lesson.
    I shared some Email traffic with the author of the tandem tips and he as well as Jim Greene assured me that tandems are welcome on RAGBRAI. John -- the article's author -- indicated that he and his wife have been doing RAGBRAI on tandem for many years and the comments he included in his "tips" are based on feedback from folks who have been on RAGBRAI as well as his own perspectives.

    My Take: Ride your ride and be courteous and you'll fit right in. That is, unless you run with the fast crowd -- in which case you'll draw the wrath of the casual single bike and tandem riders regardless of how courteous you try to be. It's just the way it is.

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    Thanks for chatting with the RAGBRAI staff with regard to the tandem tips. Perhaps this will lead the author to alter a few of the sentences in the handbook for next year.

    We will ride in a courteous manner. In fact, we were able to ride about 25 miles yesterday and practice being courteous on a training ride as it was a holiday here in Austria. The bike route was filled with riders going in both directions and we got some valuable practice of riding in a crowd for most of the way. I am getting much more comfortable handling the bike and my 8 year old daughter contributed quite well and didn't complain once on the entire ride about anything. Ten miles of the ride was a climb from the Blue Danube river up into the Vienna Woods on a road with switchbacks and lots of granny gear work. We plan on doing that same ride twice a week this month to prepare for any hill work we will face in Iowa on RAGBRAI.

    BB

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    Having been on RAGBRAI and having ridden both singles and tandem on the ride, I guess I'll throw my 2 cents in here. There have been accidents caused by drafting, even deaths. Almost invariably, it has been the fault of inexperienced riders injecting themselves into an experienced draft or jumping on behind a tandem. I've been involved in both. When I rode with the race team, we were all working the shops in the afternoon and evening, so we drafted and rode fast. When people we didn't know jumped into the draft, we would just shuffle them to the front and burn them, then reform the draft later. We didn't want to risk riding a draft with inexperienced riders. On the tandem, we also rode much faster than the average 10 to 12 mph riders and again got a lot of people trying to draft. We were often forced to either outride them, slow way down, or simply stop to end it. Whenever I rode single, I'd watch a draft and ask if I could ride along if I felt it was a good, smart one. Too often the draft lines were obviously inexperienced and unsafe. On occasion proven by coming upon their mess later down the road after a group of 10 or more teenagers went by in a bad draft line. Draftlines are ineveitable on big rides like RAGBRAI, but you have to use a lot of caution anytime you are riding with 7000 to 10,000 people, many of which are marginal riders. I'm sure the original author is with the Register (newspaper sponser of the ride) and is justifiably paranoid. Just use common sense and you should be fine. (and wear your helmet!!!)

  23. #23
    SDS
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    There is a difference between "justifiable paranoia", and being wrong, and misunderstanding the problem, and blaming the problem on an innocent class of bike, and tarring all riders of that kind of bike with the same brush.

    It is the worst sort of discrimination. The author of the tandem advisory text might as well have said of an individual, "You are black and male and young, and therefore a criminal, so you should be in jail 25% of the time.

    A few years ago, it was true that at any given moment, 25% of young black American males were in jail. Proceeding from this statistic to the conclusion that all young black American males are criminals to a degree that they should all be in jail 25% of the time is obviously wrong. One cannot draw certain conclusions about an individual from group statistics.

    For the author to bolster his incorrect arguments about bicycle traffic at RAGBRAI with incorrect examples from motor vehicle operation only exposes his lack of intellectual capacity or honorable motivation.

    It would have been so much better if only the instructions had said, "Everybody must use a good mirror and strictly stay to the right except when passing, and moderate their speed to be safe for the conditions (dense traffic), or go home on the bus.", but no, instead RAGBRAI trashes a single kind of bike instead of behavior. Worse, because the problem is actually variation in speed between different bikes (not different kinds of bikes), their arbitrary and biased "solution" did nothing to solve the problem, which remains as much a threat to others as it was before (if it was a problem at all).

    Hmmm, let's see: if RAGBRAI had considered a ban on tandems, should they also have considered a ban on single bikes with gross vehicle weights equal to or greater than light tandem teams? Any record of that?

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    "It is the worst sort of discrimination. The author of the tandem advisory text might as well have said of an individual, "You are black and male and young, and therefore a criminal, so you should be in jail 25% of the time. "

    Jeez SDS, being a little overly dramatic, maybe just a tad? Your saying that being discriminated against because of a color GOD chose to make someone is the same as a person incorrectly stating tandem riders are generally unsafe to have around a large ride?

    No I dont agree with the tandem slam as it's very obviosly incorrect information. But Whew, that's pretty steep what you posted. You should go ride your bike and leave the OJ defense alone on this one.

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    Sjoe!!!!! YOU GUYS GET EMOTIONAL!!!!!! I am so glad I live in a democatic "new" South Africa................ and come to think of it this is a bit of a catharsis for me. I waited many, many, many, many, years to say this!!!!!! And to think we were cross when they forced the Tandems to race with the "half" bikes this year!!!!!!

    We ride 35 000 competitors in our ARGUS Cycle Tour. This year there was +- 650 Tnadems interpsersed with the "half" bikes. NO PROBLEMS..... remeber you need to enjoy your cycling and will shoot a artery if you become so emotional Come and join us next year and experience the ARGUS. The largest times cycle race in the world. Our exchange rate is favourable our scenery incredible and the route spectacular. See www.cycletour.co.za for more info.

    Keep those wheels spinning and the tnadems competing!!!!!

    Big H
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