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Tandem Cycling A bicycle built for two. Want to find out more about this wonderful world of tandems? Check out this forum to talk with other tandem enthusiasts. Captains and stokers welcome!

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Old 06-20-07, 07:39 AM   #1
wroomwroomoops
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After first tandem ride of my life - questions

Dear all,


a few days ago I rode as a captain in a tandem. It was very interesting, and I was surprised I managed as I did, as my balance is not so good. Still, since the stoker is some 12 Kg ligher than me, we succeeded to start up more-or-less problem free.

However, now I have some questions. First of all, what do you do about getting on curbs, since you can't bunny-hop? At least I don't think you can. I was thinking that perhaps a well-inflated, superstrong tire (like the Marathon Plus) would obviate to this problem.

The other question is, are there tandem geometries that would make it easier for cyclists of somewhat imperfect balance, to use them? Perhaps if the trail at the front fork was larger? On non-tandem bikes that increases stability once the bike is in motion (although it makes cornering a bit sluggish, a problem I am not concerning myself at the moment). Would a lighter tandem bike help? I imagine that frame material here makes a lot of difference, since there's "more frame" than with regular bikes, so it has more influence on overall weight.

What would be a nice present for a tandem cycling enthusiast? I want to invite her out to dinner, so it should be impressive and thoughtful.
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Old 06-20-07, 08:17 AM   #2
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Well... not an expert, but I would probably avoid jumping curbs on a tandem. The stoker is basically sitting right over the rear wheel so they would definitely have to stand or get popped right off the back, and when the stoker stands the tandem is less stable, and you have the combined weight of both riders and the tandem which is heavier than a single bike. I am sure there will be others here that will have some actual helpful comments on HOW TO, but I ask, WHY?

Don't ride your tandem like it is a single. It isn't.

Balance will improve with practice.

As for the last question, a present my stoker would appreciate would be to allude back to the beginning of this post is to never, ever, no matter what, try to surmount a curb while she is on the back of our tandem.
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Old 06-20-07, 10:50 AM   #3
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But sometimes we must surmount curbs, to follow the bikepath, which in Europe sometimes is on the walkway.
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Old 06-20-07, 11:10 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wroomwroomoops
What would be a nice present for a tandem cycling enthusiast? I want to invite her out to dinner, so it should be impressive and thoughtful.
I have found that flowers are almost always appreciated. After all, it's not about the bike.
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Old 06-20-07, 12:10 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by wroomwroomoops
But sometimes we must surmount curbs, to follow the bikepath, which in Europe sometimes is on the walkway.
Bummer. My guess would be to use your "normal" techniques for surmounting curbs, but you may have to, as you say, strengthen your wheels. You also must work WITH your stoker to help shift your weight to accomplish your goal. A LOT of cooperation to do this routinely on a normal tandem (not having a lot of experience with using a mountain bike tandem in its intended role).
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Old 06-20-07, 02:40 PM   #6
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Wheel spacing may make it impossible to surmount curbs, depending on hieght, as the chain rings are likely to hit the edge of the concrete. I would suggets to dismount every time or better yet I would stay away from bike paths and particularly side walks.
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Old 06-20-07, 02:46 PM   #7
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If you have an off-road tandem with full suspension, front and rear, going over curbs is OK.
If you have a non-suspension road tandem going over curbs is definitely a no-no!
Dismount and carry tandem over the curb . .
If you have a physical problem and have balancing issues, a 3 wheeled tandem could be the answer, although those 3 wheelers are hard to come by and take up a lot more room on the road.
As for a present to impress the cycling girlfriend: matching cycling jerseys (in HER favorite color!)+ a good bottle of wine!
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Old 06-20-07, 03:27 PM   #8
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Thanks guys. So, strong tires, carefully inflated near the upper limit, use the traditional (no bunny hopping) technique to get on the curb, and flowers. Duly noted.
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Old 06-20-07, 03:33 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zonatandem
If you have an off-road tandem with full suspension, front and rear, going over curbs is OK.
If you have a non-suspension road tandem going over curbs is definitely a no-no!
Dismount and carry tandem over the curb . .
If you have a physical problem and have balancing issues, a 3 wheeled tandem could be the answer, although those 3 wheelers are hard to come by and take up a lot more room on the road.
As for a present to impress the cycling girlfriend: matching cycling jerseys (in HER favorite color!)+ a good bottle of wine!
How about if I replace the front fork with a suspension fork? This tandem has 26" wheels. I don't know much about tandems, so bear with my "stupid" questions: are there 700C tandems? Are they what you call "road" tandems? If so, this isn't one.

Great idea on the cycling jerseys!!
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Old 06-20-07, 03:36 PM   #10
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I do curbs on our off-road tandem. I [as capt.] can hop my end up onto a curb... [My stoker is not so good at bunny hopping... but she can unweight her end.. so the bike rolls over fairly well. We "practice" this more often in the trails we regularly ride over [smaller logs] .

We were very "seasoned" on the road before we ever ventured onto the trails....

glenn
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Old 06-20-07, 04:45 PM   #11
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Like I said, if you do need to surmount obstacles of any kind, practice, practice, practice. Remember you are now responsible not only for yourself if you end up laying on the ground, but your stoker who has extremely little control over the situation will end up laying on the ground and because it is likely to be more of a surprise to her (or him) they often come out with more injuries from what I have read.

Was going to post about the chainrings... Remember simple trigonometry, even though the bottom of the tandem is higher than on a single, it is higher because the length of the tandem will make it more likely to "straddle" an obstacle when you go over it. Would be a big problem to try to surmount the curb and end up with a wrecked chainring. (Reference the above about falling down if you suddenly hit the curb with the chainring...)

OK, maybe I'm a wimp, but I stop the tandem, we dismount, and I walk it over obstacles the size of curbs. We have a lesuire bike (Trek T900) not a mountain bike.
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Old 06-20-07, 07:06 PM   #12
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I hope your road rash is all healed. I have been to Helsinki many times and the roads in Finland are excellent for biking. I find bike paths and sidewalks poor choices for tandem riding for the reasons you mention - curbs, posts and people walking. Biking around Helsinki on a tandem would be difficult and not my choice. Also, you have to go slower to maneuver around obstacles so balancing is more difficult. Invite your stoker cycling enthusiast for another ride and take her out into the countryside where you can go faster and it is earier to balance. I would buy her a gift from the Karkki Pussi.
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Old 06-20-07, 07:20 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hermes
I hope your road rash is all healed. I have been to Helsinki many times and the roads in Finland are excellent for biking. I find bike paths and sidewalks poor choices for tandem riding for the reasons you mention - curbs, posts and people walking. Biking around Helsinki on a tandem would be difficult and not my choice. Also, you have to go slower to maneuver around obstacles so balancing is more difficult. Invite your stoker cycling enthusiast for another ride and take her out into the countryside where you can go faster and it is earier to balance. I would buy her a gift from the Karkki Pussi.
My roadrashes are still healing - as the relevant thread attests (but which I will now update again).

I hear you about the bikepaths being a poor choice for tandems - and I do hope we get to plan a longer ride in the countryside.

What is this Karkki Pussi thing you're talking about?
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Old 06-20-07, 07:25 PM   #14
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Your current 26" wheeld tandem can be outfitted with a good suspension fork. That takes care of the front end of the tandem but leaves the stoker's without suspension! A good shock absorbing seatpost would help her some, but is not ideal. A specifically designed off road/moutain bike tandem with full suspension front and rear would do it for hopping curbs. . . however, hopping curbs is only a mnute part of tandem riding. A fully suspended off road/mountain bike is not the best thing to be riding on the road.
There are many 700c tandems, quite often referred to as 'road tandems.' While a 26" wheeled tandem is ideal for light off road/trail use without suspension, it can also be utilized on the road. 700c wheeled tandems are not to well suited for non-road or dirt road rides, although we have done it, but it's a bit precarious.
In the US there are more 700c tandems than 26" wheeled tandems.
BTW there is no such thing as 'a stupid question!'
Pedal on TWOgether!
Rudy and Kay/zonatandem
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Old 06-20-07, 07:33 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wroomwroomoops
My roadrashes are still healing - as the relevant thread attests (but which I will now update again).

I hear you about the bikepaths being a poor choice for tandems - and I do hope we get to plan a longer ride in the countryside.

What is this Karkki Pussi thing you're talking about?
It is a gift store (candy, candles and etc.) in Helsinki. I remember it near the central park. I walked by it many times.
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Old 06-20-07, 09:10 PM   #16
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How about a suspension fork....

Great idea...things to consider: standard suspension fork is designed for a MAXIMUM of ~40 kg (100 kg rider with 40% on front tire). An representative tandem team would put >50 kg on the front tire (75 kg captain, 50 kg stoker). So you would need a premium fork (Marzocchi DJ3 for single crown or equivalent, or triple crown) upgraded to handle the weight. The frame/headset also needs to be able to take the impact of assonating a 10cm rise at 20+ km/h (going slower risks falling over). And you need a suspension seatpost capable of absorbing most the 10 cm as well (Thudbuster LT or equivalent)(An unhappy stoker is equivalent to no stoker and a stoker who gets bounced over curbs without suspension is unhappy) A second advantage of a suspension fork is the disc brake mounts....course then there's the new front wheel. Not that it can't be done, you just need all the components in place. (Of course if you're a very light tandem team, a good 100mm fork would be fine).

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KHS Tandemania (with DJ3 fork, The Pig DH Pro headset, Magura Gustav M 200mm front disc brake, Thudbuster LT, White Industries 20mm front hub) Curbs? I don't see any stinking curbs.
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Old 06-21-07, 12:11 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NewbieIATandem
Well... not an expert, but I would probably avoid jumping curbs on a tandem. The stoker is basically sitting right over the rear wheel so they would definitely have to stand or get popped right off the back, and when the stoker stands the tandem is less stable, and you have the combined weight of both riders and the tandem which is heavier than a single bike. I am sure there will be others here that will have some actual helpful comments on HOW TO, but I ask, WHY?

Don't ride your tandem like it is a single. It isn't.

Balance will improve with practice.

As for the last question, a present my stoker would appreciate would be to allude back to the beginning of this post is to never, ever, no matter what, try to surmount a curb while she is on the back of our tandem.
Thank you.

A Stoker
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Old 06-21-07, 12:14 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zonatandem
If you have an off-road tandem with full suspension, front and rear, going over curbs is OK.
If you have a non-suspension road tandem going over curbs is definitely a no-no!
Dismount and carry tandem over the curb . .
If you have a physical problem and have balancing issues, a 3 wheeled tandem could be the answer, although those 3 wheelers are hard to come by and take up a lot more room on the road.
As for a present to impress the cycling girlfriend: matching cycling jerseys (in HER favorite color!)+ a good bottle of wine!
An OCP man after my own heart! No wonder you & Kay have been married a bazillion years.

You remind me of Capt. Chris (aka cgallagh), who thinks along those same lines.
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Old 06-21-07, 12:55 AM   #19
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Red Rider, your two comments suggest that I torture my stoker on purpose, or that I at least don't take any precautions while tandeming with her. The opposite is true - nothing would make me happier than to make my stoker happy.
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Old 06-21-07, 01:25 PM   #20
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On one of our first rides on our Trek T100 I forgot that I was on a tandem and tried to jump a curb, big surprise when the front end did not come up. Stoker and I were on the ground before I remembered what sort of bike I was riding. We were going very slow and nothing happened.

First ride on our Co-mo Mocha also resulted in a dust purchase, as dully reported here, only harm was to the stoker hadlebar tape.

You have to credit my stoker for never loosing trust.
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Old 07-01-07, 08:26 PM   #21
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A tandem frame builder friend of ours and his wife were out riding with us several years ago . . .
Here's a guy that knew how to ride (raced all over Europe) . . . got to a pohole and he tried to 'jump' it at speed . . . he cleared it with the front but his stoker took the hit. Remember her yelling "Oooohhh! My teeth!" Not recommended!
As for us being married 'a bazillion years' . . . heck, it's only been 52 years and we're still on our first honeymoon! Ain't love grand?!
Pedal on TWOgether!
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Old 07-02-07, 06:13 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zonatandem
SNIP
...heck, it's only been 52 years and we're still on our first honeymoon! Ain't love grand?!
SNIP
52 years, sounds like a good start to me. Yes, love is grand!
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Old 07-07-07, 03:14 AM   #23
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If you want a quick course in all things tandem, try Santana's website at www.santanatandems.com.
Santana is, I believe, the world's largest tandem maker (along with triples, quads and quints). They only make tandems, and they claim that tandem geometry is quite different from solo bike geometry. We've owned a Santana for about a decade, and it's a revelation compared to some other tandems I've ridden. I'm sure there are other great tandems, but I'm equally sure that Santana is one of them and that some makers of great solo bikes make mediocre tandems. Nearly every part of a good tandem differs from its solo bike equivalent--even the handlebars, much less the forks and frame tubing.

So if you want stable, get a Santana or equivalent, or at least try to get a ride on one so you see what I mean. I've ridden our Santana pretty fast down twisty 6% grades, shooting by solo bikes, and could only do that on a frame with perfect geometry and assembly.

As for riding on rough roads (I wouldn't jump curbs myself), we have 700C wheels with 700x38 tires and 48 spoke wheels. They are bombproof and will take bashing that would pringle a lesser wheel/tire combo.

And as for a sensitive stoker gift--my wife appreciated the Specialized saddle I got her, with a big groove down the middle and truly flat padded spots where her sit bones sit. She'd complained bitterly about her tailbone getting banged on previous, deeply padded saddles. But the Specialzed saddles wide groove puts nothin' but air under her tailbone. This has had great results.

Another great give would be the kind of rear view mirror that's metal (the plastic ones suck) and mounts to her helmet. Really increases her view and gives her something to look at besides your back.

Or how about a fanny pack for you that she could use to put things in that she could get out while you're riding? She could put maps in it and be your navigator, for example. Or snacks for her, or a telescoping baton to whack dogs that chase you (just kidding)(pretty much).

Tandem riders can talk, of course, but they kind of have to shout if they're going more than, say, 20KPH. Motorcyclists have small headsets that let them talk. I haven't tried this but it might work. Sure would be different.

Another would be those little stub bars that attach to the ends of straight handlebars, to let her vary her grip. If she doesn't have standard drop bars.

Or a riding jersey for you with something cool printed on it that she could look at--like Edvard Munch's The Scream?

Just some thoughts.
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Old 07-07-07, 04:35 AM   #24
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...
Or a riding jersey for you with something cool printed on it that she could look at--like Edvard Munch's The Scream?
...
Interesting choice of artwork to suggest to look at for a couple hours while riding. Maybe a "Where's Waldo" jersey instead.
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Old 07-08-07, 05:36 PM   #25
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If you're on a budget...

My #1 stoker gift would be a suspension seatpost, regardless of budget. Good new ones cost >$100US, but you might be able to get a good used on on eBay or some such. I like Thudbuster the most right now. Whatever you get, make sure its mechanism will fit in the space between your stoker's seatstay and the saddle. On my solo bike I had to go from a 25" straight top tube frame to a 23" sloping top tube frame to get enough clearance for a suspension seatpost.

This is so important because the stoker experiences bumps in a very different way from how you experience them, since you're midway between axles while she's right over the rear one, and you can't loft the front wheel over bumps or quickly manuver around them like you can on a solo. And she can't see them coming unless you have a transparent torso (and ride without a shirt!)...

I spent $150 on my solo bike's suspension seatpost and it has performed flawlessly over years of hard riding. Even on a solo bike it transforms your riding experience--at least if your roads are as badly maintained as ours are here. Well, and I got a detached retina, so my initial purchase was inspired by my ophthalmologist telling me to avoid jarring my head henceforth. The surgery to repair detached retinas with a laser machine is amazingly unpleasant, so I didn't need persuading.

--Lee
Palo Alto, CA
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