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  1. #1
    The Zookeeper mtcougar832's Avatar
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    Building Strength / Endurance - Tandem + Trailer

    Hi again!

    I finally have the T900 set up and my stroker (turns 5 next week, ~40#) is mostly stable. I put my trailer with the younger 2 kids (50-60# for the kids in it) behind the tandem ... and its heavy (duh!). Its worse than getting used to my single bike + trailer. On Thursday I did a ~2 mi downhill (rode back in truck). On Friday I did another mile to the river and then back (with a play break at the river). It wore me out.

    I want to build up to 6-7 mile round trip (1 or 2 play stops) that will include a nasty hill (not long, but steep and curved - I might be able to walk it).

    What should I do to build up? Ride the single bike, lift weights, ride the tandem daily, ???

    Also, what is the best (or safest) way to start moving (as when crossing a road from a stop)? Easy gears? Just walk across the road?

    My son already rotates the pedals to the starting position for me when we stop .

  2. #2
    Senior Member Old Hammer Boy's Avatar
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    Before I did the Southern Tier earlier this year, I attached my BoB trailer with 40-60 lbs. of kitty litter behind my touring rig and did a lot of climbing. If I were you, I'd ride the tandem with the trailer and dead weight in the trailer because each bike can work slightly different muscle groups, and you want to strengthen up for the tandem.

    As to starting, practice in a safe place like a parking lot, observe your gear choice and practice, practice, practice. Walking, in my opinion, isn't a good choice. It sounds like you really enjoy those little munchkins. That's great!

  3. #3
    Year-round cyclist
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    Do it gradually. Ride the tandem by yourself a few times, then include your 5-year-old stoker, then add the trailer. My first rides with the tandem (no trailercycle then) were less than 5 km long, but I had really sore arms and hands. Yet after 2-3 of these rides, I was OK. So skills come fairly quickly.


    Tips

    – Start with low gears and expect that startups will be slower than on your single. Except for racing teams, the imperfect co-ordination between pilot and stoker makes for slower starts and slower uphills. Add to that your 80 lb of dead weight (kids + trailer) and this explains why you should start in low gears.

    – For me, walking across the road is the worst possible option. If you think you are slow and ackward when starting the tandem, you'll be even slower if you try to push it by hand. Just wait for a longer opening in traffic, then pedal your way across the road.

    – Be watchful of downhills.
    Your tandem + loaded trailer will gain speed very quickly, so you'll need to pump the brakes. Use a bit more the rear brake (you want to slow down, not to stop), because if you overheat the rim and have a blowout, it's much less problematic on the rear wheel. Yet, unless it's a really steep or very long hill, pumping the brakes is all you need to prevent a blowout.
    And yet, don't use the rear brake too much over bumps. You weigh 170-200 lb (you're a man?); your child weighs 40 lb and the trailer has about 10 lb of tongue weight. Therefore you have little weight over the rear wheel and it will skid easily if you brake while riding over potholes, frost heaves...

    – And for uphills, take it slowly. Real slowly. I don't know what's the gearing, but assuming you have 52-42-30 chainrings you might think of changing the smaller one to 26 or even 24. Hills will still be slow, but much easier. Walking uphill while pushing a heavy bike is a chore. One technique my children like is to walk uphill on the shoulder while I rode the stokerless bike. Since I'm a slow climber and they are fast walkers, I usually was able to keep my riding speed in synch with their walk.
    Michel Gagnon
    Montréal (Québec, Canada)

  4. #4
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    The only thing I would add about gear for starting, don't go too low to start.

    Assuming you are starting on a level surface if you go too low on gearing to start you might find that standing on that first downstroke you might not get enough forward momentum to stabilize the bike while you are getting settled. The best recommedation is practice. Then practice a bit more, then practice a bit more.

    Not sure what the gearing actually is (stock Trek T900 for anyone who believes pure gear inches is important) but we start on the middle front and the second to lowest gear in the back. Gets us moving quickly enough to stabilize, but not whizzing down the road.
    NewbieIATandem
    Big Team on Trek T900

  5. #5
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    +1 on the keep riding. I think you will get a greater return from riding than from weights.

    Starting is tough, especially when you want to get off quick to cross a road. Riding is definetly quicker but can quickly go bad if you mess up. Walking is not as quick and has its own dangers. You'll probably find that once you can do those hills, you'll be able to confidently get up and going from a stop.

    If your gearing is not low enough, do consider putting on that smaller granny gear, also think about a wider cassette. It may help you accomplish that hill sooner.

  6. #6
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    We ride our Trek tandem regularly with our 10 month old in a trailer. Our standard ride is about 7 miles in loops round the almost-flat local park. After a few familiarisation rides we also started riding up a local 1/2 mile steep hill to see if we could. The hill was fine, and not much harder than on single bikes - we just went slower I think.

    Compared with the single bike, traction on damp and greasy pavement is sometimes an issue, just because of the torque produced by 2 riders and because if both riders get out of the saddle on our tandem at least I think there's less weight per unit traction on the rear wheel than on a single bike, plus our tyres are probably harder compound than on my single racing bike. Braking is also a bit hairier thanks to the additional weight. The brakes work really well with one person on the tandem but are what I would consider marginal with 2+trailer.

    With a small-sized stoker I think weight on the rear wheel will be the main issue - traction and downhill braking where the rear decides to overtake could be a problem. Best route IMO is to try a couple of test rides using ballast instead of stokers to see what happens as you raise the speed. Worst case (and what you should test) is without stoker but with heavily loaded trailer.

    Regarding training, riding the tandem with a trailer used to be hard work. Now we are used to it, I don't really notice it. I think this is down to my stoker doing secret training while I'm at work, which I recommend - she takes the trailer out 2x per week on her single bike. Last time we went out on our single bikes I had to tell her not to sprint away every time we slowed down!

  7. #7
    The Zookeeper mtcougar832's Avatar
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    Thanks

    Well I took a short ride last night and followed your advice on the gears. Did some stop and starts (thanks for pointing out the need to practice - I can't believe I didn't think of that). I'm using the same gear or one higher in the back as NewbieIATandem (also having stock gears on a T900).

    A friend of mine who bikes more test rode the tandem and aired the tires up, they were very low and it rode much better after he was done.

    I'll keep a smaller granny gear in mind once I work up to the hill. So after you hit the lowest gear it should take you up the hill without shifting again?

    Thanks for the tips on the brakes, I was alternating holding front and back, but I'll pump them next time.

    My boys are my buds . We have a lot of fun together - if I bike more I'm less stressed out, so I know the tandem is worth what we paid.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtcougar832 View Post
    A friend of mine who bikes more test rode the tandem and aired the tires up, they were very low and it rode much better after he was done.

    I'll keep a smaller granny gear in mind once I work up to the hill. So after you hit the lowest gear it should take you up the hill without shifting again?
    Yes, keep the bike in shape with regular maintenance. Lubrication will be another one that will need to be done. Do you think you could inflate your tires? If you don't want to do any of that you will be well served by setting up something with your LBS on some frequency. If you can do the tires, you could get away with 1 or 2 shop visits a year barring any problems.

    Once you get into your lowest gear I hope you can get over the hill because there won't be any lower gears to use. Something will have to change to get you over the hill after that (an even lower gear, less weight, smaller hill, stronger legs, etc ).

  9. #9
    Senior Member
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    OK a couple of things to clarify.

    Pumping brakes vs. alternating front than back on a downhill. The purpose of both techniques is to
    1. Control speed
    2. Prevent overheating rims possibly causing blowout.

    In general pumping brakes will result in speed up (rims cool a bit) then slow down... speed up (rims cool a bit)... then slow down.
    Alternating will generally result in a more even speed. (Front rim cool, then rear rim cool, etc.)

    Unless I am corrected by anyone else, either technique should work. The key is you can't ride both brakes all the way down an extended downhill without heating up the rims. I would have to say you probably won't be doing any HUGE downhills with your little family train (because you would either have to ride up to the top of them before the downhill, or ride back up once down) but it is a good practice to get into. Good technique never goes out of style.

    Tires. What can I say. They are essential. Check the pressure every time you ride. After a while you might be able to go every other time, etc. get familiar with your tire's needs. As mentioned, at a minimum pump up your own tires. Gives you a chance to do a little check of the tires too.

    Shifting for hills. At a minimum get into the smallest ring in front BEFORE you start applying pressure for climbing. There is a risk of throwing the chain off on the inside of the chainrings if applying a bunch of pressure while shifting to the smallest one. On the rear, if you NEED to downshift make sure you ease up the pedalling pressure when shifting. Once you get into 1 - 1 just keep pedalling! We have found that it is us, not the gearing that limits our climbing ability.
    NewbieIATandem
    Big Team on Trek T900

  10. #10
    The Zookeeper mtcougar832's Avatar
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    Thanks for clearing up the braking. I can handle the tires - had to do it on cars. I will need to add a pressure gauge to my tool bag . I just didn't think about it before. On the bright side I discovered that I needed to switch to the larger frame pump, since the little one couldn't air up the tandem tires - better to know that now than after a flat occurs.

    I may have to make a cheat sheet for shifting though - its never been my strong point.

  11. #11
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    You also need to buy a track pump (with gauge) - with your tyres inflated before the ride you'll not use the frame pump very often. My tip on the track pump is to look for workshop quality - get the heaviest one available and avoid those with plastic bases, barrels etc.

    Second tip on pumping up tyres using a frame pump or mini pump is to take the wheel out of the frame and move everything so that the valve end of the pump touches something solid like a sign, railing or edge or the kerb so that you only need to push on the pump handle to pump up the tyre. By doing this the solid object provides half the pumping force, meaning it's much easier to reach a high pressure with a small pump.

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