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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 08-05-07, 03:18 PM   #1
StokerPoker
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I'm a spinner, she's a masher!

My fiance and I have been spending more time on the tandem lately after almost a year of riding our solo bikes. Something happened and she's not ready to get back on her bike yet, but has no problem getting on the tandem. I ride a lot more than she does and my style has changed quite a bit. By no means am I a true "Spinner" but I prefer a much higher cadence than she does. Currently our cranksets are in phase and they are both the same size. I understand that identical size cranks are probably not ideal since I am 5'10" and she is 4'10", but a new stoker crankset is a fairly large investment for a tandem that I paid $150 for with a total investement of around $200 with new bars and a saddle and things. She taps me on the shoulder and tells me I'm just pulling her feet around the pedals and she can't help me at that speed. I end up bumping it up a gear or two or slowing down to get to a more comfortable cadence for her at the expense of my knees and thighs. I know that's not good for me, but I'd much rather her enjoy the ride than have me be a Jerk and say something dumb like "It's my way cause I'm the captain" and have her not want to ride at all. Is there something I can do to help? Would it benefit her to find a pace in between hers and mine and try to help her work up to a higher cadence? Would setting the cranks out of phase help? Does she need shorter crank arms? I know I became less of a masher by putting miles on my solo bike, but at this point she's not ready to get back onto hers. thanks for any advice.
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Old 08-05-07, 04:11 PM   #2
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Would it benefit her to find a pace in between hers and mine and try to help her work up to a higher cadence?
Yes. Start with a cadence that she's comfortable with first. Try a little faster. When she's comfortable with that, try to take it up a few more RPM. Don't expect that she'll get to your cadence, but you can probably raise her some. It would be easier if she had shorter cranks.
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Old 08-05-07, 04:28 PM   #3
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Agree on a compromise pace.
And yes, do give 90 degrees out of phase (OOP) a try for a few weeks.
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Old 08-05-07, 04:38 PM   #4
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You're experiencing the same thing that many beginning tandems start out with. Over time and a lot of miles, she will most likely develop a quicker cadence, but will probably never be able to match yours. As captain, you need to make her experience positive, and that means compromise on your part. If you've not got a cadence sensor, that might be a good investment. With one, you can find the zone that she is most comfortable with and concentrate on staying there most of the time.

What I found is that my wife could tolerate spinning above her comfort zone if I did it in short bursts, so I focused on staying at the upper end of her zone, with the occasional peak of a higher cadence. Over time, the upper end of her tolerance zone climbed into my comfort zone without her even realizing it, and now we can spin pretty comfortably in the low to mid 90's. I now find that our shift point is right at 97 rpm, and that she can tolerate short bursts into the low 100's without complaining.

We ride 90 degrees OOP, and feel like it gives us some advantage on our Ozarks hills, but I wouldn't recommend it if you're not a fairly experienced tandem team. Tandeming is hard enough without adding the complication of riding OOP. While not extremely difficult, it does add an additional aspect of things to concentrate on, especially when it comes to starting, stopping, and cornering.
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Old 08-05-07, 04:42 PM   #5
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I wish I could justify the cost of shorter cranks. If I wasn't working my way through nursing school I'd probably have a better tandem and the money to put into it. the compromise hurts me after a short while but I do it. I'm going to try OOP, but should I start at something less than 90 degrees and work up to that? I use toe clips on my solo, but the pedals on the tandem don't have mounts for them. SHe's against toe clips on her single, but since she's used to the idea of not taking her feet off the pedals at stops now, would toe clips help her?
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Old 08-05-07, 08:57 PM   #6
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Suggest you start at 90 degrees OOP . . .
Been OOPers for 32 years . . . works for us!
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Old 08-05-07, 11:35 PM   #7
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I realize your on a budget so this may not help but I have two VDO CD3 computers with cadence both running from one sender. I didn't want to discourage the wife from riding so I found were she liked to spin to start and worked our way up slowly over time. We are still working our way up to were I like and she can tolerate.
Now I set a target and we try staying with in 2 hi or low since she can see were we are on cadence she can apply speed according with out me pushing her.
Saturday we took a 30mi ride and she did her best ride to date our 30mi average with stop and goes was 79 we tried to stick to 88 and had a hi of 104.
She started out around 74 cadence. I'd like to be in the 95 - 98 range.
Clipping in is a must for for both of you or at least toe clips.
What ever you do keep your stoker happy or you'll be riding alone shortly or at least not happily! both of you...
It took me 5 months to also get here fit correct so she was comfortable not an easy task, this included seat swaps bar changes you name it I gave it to her but now she's happy with everything now my set up took about 5 good long rides to dial in but all well worth it.
By the way our height is about the same as yours.
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Old 08-05-07, 11:35 PM   #8
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since I am 5'10" and she is 4'10", but a new stoker crankset is a fairly large investment
Wow, that's a big height difference--I'm not surprised she has a hard time keeping up on the same length cranks as you. I'm sure out of phase would help as ZonaTandem suggested (their stoker is 4'10" too) but check out this thread--you should only need to buy the left crank ($34) if you've already got a proper-length right one from a single bike crankset. Captain crank length change?

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I use toe clips on my solo, but the pedals on the tandem don't have mounts for them. SHe's against toe clips on her single, but since she's used to the idea of not taking her feet off the pedals at stops now, would toe clips help her?
I think it would help a lot. For a solution that won't cost a thing, keep a wrench handy next to the tandem and yank the pedals off your single and pop them on the tandem whenever you take it out. It shouldn't really take any time at all.

Last edited by pocky; 08-05-07 at 11:45 PM.
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Old 08-06-07, 12:00 AM   #9
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My wife and I had this problem 20+ years ago. There is a solution. We got a counterpoint tandem where she has a recumbent seat in front and a freewheel and controls a five speed cluster. She usually picks a cadence 10% or 20% lower then the one I am using. I steer from the rear in an upright position. Yes, if she is pedalling my pedals move. I can live with that. She can coast whenever needed. www.bilenky.com still makes them. They call them Viewpoints. Check the photo gallery.
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Old 08-06-07, 12:38 AM   #10
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many good replies. I think I will try 90 degrees OOP and also swap on some pedals that are toe clip compatable. I've been planning on doing it for myself anyway, might as well do both sets. As far as fit goes, it's been difficult. She doesn't give me much input so I have to ask questions. She did tell me right away though that she hated the flat bar so now she has 6" riser bars. I also had to cut 2" from her seatpost so it would go low enough for her. I've spent more time worrying about her comfort and not spent much time getting mine straight. I'm usually one to make what I have in the junk pile work so I'm surprised I didn't think of using a drive side crank from something else and just buying the left side to match. I might have to try this at some point since the chain rings are riveted on this crankset and I'd really like to put some biopace rings on it. I'll try OOP and toe clips this week and hopefully have some better results.
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Old 08-06-07, 06:57 AM   #11
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you might be able to get by with crank shorteners. there is a used set listed here for $60
http://www.rtrmag.com/classifieds.htm
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Old 08-06-07, 11:11 AM   #12
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Having been a long time masher, finding cadences above 85 uncomfortable,
I have learned to adapt after some 1500mi of stoking. I am now ok at 95-100
for long distances. I think pedal shortening to reduce her turning radius will
go a long way toward increasing her tolerance to higher cadence. I am 66"
tall and briefly experimented with 175mm cranks once long ago and found them
noticeably uncomfortable and went back rapidly to 170mm. Your wife might
benefit from 155-160mm cranks or equivalent with pedal shorteners. BMXers
use such shorter cranks though of course no tandem BMX equipment exists.
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Old 08-06-07, 11:31 AM   #13
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I'll try OOP and toe clips this week and hopefully have some better results.
If she freaks out with the toe clips, just remove the straps and leave the cage in the pedals. That should boost some of her confidence that she can take her foor out from the pedals in case of abrupt stops.

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Old 08-06-07, 05:07 PM   #14
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Bikesmith can shorten cranks, but odds are you don't have one of the model cranks that can safely be shortened. cost is $50 to shorten plus shipping.

http://bikesmithdesign.com/Short_Cranks/shorten.html

had my both our cranksets on our screamer shortened.
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Old 08-08-07, 09:10 PM   #15
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Pilot is 5'7", stoker is 4'10 3/4" and we both use 170mm crank lengths + we ride 90 degrees OOP.
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Old 08-08-07, 10:02 PM   #16
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OOP seems to help and she's starting to warm up to the idea of toe clips. I might just put them on before we ride again and see what happens.
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Old 08-09-07, 06:20 AM   #17
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My so and I are 4'11" and 5'9", our tandem has 165mm crankarms for her and 175mm crankarms for me. The crankarms position may look OOP, but in actuality they are in sync.
I bought the stoker crankset for $25 shipped from eBay.

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Old 08-09-07, 07:19 AM   #18
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toeclips (properly tightened) should make a big difference. It's hard to spin a good cadence when all you can do is push down on the pedal.

If she's willing to work on raising her cadence, you can do fast pedal drills. These are done in a very easy gear at a cadence of 110-120rpm. She probably won't be able to do that at first, and it will feel very bumpy. But if you start at 1 minute intervals at 100rpm, and work up to 5 minute intervals at 120rpm, she will qucikly develop a smooth, fast pedal stroke.

The payoff for the work is being able to ride longer distances much easier. If you two are going to ride much working on developing an efficient pedal stroke is worth the investment in time and energy.
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Old 08-09-07, 01:19 PM   #19
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That is a beautiful machine cat!! Maybe one of these days I'll break down and start messing with ebay. at this point I'm afraid that's where all of my money and time will go.

Merlin: I try doing things like this when I'm out by myself. I was actually doing that yesterday on my 10 mile R/T to get parts for the car. Yes it broke the day after she drove it, but no it wasn't her fault.

I think communication is going to be very important in developing our skills on the tandem. I'm hoping this will help with our communication in general, but one can only hope. No, it will not fix our issues, but it is something we can do together as a "team" working toward the same goal that will allow us to work on things that will hopefully carry over to the rest of our lives. Maybe wishful thinking, maybe not but hopefully more good can come out of it other than just a fun time out on the bike.
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Old 03-28-08, 02:07 PM   #20
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Well, it's almost time to pull the tandem out again and I had a few ideas. Riding OOP helped, but not enough. I still found that or cadence wasn't right for me. So, I have an idea.

Though this probably isn't the safest solution, I'm sure I can make it work. Since a few of you recommended shorter crankarms for her, I was thinking about putting blocks on her pedals. I figure this would make the effective length of the existing arms shorter, and allow me to raise her seat up a bit allowing her to see around me a bit. I had to cut her seat post to make it go in far enough for her to reach the pedals and it bothers me having none of the seat post available to mount a light or reflector on.

I just have to mount the blocks securely and make them so her feet don't slip off of them
She's still against toe clips.
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Old 03-28-08, 02:35 PM   #21
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....Since a few of you recommended shorter crankarms for her, I was thinking about putting blocks on her pedals. I figure this would make the effective length of the existing arms shorter, and allow me to raise her seat up a bit allowing her to see around me a bit. I had to cut her seat post to make it go in far enough for her to reach the pedals and it bothers me having none of the seat post available to mount a light or reflector on.

I just have to mount the blocks securely and make them so her feet don't slip off of them
She's still against toe clips.
This does not shorten the crank arm length as some of the other methods do, it merely raises the height of the circle that is spun. The point about which she spins will be the same but that point will just not be at the center of the circle. In actuality, her effective crankarm length will be longer at the top and decreasing to the shortest effective crankarm length at the bottom of the stroke. The point at which the effective length equals the original length will be where the modded and unmodded stroke circles intersect.

These would shorten the arms.

Last edited by masiman; 03-28-08 at 03:09 PM.
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Old 03-28-08, 02:46 PM   #22
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This does not shorten the crank arm length as some of the other methods do, it merely raises the height of the circle that is spun. The point about which she spins will be the same but that point will just not be at the center of the circle. In actuality, her effective crankarm length will be longer at the top and decreasing to the shortest effective crankarm length at the bottom of the stroke. The point at which the effective length equals the original length will be where the modded and unmodded stroke circles intersect.

These would shorten the arms.
Thanks, a little lapse in common sense on my part. tends to be happening a lot lately
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Old 03-28-08, 02:54 PM   #23
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a new stoker crankset is a fairly large investment for a tandem that I paid $150 for with a total investement of around $200
Don't think of it as an investment in the bike, but as an investment your relationship. Having said that, the crank shorteners sound interesting.
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Old 03-28-08, 04:04 PM   #24
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How about using a smaller chain ring on the captains cranks?
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Old 03-28-08, 04:44 PM   #25
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How about using a smaller chain ring on the captains cranks?
That would put you constantly out of phase in different degrees changing constantly.
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