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  1. #1
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    First time on tandem, doing century, need advice

    I'm doing a century this weekend on a tandem.

    I've never ridden a tandem before (if you don't count one of those old 60's type ones).

    My dad and I are fairly experienced recreational riders.

    We will practice on Thursday for the first time, and do the century on Saturday.

    I've read a bit on starting and stopping, which seems pretty critical.

    There will be huge masses of riders on this ride, what is the advice on drafting? For safety's sake should I not draft behind others?

    Any other advice? (yes this might be a bad idea, but I think we'll be going forward no matter what).

  2. #2
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    We're still fairly new at tandems, so I'm sure others can add more. But here are some quick thoughts to consider:

    - take the seats off your single bikes and put them onto the tandem. Similarly, make sure all the key adjustments are the same as your singles

    - while riding, take everything a little slower and plan a little farther ahead. Turns, stops, avoiding bumps, etc all take a little longer and require a little more planning.

    - cooperate and talk a lot! Make sure neither or you is surprised by standing, shifting weight, turning, other riders approaching, etc. For example, the stoker keeps track of when someone has grabbed the wheel (happens a lot) so the captain knows not to make any sudden changes.

    - go easy. Especially in starts and stops when there are a lot of bikes around, we tend to be just a little more cautious than on our singles. maybe we're just not yet confident enough to dive into the middle of things, but we're more comfortable not trying to be "first" off the line.

    - have fun!!

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    your doomed!

    That is a big ol chunk to bite off. No tandem experience and a century ride.

    If you are both strong riders and have a lot of miles in you will be o.k.
    Communication between you two and other riders is key.

    If there are hills or head wind you will suffer. You can't move around on the bike as much and for us 60-70 miles is a long ride and a century is another step up, perhaps bordering on not so fun.

    Careful at the start, for all the people that don't race, trying to race.
    They will swerve, stop, fall over etc... Best to avoid the early cluster..
    You should either get in the front if you have the fitness levels or wait and blow by some people after they have all ridden 1 mile or more.

    If you can get in a safe group (if there is such a thing on century)and draft the first hour or two it will help. Be real careful the tandem is hard to manage in a group of single bikes, especially if they are of varying fitness levels. You will to work hard on any small hills because you slow down faster and on any descents you fly up into the group traveling much faster.


    Towards the end you will make all kind of new friends who enjoy your draft, be cautious, they are not your true friends, just using you to finish the event. If there is a beer tent at the finish, you shoud specify what time they will be buying your beer for letting them draft you.

    Hoefully you will some nice rollers, and a tailwind home.

    Good luck and let us know how it turns out.

    Rob

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    pan y agua merlinextraligh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by robmitchell View Post
    your doomed!

    That is a big ol chunk to bite off. No tandem experience and a century ride.

    If you are both strong riders and have a lot of miles in you will be o.k.
    Communication between you two and other riders is key.

    If there are hills or head wind you will suffer. You can't move around on the bike as much and for us 60-70 miles is a long ride and a century is another step up, perhaps bordering on not so fun.



    Rob
    I'd definitely agree. Something about the tandem, perhaps because you tend to not move around as much, makes it more tiring to do long rides than on a single bike. And if you're brand new to tandems the problem will be worse (for example if you're not comfortable standing to pedal on climbs, or just for a butt break).

    I'd consider doing the Metric option if they have one.

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    Quote Originally Posted by robmitchell View Post
    Towards the end you will make all kind of new friends who enjoy your draft, be cautious, they are not your true friends, just using you to finish the event. If there is a beer tent at the finish, you shoud specify what time they will be buying your beer for letting them draft you.
    Yup, a draught for a draft .

    Conserve your energy in case there are hills. You will be working alot harder on them than with your single. Better to make it in slow than to bonk on the road. Give yourselves some room in a pack. Try to avoid the tight packs. As others noted, not just because of your inexperience but also because of other riders. Communicate and take care of communicating the little things early (butt breaks, calling out bumps, shifting, power, etc.) so that they do not build into problems.

    It should be a blast, especially if you make it .

    Good Luck!

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    Assuming you do centuries on your single bikes and the tandem fits you OK.... there should be no major problem.

    If there are other tandems in the ride try to join forces with them... in general, tandems ride much more steadily than singles and are a lot easier to draft off.

    If you are drafting off singles in the sligth inclines, that can be very helpful to you... do not try to stay with singles in steep grades unless it is confortable to do so. Do not ride side by side with other bikes in steep grades as you may have to use all the room available.

    If the ride is going to have steep grades practice standing alternatively first and then togheter. Go to a parking lot and shift to a tall gear and take turns standing. In the down hills do not draft off singles; you will be on your brakes all the time.

    Enjoy the ride with your dad... you are soo lucky!!
    Last edited by cornucopia72; 08-21-07 at 02:09 PM.

  7. #7
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    thanks for all the suggestions. There are basically no hills on this course. The biggest climb is an overpass. We are both in good enough shape to do the century on our singles.

    My main goal is to not crash the bike (because we are borrowing it), so I'll have to be careful in the groups.

    At this century the tandems start become the regular recreational cyclists. So hopefully that will give us some operating room.

  8. #8
    sch
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    My point of view as a fairly new stoker is that if you are both already capable of doing
    centuries on singles, you will go 3 to 5mph faster on the tandem than on your singles,
    assuming you are not sub 4hr 30min riders to start. Our experience was that we were
    easily 30min faster on the tandem than on singles. Saddles tend to be the biggest
    problem, mostly for the stoker but also for the captain as others have noted, you can't
    move around so freely and saddle time is higher. Singles riders can stand a little, hike
    over to one side, slide back and forth, do all those little adjustments you don't think about
    to relieve saddle soreness. On a tandem all this has to be coordinated and standing is an
    adventure at first. Because it is so easy for tandems to cruise effortlessly at speeds
    5-7mph faster than singles, you will find you are towing a lot of singles unless you deliberately
    go slow. Remember to let the singles behind you know what you are upto, especially if you
    intend to practice standing for awhile, or if you are passing others, let them know you are
    coming up. It takes very little hill for a tandem to get upto 30-35mph, so even minor downhills
    can result in your tandem going faster by 8-10mph than singles on the same hill. Captain should
    get in habit of shouting 'on your left' to singletons in this circumstance. Singletons unaccustomed
    to riding with tandems may not yield in ignorance, and tandems don't slow quite as fast as singletons, but OTOH headers are unusual too. If the century is huge, more
    than say 400-600 riders you will always be around bunches of singles and
    navigation can be a bit intimidating.

  9. #9
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    Captain should not forget that he cannot get off the bike by swinging the leg over the back of the bicycle, if stoker has dismounted leg gets caught by the stoker handlebars and you can end up on the ground looking silly, if stoker is still on it is even worst. Sounds silly but I'd like to take a poll to see how many of you have learnt the hard way. Just like the requisite fall when you started using cleats.

  10. #10
    rebmeM roineS JanMM's Avatar
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    Should be an ....., uh, ................interesting................ride. It being the first time you've ridden a tandem. Relax, take it easy. Be prepared to stop and make adjustments to the seats, bars, etc. Captain and Stoker must COMMUNICATE with each other.

  11. #11
    Elite Rider Hermes's Avatar
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    Learning to ride a tandem is easy, fun, perfect for long distances and the start up time to becoming a good team short. Taking a tandem for the very first outing on an organized public century with the hords of other inexperienced riders to deal with is madness.

    You will suffer. It is just a matter of what type of suffering - crashing, knee pain, butt pain, back or neck pain, mechanical problems and / or extra time taking breaks for lack of ability to move around in the saddle. I would not take a new custom built $10,000 single with all the trappings on a century without some saddle time to adjust to the idiosyncrasies of the bike and fit.

    Take a first aid kit and hope there is a sag wagon. Ride solo and stay out of pace lines so that you do not endanger other riders.

    This is the equivalent of running a marathon in a brand new pair of running shoes very bad idea with more potential consequences than sore blistered feet and a DNF.
    "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Einstein

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hermes View Post
    Taking a tandem for the very first outing on an organized public century with the hords of other inexperienced riders to deal with is madness.
    Yes it is madness. But that is the attraction. To do something different.

    My first metric century was madness. I had been riding a bike for a week.

    My first real century was madness. I was woefully unprepared.

    So this just fits with my MO.

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    BG BikeGarage's Avatar
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    No, it's not madness!!! You will be fine and will remember this ride for years.

    Based on my experience, tandem will feel slower than your single bike (or should I say slower than your half bike). Take it easy and go by effort, not the feel of how fast you are going. You may need to ride a gear or two lower than your single. I would not draft but would allow other people to catch mine. I will second JanMM's advice - don't hesitate to stop and make adjustments to your setup.

  14. #14
    Cycling since 1978 deanack's Avatar
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    Everything takes longer in a tandem. Braking is slower, turns are wider. DO NOT DRAFT SINGLES!!! They slow down too fast for you. If you can find another tandem OK. The captain will be sore in the arms, it takes alot of effort to control a tandem. Twice the weight. To get on the front swing your leg over the handlebars. Then place your feet as wide as you can with your hands on the drops for other rider to get on. Have fun, and keep talking. Tell the stroker that a bump is coming up, etc. I have been riding tandems since 1981, and they are alot of fun. The best time was four tandems with 8 guys on TOSRV. We did both days in a little less than 4 hours, stopping for lunch for 20 min. If you can ride together as much as you can before the big ride.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Old Hammer Boy's Avatar
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    Whatever the outcome, please write us (even if from the hospital) about the results. My wife and I did a full century about 2 weeks after we received our first tandem, about 2 years ago. It about killed us. We weren't dialed in and our hands, necks, and about everything else hurt for weeks after. But, we made it. It is possible, but not the brightest thing to do. Good luck...

  16. #16
    Senior Member Jinker's Avatar
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    Everyone who says a tandem stops slower than a single should either go get their brakes looked at by a really good wrench, or spend some time in a parking lot learning to really stop their bike. A tandem has a couple huge advantages over a single when it comes to stopping.

    1) The CofG is much further back from the front wheel, meaning lifting the rear wheel is nigh-on impossible under normal circumstances. This is the main limitation on how fast you can stop a single. For this reason alone a tandem can stop much faster in an emergency.

    2) There's a lot more weight on the rear wheel, meaning you can do a meaningful amount of braking with it, unlike on a single, where if you're braking hard, the rear wheel is just along for the ride.

    3) If you happen to lock up a wheel, the much longer wheelbase of a tandem gives you longer to react, relax your braking, regain traction and maintain control.

    I highly recommend reading this link for anyone who's not familiar with just how fast you can stop your tandems:

    http://www.gtgtandems.com/tech/emerstop.html

    That being said, there's a few basic skills captaining which *will* suck up some of your attention, which is reason enough not to be drafting close behind anyone who may stop suddenly or crash, or obscure obstacles/crashes down the road.

    1) You need to be that much more careful to provide a smooth ride for your stoker. Unweighting over pavement irregularities doesn't help the poor person in back who doesn't know about the pothole.

    2) You need to think ahead of time and communicate any gear/power output changes.

    3) You need to communicate ahead of time if you're going to shift your body around, stand, coast etc.

    Remember, communicate communicate communicate. Over time (heck, over the course of the century) much of this communication will come more naturally, your stoker will start to anticipate things, and be more comfortable with anticipating your movements/decisions. Eventually you won't even have to verbalize a lot of the stuff.

    A simple rule of thumb: You are responsible for everything, including your stoker's happiness and comfort. Your stoker is responsible for pedaling only, and keeping a quiet upper body (not upsetting the bike). At a stop, you unclip/put your foot down, the stoker can remain clipped in with feet on the pedals. This entails learning how to stabilize the bike properly at a stop, as well as how to get underway properly with a good solid first pedal stroke.

    From a fitness perspective, it sounds like you're both going to be fine for the ride. Remember to stop and stretch as it will be difficult to do so comfortably on the bike.

  17. #17
    Cycling since 1978 deanack's Avatar
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    Yes you can stop a tandem very quickly in a panic stop. But a paceline is not where you want to do that. They do not want to draft singles.

  18. #18
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    Mike,

    You are in for a challenge. Especially if you are going to attempt the Hotter n Hell Hundred in Wichita Falls, TX. It is going to be brutally humid this year with all the rain they have had. Have you done this ride on your single? There is usually 10,000+ bikes in this ride. Huge packs of riders and the majority want to draft a tandem. Please do not draft single bikes as most will not hold a steady pace and on a tandem it is harder to slow down to keep from running over him and then slower to get your speed back up after. We will be there on our IBIS Cousin It. Have fun and be extremely cautious.
    GOOD LUCK!

  19. #19
    Senior Member bschoen's Avatar
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    Drafting

    Others have responded with quite a few tips and I won't repeat anything they've proffered. This reply is specifically with respect to drafting.

    The first time we tried it, we had some difficulty. Mainly with maintaining a consistent distance between us and the single immediately ahead. We talked a lot, "pedal, coast, give it a little, OK - back off". Nothing worked. We were yo-yoing and not doing the line any favors. So we moved to the rear to practice.

    We finally found something that worked. I eventually told the stoker to maintain steady effort on the pedals. Then I (the captain) would regulate the gap by either working a bit more or a bit less. Worked like a charm.

    Now, on the hills I still tell her to get after it so we can keep up. But on the flats the system above works pretty well. For us anyway.

    We're now comfortable in a pace line and rotate our way to the front just like any other rider to take our turn pulling. We can comfortably run anywhere up to about 26 mph in a pace line and have no major problems. Only real issue we have is occasionallly getting the line to move past when we rotate out - thsi when the really strong riders are absent that day. Seems that when they're gone, the rest like our pace and want to slow a bit when we pull off. But there are those occasions when the big boys bump it up to 27-28 and we can't hang.

    It's great fun, try it at the rear until you get the hang of it (won't take long) then move up when you're comfortable.

    Brad

  20. #20
    pan y agua merlinextraligh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jinker View Post
    Everyone who says a tandem stops slower than a single should either go get their brakes looked at by a really good wrench, or spend some time in a parking lot learning to really stop their bike. A tandem has a couple huge advantages over a single when it comes to stopping.
    However the tandem has one big disadvantage in stopping, you have double the mass to stop, and essentially the same size contact patch. Given that the ultimate limiter is the available friction with the ground, this disadvantage is going to be difficult to overcome.

    The advantages for the tandem that you list, are all reasons that it's easier to stop a tandem fast (i.e. easier to control panic braking) but they don't make it stop faster compared to a single bike properly operated.

    I'm certain a skilled rider that knows how to shift their weight back, and modulate both brakes independently, can stop a single bike in a shorter distance than a tandem.

  21. #21
    Terri's Captain RickinFl's Avatar
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    If you are in a paceline on your single and the guy on the single in front of you stops pedaling, if you stop pedaling, you'll probably be fine- both bikes slow down at more or less the same rate.

    If you are on a tandem behind that same single and he stops pedaling, if you just stop pedaling, you'll overtake and hit him- the tandem has more momentum because of the greater mass, and doesn't slow down as quickly as the single. You'll need to use your brakes a little to avoid touching wheels (which can be tricky if someone is on your wheel). This is probably what someone meant when they posted earlier that "tandems don't stop as quickly".

    As a long time tandem captain, I can tell you that riding in a pack of singles requires more than average attentiveness, and can be very stressful, especially in the presence of single riders that do not have good paceline/ pack riding skills.

    On the other hand, when I've had the rare opportunity to ride my tandem with a pack of other skilled tandem couples, the results are delightful, and such a group can move along at a very quick pace indeed.

    Rick

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    I'll be starting in a pack of tandems. The rec singletons will follow. But I imagine that things will break up as some of the tandems stop for snacks and bathroom breaks and such, while others skip them.

  23. #23
    Senior Member Jinker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by merlinextraligh View Post
    However the tandem has one big disadvantage in stopping, you have double the mass to stop, and essentially the same size contact patch. Given that the ultimate limiter is the available friction with the ground, this disadvantage is going to be difficult to overcome.

    The advantages for the tandem that you list, are all reasons that it's easier to stop a tandem fast (i.e. easier to control panic braking) but they don't make it stop faster compared to a single bike properly operated.

    I'm certain a skilled rider that knows how to shift their weight back, and modulate both brakes independently, can stop a single bike in a shorter distance than a tandem.
    This may be true on an oil patch, sandy pavement, or dirt/gravel where you stand a chance of locking up your front wheel, but in any of those cases the coefficient of friction does not necessarily decrease with greater tire pressure. (You're assuming the tandem is running higher tire pressure up there) These are special cases.

    That being said, riding a single on dry pavement, I defy you to lock up your front wheel without going over the handlebars on a drop bar road bike. It simply can't be done. The bike's center of gravity is too high, and too close to the front wheel. As soon as you've transferred 100% of the weight to the front wheel and the rear wheel starts to lift, you've reached your maximum braking capability. Any additional traction at that point is not available to you to slow down, as it will just launch you over the handlebars.

    On a tandem, the center of gravity is much, much further back from the front wheel, and you can in fact use 100% of your available traction and lock up the front wheel without going over the front. I'll have to look up some numbers/measurements to determine the magnitude of the difference, but the math shouldn't be too difficult.

  24. #24
    Senior Member Jinker's Avatar
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    Oh, and again, absolute braking capabilities of the tandem aside, you really should give yourself extra time and space until you're really comfortable captaining. Avoid drafting other bikes closely(you probably will have people drafting you) and give yourself some space. Try to remember that you're still benefiting from the ideal draft of your stoker 100% of the time. That should make you feel better.

  25. #25
    Radfahrer Rincewind8's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jinker View Post
    ...and you can in fact use 100% of your available traction and lock up the front wheel without going over the front.
    A locked up wheel does not provide the highest coefficient of friction and is therefore less then ideal for archiving the shortest braking distance.
    TH 1.81 (133kg*62)

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