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  1. #1
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    What should you do?

    A good friend of mine was riding his single bike down one of Bloomington, Indiana's more famous hills. He was going about 43 mph when he believes his rear tire blew. He lost control, the bike went off the road and both the cyclist and the bike went end over end, the cyclist first. Fortunately, there were companions riding along so 911 was called immediately.

    He suffered a dislocated clavicle, three broken ribs, punctured lung, and a good helping of road rash. His helmet split in two at contact with the ground. No other injuries.

    Does a tandem react any differently than a single at high speeds when experiencing a blow out?

    Besides yelling oh s...!!, what can a tandem captain do if he/she suffers a front tire blowout at speeds over 25 mph?

    What can you do if the rear tire blows at these speeds?

    Part of my joy in riding tandems is the sense of speed going down hills - this weekend we hit 53.9 mph on one of our favorite hills. Speed vs. risk - something we all have to weigh. Be careful out there.

    Counselguy

  2. #2
    In media luce erro dejinshathe's Avatar
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    Put your head between your knees and kiss your sweet šš goodbye?

    Sorry, I realise that isn't at all helpful, but really, it's all I can think of just now; I mean, I can't imagine I'd have time, at that speed, to even get more than two letters of a four-letter-word out before the bike just fell over.
    Last edited by dejinshathe; 10-08-07 at 08:59 PM.
    The automobile has not merely taken over the street, it has dissolved the
    living tissue of the city. Its appetite for space is absolutely insatiable;
    moving and parked, it devours urban land, leaving the buildings as mere
    islands of habitable space in a sea of dangerous and ugly traffic.
    -James Marston Fitch, historic preservationist (1909-2000)
    ---

  3. #3
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    Well the last (and first) real accident we had was 5kms from the end of a 100km fun ride. The bunch of about 15 we were in (of which we were the only Tandem) was doing about 40 km/h.

    The guy in front of me tapped his brakes a little hard (to this day we cannot work out why). Apparently my stoker remembers me saying oh s...!! All I remember was the front wheel sliding past the rear wheel of the guy in front, then picking myself off the pavement.

    The interesting thing is the tandem did not behave anywhere like how I expected it too. We are not a light tandem team weighing in at over 400lbs - I always expected forwards momentum to just push us through (and roll over the guy in front). Instead the front wheel was flicked 180 deg (with the handlebars stopping when they hit the frame) and we skidded sideways down the road (almost like as if I was on my single). Very surprisingly the bike was mostly intact and the wheel was true. I had a moderate case of road rash and my stoker came off the worste breaking her collarbone. Unfortunatly the bike did not fit into the ambo or sag wagon so I had to make some running repairs and ride it to the finish alone.

    To me this says in general the tandem would probably handle just as unpredictably to a single in the event of a blowout. The only thing you can't really do is an endo on an emergency stop.

    I have had a slower speed blowout (hit a large rock) probably doing about 15mph at the time. I was able to bring the bike to a controlled stop comfortably.

    So far top speed for us is 102km/h. We know we could go faster on that particular hill, but I am cautious of a corner about 1/3 of the way down.

    End of the day as you say it is all about risk - and remembering that you are responsible for 2
    Last edited by thebearnz; 10-08-07 at 10:12 PM.

  4. #4
    rebmeM roineS JanMM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by counselguy View Post
    A good friend of mine was riding his single bike down one of Bloomington, Indiana's more famous hills. He was going about 43 mph when he believes his rear tire blew. He lost control, the bike went off the road and both the cyclist and the bike went end over end, the cyclist first. Fortunately, there were companions riding along so 911 was called immediately.

    He suffered a dislocated clavicle, three broken ribs, punctured lung, and a good helping of road rash. His helmet split in two at contact with the ground. No other injuries.

    Does a tandem react any differently than a single at high speeds when experiencing a blow out?

    Besides yelling oh s...!!, what can a tandem captain do if he/she suffers a front tire blowout at speeds over 25 mph?

    What can you do if the rear tire blows at these speeds?

    Part of my joy in riding tandems is the sense of speed going down hills - this weekend we hit 53.9 mph on one of our favorite hills. Speed vs. risk - something we all have to weigh. Be careful out there.

    Counselguy
    I take it your friend will miss the Hilly Hundred this year. Speedy recovery!
    I learned to ride as an adult in and around Bloomington and love flying down the Hilly hills on my 'bent (Saturday) and on our tandem (Sunday). The main hazard of the Hilly is that 5,000 cyclists can clog the roads, and that can certainly make for some interesting descents. Max speeds last year was the same for both bikes - 36mph. "I Brake for Congested Downhills".

  5. #5
    Uber Goober StephenH's Avatar
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    Not being the pro rider exactly- my idea is that if you're going to ride at motorcycle speeds, you need a motorcycle frame, motorcycle wheels, motorcycle leathers, and motorcycle helmet. Just because something will roll that fast doesn't make it a good idea. There are mountain passes where you could hit 120 in a semi, but that doesn't mean you should.

  6. #6
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    There are a few things you can do to prevent a crash before hand, even fewer once you have a problem and luck will probably have more to do with the final outcome than anything else.

    A flat is probably one of the more rare things that will bite you on a high speed descent unless you hit something that causes a flat or have a somewhat rare tire blow-off caused by excessive rim brake heating. Instead, it's the other types of unexpected things that can cause the biggest problems, such as debris on the road, on coming cars crossing the centerline into your lane, cars pulling out or turning in front of you or, as we experienced just two weeks ago, another cyclist doing something stupid and unexpected that puts you at risk. In short, knowing 'when, where, and how' it's safe to bomb the hills, keeping your wits about you, looking for an escape route, and maintaining control while keeping relaxed is your best bet for avoiding a crash.

    That said, here's something I wrote about 7 years ago at Hobbes in response to a similar question.


    1) What can happen that can cause a crash at higher speeds?

    Just about anything you don't expect!!! But not very often.... Knock on
    wood, in about 10,000mi of tandem riding over the past couple of years I
    can only recall one flat at 45mph (thank goodness it was the rear), one
    48mph heeled over as far as you dare go turn that scared the chamois off
    of Debbie (the single bike guys were way impressed with that one), and the
    usual cars pulling out, bugs in the face, etc... none of which resulted in
    a crash. Single bike accidents, uhhhh - lost count of the minor ones long
    ago and they almost all involved contact with another bike.

    Seriously, based on what I've seen with all types of two wheeled machines,
    the #1 cause of non-car related single bike accidents on high speed
    descents is pilot error - riding too fast for conditions, on unfamilar
    roads, and beyond your abilities (and usually a combination of all three).
    These types of accidents usually occur when a tire looses adhesion with
    the road resulting in a low-side crash (i.e., the bike slides out from
    underneath the rider(s) vs a high sider where the rider(s) are thrown over
    the bike) or "run-off-the-road-into-whatever-is-there" and pray that no
    cars are coming in the on-coming lane. Primary culprit - aside from the
    aforementioned pilot error - is sand and loose soil that wash into curves
    during rain fall. Front flats (or rolling-off sew-ups in a turn for some -
    been there done that on a hot day racing) are probably the second most
    common cause of "there's nothing you can do about it" downhill or high
    speed single bike crashes.

    Truth is, you're more likely to have an accident on a bicycle if you ride
    in large groups (can you say, Mass Start at a charity ride event) or in a
    pace line. Multi-bike accidents are easily account for the majority of
    road bike accidents - far more so than single bike accidents on fast
    descents. Moreover, wheel to wheel contact at 15 - 20 mph is as likely to
    cause a broken collar bone, wrist or concussion (some of the most common
    non-car related bike injuries beyond road rash) as a crash at 40mph. The
    higher speeds will definitely take more flesh off but the initial impact
    is where my experience tells me that the bones fracture and break. I'm
    sure one of the good doctors out there will quantify or correct me on this.

    As far as concern over injuries, if I might be so bold, crashes are bad at
    any speed and speed is only one of many factors that will dictate the
    extent of your injuries. Therefore it's best to avoid them at all costs.
    To that end, always take care of the things that are in your span of
    control to reduce your chances of a crash: ride in control and within your
    abilities; wear a helmet; wear eye protection, keep your machine in top
    condition; use equipment that is strong enough for your weight and riding
    style; and always expect the unexpected. Beyond that fate, luck, mental
    lapses, and other riders, etc… will have more to do with a non-car related
    bike accident than anything else and those things are usually out of your
    span of control. Off-road riding will go a long way towards improving your
    bike handling skills, as will racing and effective cycling classes which
    could improve your chances of recovering from an unexpected event.
    However, even the best bike handlers get hammered when the unexpected
    happens and the margin for recovery is too slim.

    Bottom Line: It is good to think about such things as the welfare of your
    stokers when you take up tandem riding since they must place their safety
    solely within your hands. Be sure of your own skills and abilities and
    always have an out when riding with others whose skills and experience may
    be lacking - they'll get you every time.
    Last edited by TandemGeek; 10-08-07 at 09:59 PM.

  7. #7
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Have had several tandem crashes/near crashes at speed, in our decades of riding as a duo.
    Front tire blowout at just over 30mph coming down an incline. Pilot depends on relfex (experience?) . . . do NOT touch the front brake, sit up to catch wind to slow bike, then tap rear brake ever so lightly. Came to a full stop. It had been a bit like riding a bronco, but survived fine. Rim and tire were fine, put in new tube and finished ride with a very shook up stoker (thanks Kay!).
    Other downhill 30+ mph descent in tuck/coasting mode. Inexplicably drive chain bounced from small cog to between chainstay and rear dropout. Result: instantaneous stop! Pilot does his paratrooper roll over the bars (thinking: 'whathehell?') . . . again reflex. Stoker is disadvantaged on a tandem and cannot roll over her bars and goes down with the bike.
    Assessed bodies. No broken bones, but road rash for both: pilot huge hematoma on the hip, stoker massive roadrash head to ankle with a black eye. Undoubtedly helmet saved her from a concussion. Tandem: pretzled front wheel . . . makes sense, sudden stop and something had to give . . it did.
    Got ride home from a passing motorist who knew us and saw it happen. He thought it was 'spectacular'.
    Replaced front wheel and next weekend we were pedaling a 200-mile 3-day loop by the Grand Canyon's south rim; hey, we had planned the trip and got out there and did it. Got some inquisitve looks along the way, especially with a little guy on the front of the tandem that seemingly was a 'wife beater' . . . just look at that poor girl! Funny, at Desert View Overlook we stopped for a break, and a British tourist couple saw us and asked Kay: "Say luv, did you fall off your bicycle?" It made our day!
    Hit twice on tandem by motor vehicles. One a slow speed crash by a new 17 year old driver stopping at a stop sign as we were making left turn coming through the intersection. He stopped, looked both ways and stepped on the gas! Of course tandems are invisible! Pilot swerved away while stoker still had her hand out signaling a left turn; she pushed on the hood . . . (supergirl?). No broken bones but lots of collateral damage. $2,200 worth (and that was back in 1978).
    Hit by a pickup truck just a couple years ago. Riding at noontime, nice AZ sunny day on a quiet frontage road next to I-10, and we get struck from behind. Foldable (lucky) side mirror hits Kay in the back and truck is 1/4-inch from pilot's fingertips. Again reflex; instinct would say dive away to the right. But there was a big ditch, so held my line. Did not go down.
    Truck eventually stopped and driver in his 70s (yeah about Rudy's age) claims he did not see us. Heck it was Halloween and we were wearing a bright orange fade Co-Motion jersey . . .what's not to see? Driver had restricted license and glaucoma and of course, NO car insurance.
    No damage to the tandem and Kay got hauled off in an ambulance (at pilot's insistence) and checked out at the hospital where she was pronounced as severely bruised, but OK.
    Rear tire blowouts are easier to handle (done a couple) than front blowouts as it does not affect steering.
    When crashing, keep your cool, don't tighten grip on handlebars, relax (!) and react. Crashing and rolling over the bars for pilot is normally best. Stoker . . . sorry dear, you're stuck and go down with the bike.
    While you're probably shaking your heads about these 'unlucky tandemers', luck only plays a small part in surviving these thing
    While we no longer do 50+ mph descents, we admit have done quite a few in our younger days . . . wheeeee!
    There is a trade-off between risk/speed/safety; and no matter what, stuff's gonna happen.
    After 200,000+ miles of riding TWOgether, we're amazed we're still alive and well . . . heck, if you do nothing, you'll die anyway!
    Pedal on TWOgether!
    Rudy and Kay/zonatandem

  8. #8
    Senior Member ftsoft's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by counselguy View Post
    A good friend of mine was riding his single bike down one of Bloomington, Indiana's more famous hills. He was going about 43 mph when he believes his rear tire blew. He lost control, the bike went off the road and both the cyclist and the bike went end over end, the cyclist first. Fortunately, there were companions riding along so 911 was called immediately.

    He suffered a dislocated clavicle, three broken ribs, punctured lung, and a good helping of road rash. His helmet split in two at contact with the ground. No other injuries.

    Does a tandem react any differently than a single at high speeds when experiencing a blow out?

    Besides yelling oh s...!!, what can a tandem captain do if he/she suffers a front tire blowout at speeds over 25 mph?

    What can you do if the rear tire blows at these speeds?

    Part of my joy in riding tandems is the sense of speed going down hills - this weekend we hit 53.9 mph on one of our favorite hills. Speed vs. risk - something we all have to weigh. Be careful out there.

    Counselguy
    Well 43 mph is a lot different than "over" 25. I've survived rear blowouts on both the single and the tandem at around 30mph. but I wouldn't like my chances on the single at 43. The tandem blowout wasn't too bad at 35mph. Even the retro wiggly Motobecane behaved pretty well, slowing under control and stopping without much drama. Having said that, The terrain would make a big difference. My 30mph blowout (in Bloomington at the hilly BTW) was pretty dramatic because of the road curvature and surface.

    Frank

  9. #9
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    I've often worried about blowouts. I now think that unexpected unexplained blowouts are pretty rare. I try to inspect the tires before each ride. I watch for road debris like a hawk. If we a braking a lot going down switchbacks, sometimes we'll stop to allow the rims to cool down.

    Also, in group rides, we almost never ride behind another rider. If other bikes want to draft us, fine. But for me, the risk/reward of drafting a single on our tandem just doesn't add up. When I ride with others at lunch (on my single), I draft all the time but it still makes me nervous. If I ever crash in a paceline, my paceline days will be over.

  10. #10
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    The most dangerous place is the couch, sit on it for too long and you are certain to get heart disease and many other ailments worst than the risk broken bones or road rash that we need to live with as cyclists.

  11. #11
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    pwe love pace lines with people we know and/or trust. >50% of the ridding we do involves pace lines. Most of the time we pull or draft off other tandems but we will follow singles in moderate inclines. Our down hill speed limit is 45 MPH and 35 MPH if turns are involved.

    The only front blow out was on the triple and we went down with minor scratches. Multiple rear blow outs at different sppeds ususally involving pinch flats... no problem.

    Maybe some captains have a mind that is fast/cool enough to decide during the milliseconds following a blow out wich brake to apply and which brake to leave alone... i just apply both brakes gently until the bike stops.
    Last edited by cornucopia72; 10-09-07 at 12:58 PM.

  12. #12
    Senior Member teamcompi's Avatar
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    front tire blows

    We have had this happen a lot of times especially on the front wheel. My problem was fully loaded touring with a kid stoker. It took a while to compute but the flats we were getting was due to the heat from the Vee brake heating up the front rim causing the tubes to come apart at the seams. She now applies the drum brake with as much force as possible when needed. (The new tandem was made for Disc brakes)

    Regardless I have had this happen a large number of times, always going fast down hill, I try to keep calm and just stay off the front brake, and ride it out, it gets a little weird but I have always been able to hold it together.....the funky monkey we call it.

    Our tandems seem to pick up the oddest things on the rear wheel, these flats have always been from debris of some sort. rear wheel flats do not scare me half as much stay calm and ride it out. Its sort of like driving on snow just go easy on the brakes and stay calm.

  13. #13
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    "We have had this happen a lot of times especially on the front wheel."

    Wow!. Maybe we just don't have enough miles (~10k on the tandem) but we've never had a blowout. Teamcompi - you must be an expert at handling a tandem at high speed with a front blowout. It will be just fine with me to never experience this. We often descend steep hills with tight switchbacks (which tends to cause rim heating) and our highest ever speed is 58 mph.

    It gives me the heebie-jeebies when I think about it.

  14. #14
    Junior Member wgfletcher's Avatar
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    Big thing is to not overcorrect.

    Front Tire - hold wheel steady, do not turn, have your legs hold the top tube and gently slow with the back brake only. Tell stoker to be extremelly still. Don't try to slow down too fast, gradully without any sudden moves.

    Rear - pretty much the same, but you can use your front brake.

  15. #15
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    What Should You Do

    Thanks so much for all of your posts - much helpful advice. Particularly liked hearing about your various experiences "on the edge" and how you reacted. I know I have read a post somewhere - maybe Tandem Link - on emergency stops.

    Advice about not panicking and letting the bike slow down make perfect sense provided the bike lets you do that. My stoker had several accidents as a teenager and young adult on her bike so still has fear about going our 53mph - she is a good sport though as I know others who would never let me go that fast.

    I have a good friend who is an orthopedic surgeon who doesn't go over 25 mph down hills. Major injury to him would be catastrophic in terms of his livelihood.

    Key seems to be reducing the risks through anticipation, good equipment in excellent condition, experience, total concentration (my achilles heel) and room to maneuver.
    Counselguy

  16. #16
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    If you are going to be pre-occupied with 'what if we crash' . . . then you likely will crash!
    Positive attitiude, keeping alert to your surroundings/conditions and not panicking when stuff happens
    seems to be key.
    Yes, milliseconds count when making a decision. After the happening, analyze what you did and what you could have done better/different. Don't go faster than pilot/stoker is comfortable with. And having a stoker (like Kay) who puts complete trust in pilot is wonderful; yes, she's been scared, but has always hung in there and is ready to ride some more next time.
    Am fortunate that my cycling reflexes are still quite good; near misses don't count!
    Be safe! Have fun!
    Pedal on TWOgether!
    Rudy and Kay/zonatandem

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