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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 11-19-07, 01:34 PM   #1
dbg
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anybody ride solo on a tandem?

On next summer's Wisconsin trip I'm considering taking a tandem. I have kids and wife who only peripherally enjoy biking but go on the trip for the social expereince. I'd like to offer them the option to ride a tandem with me. Nobody would commit in advance to doing so, and it's possible that they won't embrace it on the trip either. So I might be stuck riding it solo for much of the trip mileage.

I'm currently rebuilding an old MelPinto Special that has been handed around the extended family (brothers and sisters and in-laws) for 30+ years. Would it be so terrible if I get stuck doing most of the mileage solo?
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Old 11-19-07, 01:41 PM   #2
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When we were tandem touring in Europe with a group, several stokers became ill leaving the captains to ride alone for a day. I think the captains were a little more tired than usual at the end of the day but they seemed to fare well.
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Old 11-19-07, 02:30 PM   #3
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Have ridden tandem solo several times. Not a problem.
Longest was 40 miles with lots of climbing . . . much nicer gearing on tandem than my single, so it was
just fine.
You can always put sign on back of tandem: 'Help wanted'!
Not too many of those imported Mel Pintos around!
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Old 11-19-07, 03:12 PM   #4
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Half of my commute each way every day is solo on the tandem.

I've done hilly (3,000' or so) metrics on the tandem. Being the commute bike, it's always "ready to go", including lights/fenders/tools/pump/etc., so some weekends it's just easier to hop on to the tandem and go.

Depending on what you're comparing, it may not be too different weight-wise than a single loaded for touring. Like zonatandem sez -- low tandem gearing means no big deal, so long as you're not in a hurry. Then again, I'm a good 200 pounds myself, so what's a couple of dozen extra pounds of bike going to matter?

Be prepared, though, that the "she's not pedaling!" jokes will turn into "you lost somebody!" jokes.

Just don't slam on the rear brakes, especially not in a turn.

-Greg
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Old 11-19-07, 03:51 PM   #5
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Only thing that bothers me riding solo are the cages on the stoker pedals that sometimes hit the ground, use clipless pedals and you take care of that, but then you need cycling shoes for each of your stokers. I tried some cages that clip onto an SPD pedal, but at least the ones I tried were very uncomfortable. Platform pedals without cages are not recomended on a tendem, loose the pedals and you get hit in the calf by the next pedal cycle.
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Old 11-19-07, 04:15 PM   #6
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Many times from the front. Never tried it from the back. Let me know how this goes.

Aside from the additional weight & slower handling, it's not much different than a single. The biggest caution though is that if you're used to effective rear braking, rear braking w/o a stoker is almost non-existent.
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Old 11-19-07, 04:19 PM   #7
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It can be dangerous depending on the terrain- you basically have no rear brake (it'll lock if you use it less than gently), and the steering is flakey.

A few years back on Cycle Oregon a guy that had lost his stoker insisted on riding his tandem down Old McKenzie Pass on the west side. He died on the descent in a switchback when he went over the side, probably because of a locked rear wheel and poor directional control.

It's your choice, but I would recommend against it.

Rick
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Old 11-19-07, 05:55 PM   #8
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I find that I get reasonable rear braking with the Burley Moose rack, two Kryptonites, lock cable, tools, spares, lunch, change of clothes, stoker's helmet, wallet, keys, loose change, the odd book, and who knows what else weighing down on the rear of my ~47lb tandem on a commute day.

Sure, one good squeeze and the rear is locked, and you don't want to mess around in a turn, but my rear brake is available and useful when I ride my tandem solo.

I don't experience flakey steering.

-Greg
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Old 11-19-07, 06:01 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RickinFl View Post
A few years back on Cycle Oregon a guy that had lost his stoker insisted on riding his tandem down Old McKenzie Pass on the west side. He died on the descent in a switchback when he went over the side, probably because of a locked rear wheel and poor directional control.
From a 1998 Tandem@Hobbes post:

Quote:
Originally Posted by tandem_at_hobbes
No one was around when that guy killed himself, so we don't exactly know
what happened. We do know that it was rainy and cold (big surprise in the
Pacific Northwest, right?). His son gave up at the top of the pass because
the weather was just too bad, but his father, who was a known risk taker,
decided to push on alone. This time, the risk taking got him. I'm not
making the statement about risk taking without knowledge of the man- I
lived in his hometown of Eugene at the time, and the local paper did a
write up on him after his death in which his family members stated that he
was definitely an adventurer and risk-taker.
In the same thread, Sheldon Brown writes:

Quote:
Originally Posted by capt_bike
Stokerless riding is not inherently dangerous, but while riding stokerless,
it is important to avoid the use of the rear brake. If you use the rear
brake by itself, you won't get enough stopping power to be of any use, and
if you use both brakes you are almost certain to skid the rear wheel.
Skidding the rear wheel while applying a front brake is very likely to
cause "fishtailing" as the rear of the bike loses its directional stability
in a skid, and tries to pass the decellerting front of the bike.

For more on this, see my article on braking and turning: http://www.sheldonbrown.com/brakturn.html

A friend of mine did a two-year tour stokerless on a tandem...think of it
as a touring bike with extra-long chainstays ;-) You can read about this
at: http://www.sheldonbrown.com/galen/index.html
-Greg
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Old 11-19-07, 06:11 PM   #10
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Old 11-19-07, 09:01 PM   #11
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Why am I not entirely surprised to see this! Half a Captain/Half a Stoker! See it now!
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Old 11-19-07, 09:26 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Xanti Andia View Post
Only thing that bothers me riding solo are the cages on the stoker pedals that sometimes hit the ground, use clipless pedals and you take care of that, but then you need cycling shoes for each of your stokers. I tried some cages that clip onto an SPD pedal, but at least the ones I tried were very uncomfortable. Platform pedals without cages are not recomended on a tendem, loose the pedals and you get hit in the calf by the next pedal cycle.
Connect a bungee cord from the back of the captain's pedal to the cage of the stoker's pedal; that will keep both cages upright.
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Old 11-20-07, 10:30 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dbg View Post
On next summer's Wisconsin trip I'm considering taking a tandem. I have kids and wife who only peripherally enjoy biking but go on the trip for the social expereince. I'd like to offer them the option to ride a tandem with me. Nobody would commit in advance to doing so, and it's possible that they won't embrace it on the trip either. So I might be stuck riding it solo for much of the trip mileage.

I'm currently rebuilding an old MelPinto Special that has been handed around the extended family (brothers and sisters and in-laws) for 30+ years. Would it be so terrible if I get stuck doing most of the mileage solo?
I think that Mel Pinto is the same as my old Motobecane. It weighs about 50 lbs and while I have ridden it solo, I haven't been too comfortable doing so.

Frank
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Old 11-20-07, 11:46 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dbg View Post
On next summer's Wisconsin trip I'm considering taking a tandem. I have kids and wife who only peripherally enjoy biking but go on the trip for the social expereince. I'd like to offer them the option to ride a tandem with me. Nobody would commit in advance to doing so, and it's possible that they won't embrace it on the trip either. So I might be stuck riding it solo for much of the trip mileage.

Would it be so terrible if I get stuck doing most of the mileage solo?
I think it's a great idea and I would definitely do it. I ride our tandem solo to pick up my SO from work sometimes. I also rode it solo down a steep 7 mile descent and I had or problem keeping control of the bike.
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Old 11-20-07, 11:51 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by ftsoft View Post
It weighs about 50 lbs and while I have ridden it solo, I haven't been too comfortable doing so.
I would think that a heavier tandem is better for riding solo than a lighter tandem, but I don't know if you're associating the weight with your comfort level here.

I spend roughly three times as much time riding my tandem than riding single bikes. These days, singles often feel squirrelly to me, almost as if they have rear-wheel steering. My tandem may be less nimble, but it feels very stable.

-Greg
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Old 11-20-07, 11:51 AM   #16
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I think that Mel Pinto is the same as my old Motobecane. It weighs about 50 lbs and while I have ridden it solo, I haven't been too comfortable doing so.

Frank
I haven't built it up yet. It's getting powder coated this week. The frame completely stripped weighed in at 13 lbs. At least initially I will use much of the original build (atom rear hub) with some minor changes (strange front lever modified to pull double cable to both the atom drum and rear caliper definitely gets changed). I was hoping it would come in just above 30lbs. Maybe I'm dreaming.

If I really like it, I may upgrade wheels and hubs.
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Old 11-20-07, 01:22 PM   #17
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I have ridden on occasion solo as captain and found that immediately after my stoker had gotten off, that the tandem became very sensitive in the steering until I got use to it. Should note that my stoker is heaver than I, so as I did the little steering corrections, I did not have the weight to dampen the feel. You get use to in in a couple miles though.

As far as braking goes do be careful. You just have to be aware and adjust your speed to compensate for lack of weight over the rear tire.

I do get comments such as "where is your stoker" or "your stoker is missing" and my reply is "Oh my gosh, did she fall off again?"

On various large rides I have seen inflatable life size dolls strapped in place back there. Always good for a laugh.
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Old 11-20-07, 01:53 PM   #18
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Ralph Galen's experience has been alluded to in a Sheldon Brown quote above. Ralph is
or was a retired orthodontist from Boston who, in his early '70s, planned a grand tandem trip
around Europe with his lady friend, who unfortunately died before they could do this.
Ralph, in the advanced stages of planning, and being a long time tourer, decided to
convert the tandem to a single bike using the stoker compartment as mounts for
elaborate panniers and did the trip by himself. He subsequently published a book on the
experience ~10-12yrs ago.
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Old 11-20-07, 07:29 PM   #19
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Easier than the bungee trick is to just use the cage straps themselves. I unthread them from the top of the pedal, put them around the crank arm and back through the top of the cage and cinch it down. They no longer flip around, it takes 15 seconds to do, and I don't have to carry anything extra.

I do this a few times a week when I pick up my stoker at work.
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Old 11-20-07, 07:59 PM   #20
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I often commuted solo on my 1978 Santa Sovereign Tandem to and from work for many years. Once at work I visited clients at home and at schools on the tandem as a juvenile probation officer.

The tandem allowed me to do cycle-therapy with kids cutting school or having problems at home. Once on the tandem the kids tended to relax and talked more freely about their problems than in the office. They liked the challenge of riding and the feeling of doing something different and positive. Kids need to see adults model positive behavioral choices that they can try for themselves.

They were always surprised at how fast the old man up front could propel the bike without breathing very hard. If the kids started the ride with a cigarette it did not last long. Lots of unspoken lessons on the tandem!
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Old 11-20-07, 09:32 PM   #21
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Quote:
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Ralph Galen's experience has been alluded to in a Sheldon Brown quote above. Ralph is
or was a retired orthodontist from Boston...
Is, not "was." I saw him when he dropped in to the shop to see me last week. He's looking good, still riding and could probably dust half of the guys on this forum! ;-)

Quote:
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Easier than the bungee trick is to just use the cage straps themselves. I unthread them from the top of the pedal, put them around the crank arm and back through the top of the cage and cinch it down. They no longer flip around, it takes 15 seconds to do, and I don't have to carry anything extra.
That's not "easier" because you have to do and undo it every time you go from stoked to stokerless.

The bungees just go on and stay on forever. They also make it easier to get into the toke lips.

Actually, on mine, I used sewing elastic tied to the pedals. Worked great, very light. You can see 'em in the photos above if you look closely.

Back in the day, this was pretty much standard for savy tandemists who used toke lips. Kinda becoming a lost bit of lore in these clipless times.

Sheldon "Usedta" Brown
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Old 11-20-07, 10:01 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jinker View Post
Easier than the bungee trick is to just use the cage straps themselves. I unthread them from the top of the pedal, put them around the crank arm and back through the top of the cage and cinch it down. They no longer flip around, it takes 15 seconds to do, and I don't have to carry anything extra.

I do this a few times a week when I pick up my stoker at work.
The bungee trick is easier. There's no need to remove them; just leave the bungees on.

Edit: Whoops...Answered before seeing Sheldon's reply.
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Old 11-20-07, 11:45 PM   #23
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Did the toestrap thing to keep clips from banging.
Never got around to doing the bungee cord thing . . . would have looked interesting seeing that we pedal OOP!
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Old 11-21-07, 06:41 AM   #24
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Turning the art of trolling for a stoker into a humanitarian act of kindness and bridge-building:
http://www.peacepedalers.com/

Yeah, a little off topic but what they hey: message traffic is a bit off with the holidays.
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Old 11-22-07, 09:21 PM   #25
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Stoker trolling?
Years ago we had fellow with a tandem trying to get a stoker . .
Told him to show up on club ride with sign on back "Help Wanted" . . .
Sure enough, it worked!
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