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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 12-15-07, 12:15 PM   #1
mooncricket
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Anyone taken a spill/accident on a tandem?

I've had a few spills on MTB and road bikes, two serious incidences, others mostly scrapes and bruises. Never with a passenger.

Just wondering what type of damage or accidents are common for tandem riders.

Any experiences/stories to share?
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Old 12-15-07, 01:57 PM   #2
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Only low speed or no speed ones. I dumped my son in a low speed u turn where I ran out of road. I dumped my wife while we were trying to start up on the side of a country road- I didn't allow for the crown of the road while we were clipping in- Luckily we landed in the grass on the shoulder. I do try to ride more conservatively because I know I am responsible for someone else. Large group rides with lots of single riders weaving in and out during starts are nerve wracking- usually I hang near the back to avoid a collision.
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Old 12-15-07, 08:14 PM   #3
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Had a front tire blow out while doing 20 to 23 mph... almost pulled it out but stokers did not like the bronco ride and we went down at about 10-12 mph... only minor scratches. That has been our only fall in several years of tandeming.

We generally ride with singles and other tandems mostly on pace lines. It is very hard to follow ridders with little or no experience, so in groups of unknown ability we just take the front and pull hard to help things sort out. Very seldom would a novice ridder stay with us unless we purposely wait.
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Old 12-15-07, 08:48 PM   #4
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Crashes:
Downhill at 30+mph when chain bounced and jammed between small cog and dropout. Instant stop. Pilot rolled over bars, stoker goes down with the tandem. Massive roadrash on stoker (head to toe) and pilot has huge hematoma on right hip. Pretzled front wheel on tandem. Got new wheel, and 3 days later riding a 200 mile loop by the Grand Canyon.
Road construction in Arizona, massive muddy road. Mud clumping up on tires/brakes, slow motion fall over into the goop! Messy . . . mud all over us , no injuries.
Crossing a cattle guard (if you live out West you know what they are) and dropped wheel between 2 sections of cattle guard. Instant flipover bars for pilot. Stoker got feet down as front wheel of bike dropped between 2 sections of the steel guards and the QR caught . . . thus dropping about 13 inches of the front of tandem (lowrider?) between the section of cattleguard. No damage to bike, stoker bruised chest into her handlebar/stem, but was OK. Continued the ride!
Car hits:
Doored by big lady parking car and swinging her driver door wide open as we are making a left turn. Hit stoker's right fingers (she was in the drops) as pilot swung long bike to violently to the left. Did not fall down. Dumped cold water from water bottle on stoker's hand then iced it up when we finished ride.
At a 4-way stop: We stopped and turned left. Youngster on his first solo car ride. Stops, does not see us and hits us dead center on tandem as we are making our legal turn. He got the ticket. Damage to the tandem $2,200 (that's back in 1978). Stoker had to have wedding band cut off as her hand was swelling . . . she had pushed with her hand on the hood of the car making the turn . . . . Supergirl?
Hit by pickup truck at +/- 45 mph on a quiet frontage road. Driver cut us close and his westcoast mirror hit Kay in the back. Mirror busted and folded. Driver was about 1/4-inch from pilot's left hand on the bars. Natural tendency is to dive the bike to the right . . . however there was a nasty ditch there. Held my line and did not fall down. Driver finally stopped when he noticed his busted sideview mirror. Claims he did not see us. It was the day before Halloween and we were wearing a bright orange jersey . . . what's not to see? He got the ticket, had a restricted driver's license and no insurance. Stoker taken to hospital for observation. No broken bones, had to deal with chiropractor to fix her up good as new.
Sounds terrible?
However this is in 33 years and 200,000+ miles of riding TWOgether on tandems.
Yeah, we are alive and well and still pedaling! Our motto: Do nothing and you'll die anyway!
Rudy and Kay/zonatandem
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Old 12-15-07, 11:02 PM   #5
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Got doored at the end of the Chico Wildflower Century this year. I juked hard left as the pickup door came open but caught the end of the handlebars. I bounced off the door edge and stoker slammed into the side of the bed before we both wound up on our side, in the street. Luckily no cars coming. Taco front wheel and idiot driver blaming us for the crash as we should have been looking out for him:eek

Dropped the bike at the bottom of a hard downhill turn while dodging an suv that decided he wanted part of our lane. I got it slowed down to around 10 mph but the front wheel went off the road when the back wheel skidded. I got a big bruise on the left hip and stoker got road rash on her leg, butt, arm and shoulder. She got up cussing and I am still paying for that one.
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Old 12-16-07, 12:57 AM   #6
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Thanks for sharing!

Glad to hear all of you still riding tandem.

I'm new to tandem and pretty worried about hurting my stoker.

Keep the stories coming!
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Old 12-16-07, 06:30 AM   #7
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From the archives, something I wrote in 2003 that may be applicable:

Quote:
Originally Posted by jergofish
I'm curious, how many of you tandemer's have crashed.
Single Road Bike Crashes / Mark = Over 30 years, too many: 5 or 6 - 20+ mph crashes, several slower ones, and 3 collisions with cars (1 pull-out, one right hook, and one left turn in front of).

Single Road Bike Crashes / Debbie = 1 Fall-over at standing stop due to the evil "didn't quite clip-out" scenario.

Road Tandem Crashes = Zero (knock on wood), with one close call while stopped at the side of the road when the front wheel unexpectedly turned while my hands were elsewhere. Note to self, keep at least one hand on handlebar when standing still with Debbie still on the bike.

Off-Road Tandem Crashes = 10+ or so; all flesh wounds and no broken bones (again, knock on wood). We've gone over the front, over the back, washed out the front wheel and augered in to the right and left, and fallen over a couple times after getting hung up or stalling out on an obstacle.

Road Tandem Crashes in General:

Let me start off by saying that in 7 years of tandeming, I can count the number of bad tandem crashes that I've seen or that have occured at events we've attended on two hands and we've attended a lot of events with lots of tandems. So, the probability of having a crash is pretty low. In fact, among our close riding friends the only crashes have been preceded by a car driving into the cyclists. Thus, I would be more concerned about motorists than a potential, single bike or paceline crash, if you're not racing competitively. That said, the following are my observations with regard to road tandem crashes... Your results and others observations may vary.

Slow Speed - Falling over isn't usually a big deal. We've seen a lot of teams fail to clip out or just mis-plant a foot and fall over while at a near stop. They are embarrasing and will leave some flesh wounds, but don't normally result in any long-lasting injuries (more mature teams can be an exception, i.e., being more susceptible to bone fractures).

Moderate to High Speed - As for tandem crashes at speed, I don't mean to be dramatic or an alarmist, but having crashed a few times on my personal bikes and having witnessed and/or helped pick up a few tandem teams who have crashed, tandem crashes tend to be a bit harder on the riders for several reasons; they include: the physics of having two people on a single bike (weight and velocity), the natural tendency to remain tied up with the tandem which will not yield and flip away like a much shorter personal bike will, and for the stoker the problems associated with the element of surprise (they won't realize you're going down as fast as you do) and being caught in the mid-section of the bike with a large, unpredicable mass (that would be you) with which to contend.

At a minimum, expect to have a really deep and nasty buise on your upper hips and some road rash on your lower legs or shins, and on your arms. If you don't wear gloves, expect to have a pretty scraped up hand heel. Face plants are also a common occurance, but usually affect only a cheek and side of the nose on one side of the face vs. a true face plant. There's a good chance that you and/or your stoker could fracture a collar bone or wrist depending on how you fall and what your natural insticts cause you to do. Again, doing the tuck and roll won't work with the tandem because it's too long and also straddled by your stoker. Therefore, as captain you'll most likely drive your shoulder into the ground or extend your arm and hand to brace your body against the impact, either one of which can produce the obvious results. For the stoker, it's pretty much the same story but they will not have as much time or room in which to react, so the likelihood of a hard hit on the ground is pretty good. The handlebars could end up being a blessing or a curse depending on whether or not they turn into the stoker or stay put and help to keep some of the bike and captain's weight on the bike from coming down on the leg caught between the tandem and the ground.

Anyway, you get the idea. Tandem crashes at speed are nasty. If anything, let the potential consequences serve as a reminder to always be extremely careful when riding in a pack, crossing railroad tracks, and mindful of brake induced rim heating and the potential for tire blow-offs on very steep descents where you are applying lots of braking force with your rim brakes (that's a whole different thread). These are the three types of situations where tandem crashes most often occur. In all cases, if you have the ability to pick the direction of your crash, head for the grass or dirt along the right side of the road. Asphalt is totally unforgiving.

---------
And another where the question pertained to how the stoker fairs in crashes:


IMHO, and based mostly on observing road & off-road tandem crashes as well as first handoff-road tandem crash experiences, Stoker's will almost always get the worst of it when a tandem goes down:

- They must react to what the captain (you) and bike are doing, which means they are already "late" when attempting acts of self-preservation.
- They have no way off the bike, most always end up riding it down, and end up with 1/2 their body pinned under the frame, unlike the captain who can sometimes escape over the handlebars or get out from under the frame.
- They have no forward visibility between 11:00 - 1:00 and cannot, therefore, do much to adjust their posture or movements to minimize contact with whatever lies ahead or to time contact with the ground.
- Based on all of the foregoing, they instinctively go rigid while bracing for the impact, which often times makes injuries worse.

Last edited by TandemGeek; 12-16-07 at 07:19 AM.
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Old 12-16-07, 09:45 AM   #8
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She got up cussing and I am still paying for that one.
What? I'm not over that yet??
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Old 12-16-07, 09:51 AM   #9
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My wife and I have been riding tandems for 24 years and, knock on wood, have never crashed at speed. We've had a couple Artie Johnson type tip overs at stops, but that's about it.

One time, we broke a chain while out of the saddle on a steep roller and my wife was "ejected" from the rear of the tandem.
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Old 12-16-07, 12:24 PM   #10
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TG, thanks for digging up that reply. Very insightful.

For almost everyone, it sounds like in most cases, the stoker continues to trust and ride with you. That's really something.
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Old 12-16-07, 12:40 PM   #11
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Seems like we are a bit non-conforming to tandem crash statisitcs.
In 33 years of tandeming have never (yet!) dumped stoker while stopping or not unclipping.
Pilot has been able to do paratrooper roll over the bars.
Stokers do not have the privilege (or space) to do a roll and thus end up going down with the big bike.
And fortunately, on the tandem, we've never broken any bones.
On the single, Rudy has busted front teeth in an altercation with a car; busted shoulder (but not collarbone) in a harmonic vibration hi-speed wipeout; crahed in a 200-miler, ripping open bursa (left elbow) and got stitched up; and been blown over by the wind and broken 6 ribs + punctured a lung . . . does not pay off to be a 'lightweight'! Several minor crashes that resulted in no damage/problems.
Yup, cycling can be dangerous . . . or so they say.
Glad that stoker Kay still trusts me (most of the time) piloting our tandem.
Pedalon TWOgether!
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Old 12-16-07, 01:26 PM   #12
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Had a couple of accidents on the single bike. One was while I was making a left turn and the cyclist I was riding with snuck up on my left side. I was looking right and he was looking left. We collided as I was turning and went down. He suffered some minor road rash. I suffered a broken left hand.

Second single bike crash was when I broadsided a large dog (Akita) at 20+ mph and went over the handlebars. Injuries included a concussion, broken collar bone, 3 broken ribs, collapsed lung and herniated disc. Five days in the hospital and 3 operations to get fixed up. The dog owner's insurance paid dearly for that one. No damage to the dog.

One tandem accident when a lady made a left turn in front of us. Couldn't get stopped and broadsided her right front fender. I went over the handlebars and landed on the hood of the car before rolling to the ground. My wife flew off the back of the tandem, hit the side of the car and landed on her lower back. The drivers first comment to us was why didn't you stop! She received a citation on the spot, but still claimed it was our fault. Yikes!

My injuries were just some minor bruises. Wife required a ride to the hospital in an ambulance. No broken bones, but severe trama to her lower back area. Many therapy/chiropractic sessions and 14 months later she is finally feeling recovered from the accident. Fortunately the driver had insurance and they covered all damages and injuries.
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Old 12-16-07, 01:37 PM   #13
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Egads! I don't even want to remember this one - I was scared spitless. Years ago (I think it was 1992) my husband and I were touring on our tandem. We were fully-loaded and had a trailer behind us. As we screamed down a hill in Nova Scotia at about 40 mph the rim on our rear wheel exploded (I'm not joking) and we went careening all over the road. Fortunately, there was no traffic on the road and John was able to keep the bike upright, but we went back and forth across the road three or four times before he was able to stop us. We both thought we were dead.

That ended up being the end of our journey - we had to send the wheel back to Albuquerque for them to rebuild it (we were out in the middle of nowhere and that was probably our quickest option). It ended up getting lost in the mail and we hung out in a campground in a tiny town in Nova Scotia for three weeks waiting for it to get back to us. By that time, we were out of time, so we pedaled back to Connecticut and called it a summer.
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Old 12-16-07, 02:17 PM   #14
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Good God. Maybe I'll go a bit slower on the descents.

I accidentally dumped my stoker when I went around a closed gate protecting the Rails to Trails path we were on. Suddenly the bike went down, I put my foot down, the bike dangling from one hand, and then I realized in horror that my fiancee was behind me. I turned around, she was picking herself off the ground. She was laughing, she figured we weren't going to make it, I was too confident, and she was right.

I first rode a tandem with a racing teammate - a lot of fun going just as fast as we could - we passed a friend going 50 mph on a relatively flat road with a 45 mph speed limit - our friend got slowed by traffic and we blew by him. He told me he took a different teammate out for a ride, they blew a front tire on a descent. The pilot (sort of experienced tandemer) was struggling to control the bike, the stoker (inexperienced) didn't know anything was wrong until the bike stopped. Then he asked "Why did you stop?". lol.

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Old 12-16-07, 02:32 PM   #15
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He told me he took a different teammate out for a ride, they blew a front tire on a descent. The pilot (sort of experienced tandemer) was struggling to control the bike, the stoker (inexperienced) didn't know anything was wrong until the bike stopped. Then he asked "Why did you stop?". lol.

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It's amazing how you really don't know what's going on when you are in the back!! Good for him for controlling it enough for the stoker to not even know hwat had happened!!
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Old 12-16-07, 05:04 PM   #16
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Hey Nancy,

My wife/stoker and I enjoyed following along with you guys this past summer on CGOAB. What an awesome adventure and to share it with your children. Priceless! Looking forward to your next adventure.

BTW, we also took a little tour in 2007 on our tandem. Read about it here. http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/fandf2007
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Old 12-16-07, 06:18 PM   #17
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I'll take a look at your journal transam!! John and I used to have a lot of fun on our tandem - back in our BK days. These days, it's the kids on the back of the tandem! For our upcoming trip, we will have our blog at www.familyonbikes.org We thought about CGoaB again, but decided it would be easier to keep things organized on a blog instead. Hope you follow with us this time too!
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Old 12-17-07, 01:16 AM   #18
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Had a trail collapse out from under us on the MTB tandem. I ended up doing the splits with my left leg buried up past my ankle is sand and loose gravel on the down side and my right leg, still clipped in, keeping the bike and my wife, who was still clipped in with both feet and facing down hill, from tumbling down the 45 degree slope for about 200 foot. Most aggravating part of it was that the people who had pulled out in front of us and caused us to swerve on to this part of the trail just kept on going, watching us struggle to get back up. Other than that, only a few slow speed tumbles.
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Old 12-17-07, 12:11 PM   #19
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We had a very freak accident on our tandem that ended in two ambulances on the scene to take us away. We were riding on a very rural back road about 4 miles from our home. A large flat bed truck was approaching us from the opposite direction. As the truck got closer we heard a large bang, followed by a large metal box appearing in our lane sliding toward us. The job box that the trucker kept his chains and tools in, had broke free from the bottom of the truck. I didn't have time to react and hit the box head on. Our speed was 20 to 25 and the box was travelling about the same speed toward us. My stoker and I went airborne over the box and landed on the pavement. I had a broken collar bone and road rash over my entire back. My stoker had a broken upper jaw missing teeth and facial lacerations. The accident was in May of 2002. My stoker is still undergoing dental surgery to correct her injuries and the case is still open with the insurance company. Fortunately we are both back on bicycles and riding a tandem today. Thank God for helmets because both of our 1 month old Giro Pneumos were cracked. The Cannondale tandem didn't fair so well and was totally scrapped.
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Old 12-17-07, 08:26 PM   #20
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Yikes!! Glad you came through OK. that's scary.
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Old 12-17-07, 08:52 PM   #21
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We've only done one of those "Artie Johnson" tip-overs. Probably our second or third ride with the single club group after we got dropped, lost, and frustrated. She's gotten over it a long time ago.

We witnessed an ugly dog vs. bike crash right in front of us early this year. A big pit bull came charging out from left to right and took out the front wheel of the bike in front of us. Luckily, we had all slowed to about 16 mph and I think they decelerated even more as soon as they hit the dog square on.

The stoker was knocked unconscious and spent two nights in observation for small spots of bleeding on her brain. She’s fine now health wise, but not quite as adventurous about getting on the big bike and going wherever. He had the massive hip bruise that took months to go away but rode through it after a month or so.

The dog owners disavowed any responsibility and threw out the ideas that perhaps it wasn’t their dog, even after we watched them close the gate when it ran back in their yard, and alternately it was the cyclists fault because we had ridden down that road and been chased by a pit bull before, why would we come back down that road again.

They had no insurance and other than putting a lien on the house, there was no chance of recourse, so there was no sense in pursuing legal action for payment of the non-reimbursed medical expenses.

What I learned from this; in some ways, some dumb rednecks aren't all that dumb after all.
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Old 12-18-07, 07:42 AM   #22
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We went down on a hill when our connector broke. We were going about 5 mph and my stoker said "we are going to fall over aren't we?" Ha Ha. One of the most horrific crashes I ever saw was 2 tandems going down at 40+ mph at the Lehigh County Velodrome.

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Old 12-18-07, 12:23 PM   #23
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Second single bike crash was when I broadsided a large dog (Akita) at 20+ mph and went over the handlebars. Injuries included a concussion, broken collar bone, 3 broken ribs, collapsed lung and herniated disc. Five days in the hospital and 3 operations to get fixed up. The dog owner's insurance paid dearly for that one. No damage to the dog.
I posted details last spring of a dog-and-tandem encounter that came close to taking out three tandems. The lead bike went down when a dog suddenly darted out of an orchard into our path. Our team and the third team managed to avoid a group crash. Bike went down sorta sideways as captain swerved in an attempt to avoid the dog. Both helmets cracked, saving riders from more serious injuries. Stoker had serious facial injuries and got a Life Flight ride to the UC Davis Med Center. Captain rode an ambulance to the local ER. Captain was back on his half bike a week later, both back on the tandem after three months. Stoker's regret was that she could not remember the helicopter ride.

The dog? As above, no damage. it is still probably running....

If you search for the original post and the interesting thread that was generated, you might find TG's pictures of his handlebar-mounted dog control device (I recall that it was a pellet pistol).
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Old 12-18-07, 03:16 PM   #24
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If I note a common theme throughout this discussion, it's that in a tandem crash the stoker is almost always more severely injured than the captain. Is this true?
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Old 12-18-07, 05:51 PM   #25
zonatandem
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The majority of the time, stokers get the worst end of the deal.
So buy her some flowers today for being such a great riding partner!
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