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  1. #1
    "older than dirt"
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    Is tandem faster?

    People on tandems are always passing me. Are they generally faster than single riders because there are two of them? Or are they just faster than I am, tandem or not?

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    I always feel faster on the tandem than my single, but then again my stoker is pretty strong.

  3. #3
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by farandaway View Post
    People on tandems are always passing me. Are they generally faster than single riders because there are two of them? Or are they just faster than I am, tandem or not?
    Yes and perhaps; however, it's somewhat like economics... as it all depends.
    http://www.bikeforums.net/tandem-cycling/278526-how-many-times-faster-tandem-bike-2-people-than-regular-bike.html#post4050574
    Last edited by TandemGeek; 04-01-08 at 05:14 PM.

  4. #4
    Third World Layabout crtreedude's Avatar
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    It always seems that way to me. Though my stoker isn't exactly powerful, we seem to go faster than I do by myself. I think one is that she is a bit of a speed demon and secondly, whipping me on the back saying "faster, faster!" seems to have an effect...

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    Quote Originally Posted by farandaway View Post
    People on tandems are always passing me....
    What surprises me is that the OP implies that they see tandems on a regular basis. I see about one tandem a month on our local rides. None in the colder months.

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    pan y agua merlinextraligh's Avatar
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    For a given average power output, a tandem will be faster on the flats than a single bike.

    Take 3 riders all with the same functional threshold power. Put 2 on a tandem, and one on a single bike. On the flats, the tandem will somke the single because they have twice the watts, and less than twice the wind resistence.

    This is true on flat terrain where power/frontal area is the critical ratio.

    On hills, the tandem team reverts to being just equal to the single rider. This is true because the critical measure is now power/weight . So if the tandem bike weighs approximately twice the single, the tandem team will climb at the same rate of a single rider of the same power/weight ratio.
    Last edited by merlinextraligh; 04-01-08 at 04:45 PM.

  7. #7
    Senior Member swc7916's Avatar
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    I find that our tandem speed is about about equal to the average of our single-bike speeds. As for climbing: If both of the riders are strong climbers individually, then I suppose that a tandem would climb as fast as a single; in my experience, there's a reason that most tandems have a granny gear.

  8. #8
    rebmeM roineS JanMM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by farandaway View Post
    People on tandems are always passing me. Are they generally faster than single riders because there are two of them? Or are they just faster than I am, tandem or not?
    People riding tandems are a step above the riff-raff on single bikes. Or, at least they are pulled down hills by gravity in a superior manner.

  9. #9
    Riding Heaven's Highwayson the grand tour
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    My wife and I are in the range of average recreational riders at best. She is on the low side of the range and I'm probably middle to upper. We generally average 1 to 2 mph faster on our tandem on most of our training rides if they are a mix of flats, rollers and modest hills. However if we do a ride that is mostly hills with lots of long and /or steep climbs and fast decents then I'm faster overall on a single. For us, spending long periods of time in our granies kill our overall speed too much to make for, despite our slightly faster (than my single bike's) speed down hill.
    Bill J.

  10. #10
    Captain Oh Captain
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    I can average 18mph on my solo bike on a mix of hills and flat on the San Francisco Peninsula for 50 miles. Over the same ride on the tandem with She Who Must Be Obeyed, we will average about 16.5mph. There are definitely sections where the tandem is much much faster, and others where the solo bike is faster. I am more willing to whip myself to ride faster than I am my wife. But as she gets more miles under her belt, and increases her cycling strength, I am sure that the speed gap will narrow to zero!

  11. #11
    Senior Member Ti-tillIdie's Avatar
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    We just finished our first century ride on our tandem .... and everyone was asking us if tandems are faster. I think they wanted an excuse for getting dusted.

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    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    If the tandems are passing you, then they surely are faster!
    Next time one passes you, jump on their wheel (draft them)!

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    For our team we'll pass pacelines with a diagonal tailwind, or downhill. With a diagonal headwind or hill-climbing it seems like we can't get out of our own way! It all depends on the conditions.

  14. #14
    shut up and ride
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    we are much, much slower on the tandem than on my single. i race cat 3 and masters races and place consistently and my wife doesn't ride much and has little riding experience. if i cruise at around 19 mph on my single on the tandem we cruise at 15 mph. so it's not always faster.

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    "older than dirt"
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    Thank you much for the info. The obvious answer is gravity, since (now that I think about it) I am always passed by these folks on the descent. Der! Why didn't I think of that?

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    Quote Originally Posted by farandaway View Post
    Thank you much for the info. The obvious answer is gravity, since (now that I think about it) I am always passed by these folks on the descent. Der! Why didn't I think of that?
    gravity and aerodynamics and friction. Two ridders that cruise at X MPH on their single bikes on the flat could cruise at X+1 to X+5 MPH on the tandem. Uphill the advantage disapears and for most team being on the tandem becomes a disadvantage..... X to X-3. Downhill the advatage increases with the down grade... X+5 to X+15

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    "older than dirt"
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    BTW Just curious. I know nothing of tandems...what is a stoker? And is it difficult to manouver one of those bikes? It looks really precarious. Do beginners fall a lot? I wouldn't blame you if you didn't want to bother with these silly questions, but since I have all of you here in one place, I have always wondered what it's like to ride a tandem. I don't know any tandem riders personally, but the ones who pass me seem to be nice.

  18. #18
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    What is a stoker: The person (or persons on a tandem with three or more seats) who rides behind the individual in the first seat (aka, the Captain). The Captain is the one who does the steering, shifting and braking. In earlier times, there were courting tandems where the "captain" sat behind the stoker, which is where the etymology of the term "stoker" gets interesting.

    Is it difficult to manouver one of those bikes? At first, they can be a handful as new stokers have a strong tendency to try and look around the captain to see the road ahead. These side-to-side movements by the stoker's upper body tend to make the tandem move left and right. As the stoker gains the trust of the captain these unitended wobbles usually disappear. As your skills as a team grow it becomes relatively easy to make even U-turns on your basic two-lane country road and track stands are also not difficult to master.

    Do beginners fall a lot? No more so and perhaps even less than beginning solo bike riders.

    I have always wondered what it's like to ride a tandem. For some, it's one of the most rewarding experiences they can have on a bicycle. For others, it's pure hell. We have enjoyed it enough to make it our only past time and recreational activity. We ride road tandems, off-road tandems, and use our vacation time to particpate in tandem rallies and tours.
    Last edited by TandemGeek; 04-04-08 at 07:15 AM.

  19. #19
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    Of course, all tandem riders are nice, cute, fast, well-shaven, knowledgeable, etc. And we never fall. Actually, a tandem is more stable than a single. Starting and stopping are a little tricky, compared to what you are used to, but it isn't hard to do.

  20. #20
    Senior Member brewer45's Avatar
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    tandems are VERY fast...
    but not as fast as marsupials!

  21. #21
    rebmeM roineS JanMM's Avatar
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    The first time we rode our Tandemania Comp in the parking lot of the bike shop we felt as if we were going to fall but we didn't and we haven't.

  22. #22
    pan y agua merlinextraligh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JanMM View Post
    The first time we rode our Tandemania Comp in the parking lot of the bike shop we felt as if we were going to fall but we didn't and we haven't.
    As Captain, I figure it's my responsiblity never to dump thebike. My stoker has complete faith, and never complains doing 50mph plus on twisty mountain decents.

    We crash once and that faith is gone forever.

  23. #23
    Living Life On Two Wheels knatchwa's Avatar
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    this topic keeps getting more interesting. I have often thought about a tandem just never tried it. I did see an individual with a modified one. Remarkeable if I only had got pictures. Whatever your ride at least you ride and that is a wonderful thing.
    When I go biking, I repeat a mantra of the day's sensations: bright sun, blue sky, warm breeze, blue jay's call, ice melting and so on. This helps me transcend the traffic, ignore the clamorings of work, leave all the mind theaters behind and focus on nature instead. I still must abide by the rules of the road, of biking, of gravity. But I am mentally far away from civilization. The world is breaking someone else's heart. ~Diane Ackerman
    Read More: Bicycling With Knatchwa

  24. #24
    just a commuter
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    Alan Scholz and John Schubert write in the racing chapter of The Tandem Scoop (2ed 1996):
    One thing that's particularly positive about tandem racing is that it rewards teamwork. Two ordinary riders who work well together can overpower two strong riders who fight each other. We've seen that in the Burley Cycling Classic, where one heavily favored team had two national-class riders, one of them sporting a silver medal from the National Time Trial Championships. The other riders all told each other, "Well, we're racing for second place this year." But the time-trial champs weren't used to riding together and finished fourth, despite their superior horsepower.
    1999 Specialized Allez Elite Triple
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    lots of others in the family fleet

  25. #25
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    We crash once and that faith is gone forever.
    We ride both road and mountain tandems. If you have never crashed while riding on single track, then you still have that to look forward to:
    Gal. 2:20

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