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.