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Thread: tandem riding

  1. #1
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    tandem riding

    My boyfriend & I ride a tandem and have tried everything. When we pedal the bike goes back and forth and he goes one way and I go the other way. It is a waste of energy but we cannot figure out what is causing the problem. Can anyone give us some suggestions we are both really frustrated and do not have this problem on our singles.

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    ld-cyclist prestonjb's Avatar
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    Are you describing a sort of shaking or shimmy felt in the bike while riding?

    If so that is quite common when first starting to ride a tandem. It is caused by both riders holding too tight to the bars and not "letting go". This translates into one person trying to correct the movements of the other and vice versa which causes the vibrations.

    Typically after a few weeks of riding or after a long ride this will go away as the two of you relax and begin to work together.

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    Couple ideas:

    Are your pedals synchronized? Same place on the pedal circle at the same time?

    You're spinning (85 rpm plus), not mashing, right? Low rpm pedaling is best done with more tugging on the handlebars and more rocking of the shoulders, but those are exactly the things that will make beginners wobble on a tandem. Later you can get away with it. You have to spin and work on form in the beginning.

    Try closing your eyes and putting your helmet in the center of your boyfriend's back (if you can reach). See if the problem goes away.

    You both have smooth, high cadence (like, 93 rpm plus), single bike pedal strokes? You have to produce even power all the way around. If you just slam down the front of the stroke and coast the rest of the way around, whatever bike you are on will wobble, but you make your own corrections on a single and depend on the captain to do it on a tandem and that is harder. You can even out your pedal stroke with one-legged pedaling or by riding on rollers (hard to start with, but darn effective), either of these things done with relatively high rpms. Pedaling smoothly with high cadence and power is an acquired skill, but if you want to be a good (efficient) cyclist, you have to have it. It's the key to riding fast all day without getting tired.

    Is your fit on the tandem the same as your single bike fit? A more upright position can cause wobblier riding.

    What brand of tandem do you have? Santanas have relatively slow handling in comparison with Co-Motions, with others lying somewhere in between. Slower fork geometry might get rid of a lot of your problem.

    Headset adjusted properly? Wheel bearing locknuts set properly? Anything that is loose or too flexible can cause wobble, or shimmy at higher speeds.

    Computer with cadence on the front of the bike? Computer with cadence on the back of the bike (monitor that captain! he works for you.)?

  4. #4
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ctroth
    My boyfriend & I ride a tandem and have tried everything. When we pedal the bike goes back and forth and he goes one way and I go the other way. It is a waste of energy but we cannot figure out what is causing the problem. Can anyone give us some suggestions we are both really frustrated and do not have this problem on our singles.
    A. About the tandem: What brand and model do you have?

    B. About You:

    1. What else do you ride (road, mountain, tri-geek, cruiser, bent, etc...) and how would you characterize yourself as a cyclist, e.g., occasional recreational rides, always in-training for fitness, club or licensed racer?

    2. How tall are you and how would you describe your build?

    C. About your BF:

    1. What else does he ride (road, mountain, tri-geek, cruiser, bent, etc...) and how would you characterize him as a cyclist, e.g., occasional recreational rides, always in-training for fitness, club or licensed racer?

    2. How tall is he and how would you describe his build?

    D. About the problem: Have you tried riding with an experienced tandem team in your local area in an effort to have them help you with your technique? While we might be able to solve the mystery long distance via the "20 questions game" (above), the BEST recommendation that I could make would be to hook up with a tandem team that would be knowledgeable enough to critique what you are doing and help you work through it on the bike.

    To locate a candidate team you could contact one of the tandem-speciality dealers in SoCal. I believe the closest one to you that I'm aware of would be Downey Cyclery.

    11296 Los Alamitos Blvd
    Los Alamitos, CA 90720
    (562)795-5899

    You'd want to talk with Tom or Trudy Eichen, the owners. You could either see if they would be willing to ride with you or perhaps put you in contact with other tandem teams in your area who you could ride with.

    There is also Buds Cyclery in Clairmont, CA (Santana's home shop), but that's a pretty good drive from where I think you are.

    There is a lot of truth to what Preston noted; sometimes it just takes time to get acclimated to riding together. Also, to Scott's point, if your cranks are set out-of phase that could also be something that you need to correct -- at least for the time being. Again, if you could hook up with a good tandem team they could probably pin point a few things to work on.

  5. #5
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    tandem riding

    Howdy from Tucson!
    Welcome to tandeming! Yes, there is a bit of a learning curve!
    Being single bike riders, it seems both of you are behaving as if your are handling/steering your single bikes. That does not work on a tandem!
    Tandeming is a TEAM effort. First let the boyfriend ride the tandem alone and get to know the handling characteristics of the tandem. After he feels secure in the handling, then you, the stoker rides with him. HINT: DO NOT try to steer from the back of the tandem, that is a definite NO-NO! Relax back there, try not to be tense or uptight (yes, you can do that).
    COMMUNICATION is the key to a good tandem team. The impetuous person up front has to tell the nice and scared person in the back what he is planning to do. He voices OUT LOUD any changes: Shifting, braking, coasting, turning, resume pedaling, etc. He also calls out all bumps so the stoker is a bit prepared and can put more pressure/weight on the hands/feet and less on the seat. He will also voice OUT LOUD impending turns and slowing/stopping. He does NOT signal! The stoker does all the appropriate signals.
    Pedaling cadence: If your pedaling cadence is not the same, come up with a compromise pace that pleases BOTH of you.
    Hey, you can do it!
    We've got over 29 years of tandeming TWOgether under our shorts! U-2 can do it!
    Rudy & Kay/ZONA tandem

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