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Thread: Stoker comfort

  1. #1
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    Stoker comfort

    My boyfriend and I got out first tandem (Co-motion speedster, large/small) over Christmas. He's 6' and I'm 5'4". We've put about 300 miles on it. My problem is that I can ride 100 miles on my single bike without butt discomfort, but can only do 30ish on the tandem. I have the same saddle on both bikes. The top tube is significantly shorter than my single, and I have the stem pushed in as far as it will go without my face in his butt. This puts me much more upright than on the single. Sliding the saddle back puts my knees too far back, which causes pain above the knees.
    We had rented a medium sized Co-motion and I found there to be more room in my space. I don't know why since the top tubes are all the same length, and his saddle is as far forward as it can go.
    I've been reading alot about suspension seatposts. I don't notice the bumps being a problem, seems more like more of my weight is on my sit-bones and less spread out over the length of the saddle. I've been trying to stand periodically and pedal standing, but this only helps minimally.
    Should I try a suspension post? A softer saddle?
    Thanks
    Kathy

  2. #2
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Are you sure you're standing up and giving your tushy enough of a break often enough? I have a count-down and return alarm on my watch that I use to manage 10 or 15 minute drink and butt-break intervals when we ride and we've been riding a long time. It makes all the difference in the world as it's hard to overstate how important it is to stand several times an hour while riding a tandem if you don't do a lot of it naturally, e.g., standing and climbing all the short rises or climbs the same as you would on your personal bikes.

    Assuming that you are taking enough butt-breaks, let's move on to one of my pet peeves with tandem sizing. In general, if you are an experienced cyclist who has developed an optimum riding position for a given type of riding, once you are forced to compromise an element of your normal riding position for a tandem that doesn't quite fit you'll need to fiddle around with all the other ones -- save perhaps for saddle set-back -- to get an alternative riding position that is comfortable, but perhaps not as efficient to what you enjoy on your personal bike. That sounds pretty lame, but it's what a lot of tandem buyers sign up for (and it's usually the stoker that gets the worst end of the deal).

    So, here's my advice -- skip the musical saddle and magic seatpost game. Instead, you and your boyfriend should make an appointment with your local bike fitting pro and bring along both your personal bikes and the tandem. It would be really neat if this happended to be your tandem dealer but from what I'm hearing it doesn't sound like it. Your boyfriend would need to get his riding position squared away on the tandem first before you could begin to work on your fit. There is no reason why he shouldn't be able to attain the same fit he enjoys on his personal bike, perhaps with the handlebar placed a a cm or so higher. As for you, my belief is you should be able to replicate your personal bike riding position too, and without "spooning" your boyfriends backside. The problem you will probably run into is that your stock tandem may not support "your" optimum seating position. If your bike fitting tech doesn't think he can find a way to get both of you into riding positions that approximate your personal bikes on your Co-Motion but are otherwise happy with it, contact your tandem dealer and see if he'd be willing to upgrade you to a custom sized frame, i.e., do a swap out of all the parts from the stock frame to a properly sized one built for you by Co-Motion. Co-Motion advertises a price of $380 for custom sizing but, for teams that need it, it's the best money you'll ever spend. After all, you can quickly spend that much money screwing around with different saddles and funky seatposts and I'm not sure how you put a price on a comfortable and enjoyable ride on a properly fitted tandem; to us it's priceless. If you dealer balks at the request contact Dwan Shepard at Co-Motion and ask him if he'd be willing to help you stay on a Co-Motion. Dwan's a great guy and I'm sure he'd be willing to work out some sort of an arrangement between you and your dealer, notwithstanding some extenuating circumstances, e.g., you bought your tandem used or on close-out. That would certainly change things.

    Anyway, that's my .02. A suspension seatpost will take the sting out of the potholes and road seams that your captain either fails to dodge or call-out, but it can create as many fit and comfort issues as it solves for experienced riders. If you want to see if some "rear suspension" would help without shelling out the bucks for a suspension seat post just lower the air pressure in the rear tire by about 10 psi and go for a short ride to see if it makes a difference. If so, perhaps just a larger size tire would give you enough "suspension" to make the ride more comfortable. Beyond that, you would probably have to try out a suspension post to find out how you would respond to the subtle seat height movements that you get with most suspension posts. In general, I would only encourage someone to pursue a suspension seatpost if they were experiencing back or neck pain from road shock vs. sore sit bones. Sore sit bones, at least to me, means a fit or saddle problem. As for a more cushy saddle, never. Cushy bad, firm, form fitting good.

    Lastly, there are a few other tandem builders who are keen to accommodate stokers in their tandem designs as one of their priorities. We were lucky enough to stumble on one of them back in '98. For reference purposes, Debbie's only 5'2" but she has nearly a 32" stoker compartment to mess around with on our Erickson tandems. That would be 3.5" longer than what you have on your Co-Motion and she's 2" shorter. Needless to say, Debbie enjoys her riding position on our Ericksons a whole lot more than she ever did on our Santana which only had a 27.5" top tube. Of course, that's just us. Tandems are about finding what works best for you so let me encourage you to do just that. It's worth it in the long run.

    For reference purposes, I've stuck links to some photos below so you can see just how much room we have to play with.
    Last edited by livngood; 02-02-04 at 06:49 PM.

  3. #3
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    Try a heavily padded gel saddle. I ride with several different stokers, and they are in pain unless I have the gel saddle on. I guess its because tandem positions are upright and don't balance a riders weight between your arms and butt. We've done several metric and english centuries with the big gel saddle. I love a 175 gram saddle on my single, but never on the tandem.

  4. #4
    Cat 6 Steve Katzman's Avatar
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    Agreed that your position on your tandem does not duplicate the position on your road bike. My wife had the same problem with her position on our (non-custom) Speedster. We changed out her seat, and coupled with her standing for 20-30 seconds every 10-15 minutes, she has adapted to her less stretched out position. Our Speedster came with a shock seat post for the stoker so there was no change made there.

    Some folks, including Mark L. (above) make the assumption that the position on your single road bike is the only position that can be comfortable for extended mileage riding. Therefore, logic follows that you should buy a custom tandem that mimicks the geometry of your single bike. That is only an opinion. My position on my MTB is different than my position on my road bike or my tandem. Does that mean that I can't be comfortable for long rides on my MTB? I find that not to be the case. Does the same saddle I use on my road bikes work just as well on my MTB, where I am not as stretched out and place more of my weight on my sit bones? Absolutely not. Fortunately there are hundreds of different saddle designs on the market, from which to choose.

    We approached my wife's fit problem much the same way as a roadie adapting to her first MTB. We found a saddle that is flatter in the sit bone area than the Terry Butterfly that she uses on her road bikes - I believe it is made by Specialized. It is not a heavily padded saddle, just a slightly different shape. In my opinion this is another way of fixing the problem.

    If you want to be able to mimick the exact same geometry and use the saddle that you use on your single road bike, then I guess Mark's suggestions above are the correct way to proceed.

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    Kathy,

    My wife and I have a Co-Motion and have the same problem. If you can work a deal with Co-Motion on a custom frame as Mark noted, then you should be in good shape.

    If not (like us), you might try a few modifications:

    #1. Toss that horrible stock seat. It sounds like you have done so, so you are moving in the right direction. Be sure that the seat you are using gives proper support. Soft does not equal comfortable.

    #2. Ensure that you have the proper adjustment of seat tube height and fore/aft seat placement on the seat post. For seat post height, you can measure your existing single bike and use this as a baseline. Work to obtain proper extension without hyperextension of the knee. For fore/aft seat positioning, you can use a plumb bob when you are seated on the bike, foot clipped in to the pedal and crank arm rotated forward to the 3 o'clock position (parallel to the ground). Drop the plumb line from the lower edge of the knee cap to the intersection of the pedal spindle. For a basic fit, the plumb line should intersect with the pedal spindle. Adjust the seat on the seat post forward/aft to gain this position. While not perfect, this will give you a baseline setting for proper seat position. Further adjustment should be minor (+/- 0.5 cm fore/aft) to gain extra power or comfort. Once adjusted, this should really not change. It certainly shouldn't be used to gain effective top tube length. This goes for both the captain and the stoker.

    #3. The final change that we made may not work for all. If you have the telescoping stocker stem, you may be able to modify it, as I did. I found that even when this stem is burried (at its shortest position), there is still roughly 2" of inner stem exposed. I knew that no one else shorter than my wife would be riding the bike, so I cut the inner stem tube down 2". This allowed the stoker bars to move forward another 2". The only drawback is that my wife's hands slightly brush the outside of my legs when her hands are on the hoods. Other than that, she is much more comfortable. Just a thought that really worked for her.

    As far as the custom option is concerned, I would like to hear if you do go that route. Our next tandem will have a longer top tube for the stoker, but I have some concern that lengthened top, down and bottom tubes don't come without a price. In this case, longer tubes mean less torsional rigidity. While most teams don't race or push their tandems hard, you may ask Co-Motion about the possibility of increased frame flex when lengthening tubes. Just my $.02.

    Perhaps Mark can provide some personal input regarding frame performance when lengthening the tube set.

    Rgds,

    Steffan Marley
    Last edited by S. Marley; 02-03-04 at 12:37 PM.

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    If you want to replicate your solo position, you dont need a pro fitter.
    Measure your points of contact (saddle, pedals, bars or brake hoods) in X and Y from the bottom bracket.
    Use a plumb-line and masking tape on the top tube, to mark the position,X=0. Then measure back and forward to saddle and bars. This will eliminate the frame angles from your calculations.
    Also, ensure you are using the same length of crank.
    You dont need to be so aerodynamic in the stoker position, so you may not need to replicate, but at least you will know how your tandem differs from your solo.

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    Beyond proper bike fit and saddle preference; this is what my wife and I have found:

    1) standing up frequently is extremely important, you don't realize how often you do this on your single until you start tandeming

    2) a suspension seatpost (properly adjusted) makes a big difference in the quality of ride for the stoker. If you purchase a suspension seatpost, learn how to adjust the compression rate to make sure it is not bottoming out and conversely, utilizing its full range of movement. Read the manual carefully and lubricate the post often.

    A quick rant- The quality of roads in your area of the country are indicative of the need for a suspension seatpost. We live in Washington DC, roads are terrible and we often get out of town by riding rough bike paths. No amount of "captain skill" can eliminate jarring the stoker. However, since both of you are new to tandeming, you can work with him to alert you of upcoming potholes, expansion joints allowing you time to rise slightly off the seat.
    Also, when people have something wrong with their position, they tend to start changing EVERYTHING at once. A systematic approach is much more effective. Adjust the seat, (which you did) if this doesn't work, move it to a neutral position you are most comfortable with and adjust the bars (up/down, in/out, angled). Then purchase a quality suspension seatpost and spend time adjusting it (during a ride as well). If you find you dislike the post you can always sell it on ebay.
    Since you ride so many miles on your single, you already know the benefit of a firm saddle.

    Caveat: This is after you have determined you have a properly sized frame for the both of you. Once you have the fit sorted out, your tandeming will go to an entirely new level of enjoyment.


    Justin

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    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Katzman
    Some folks, including Mark L. (above) make the assumption that the position on your single road bike is the only position that can be comfortable for extended mileage riding. Therefore, logic follows that you should buy a custom tandem that mimicks the geometry of your single bike.
    First, let me acknowledge that a different saddle "could" help solve the sore butt problem AND note that it sometimes takes a change in your personal choice of saddle for other bikes if you adopt the tandem as your primary ride. No problem with that.

    Also, I would volunteer that a shock post could make all the difference in the world IF you have really poor quality roads or must deal with expansion joints on a regular basis. We're spoiled rotten in the Southeast US and enjoy very smooth roads. However, if I lived and rode on some of the bike paths around Dayton, OH I would probably run larger tires and perhaps Debbie would want a shockpost. The roads out in the country are fantastic, but man-o-man, some of those river side paths.... Ouch!

    Now, to my comments about riding position....

    Just to be clear, replicating single bike riding positions on a tandem is not my blanket recommendation. It can easily be misconstrued as such because it is what I'll recommend when a stoker is struggling with what sounds like a frame fit issue instead of simply a sore butt.

    For anyone interested, let me explain my thought process...

    I would guess that >90% of the folks who buy tandems will do just fine with box-stock tandem sizing. Many can get a good fit and/or aren't bothered by close quarters or a more upright riding position. However, included in that >90% are some teams who have some really screwed-up riding positions. Most of the ones I see turn out to be stokers who weren't experienced cyclists when they acquired the tandems and don't know that they've got their saddle positioned too far backward or are sitting up too much to attain an efficient riding position. Unless I'm asked, I usually just bite my lip and let it go. The other 10% are predominantly teams with experienced and/or strong stokers who recognize right up front they need custom sizing because they are well outside the fit range offered on stock tandems OR teams who, after riding a stock tandem long enough, eventually realize they would prefer to have a better fit -- for efficiency or comfort -- than they can get with stock tandem sizing.

    In regard to Kathy, her question included some clues that suggests she is an experienced road cyclist who has developed an efficient riding position, perhaps with the assistance of a bike fit tech., e.g., she rides centuries, they've put 300 miles on the tandem since Dec 25th, she understands the dark side of saddle set-back, and has spent a lot of time trying to stretch the tandem into the riding position that works well on her personal bike, to include having her captain screw up his saddle set-back. So, yes, I did make an assumption regarding Kathy but it was not done so off the cuff.

    Admittedly, my assumption may be wrong and a gel saddle or suspension seat post could very well solve the problem. Thus, I hedged my recommendation with several intermediate steps (butt-breaks and some time with a bike fitting pro to re-tweak her entire riding position) and an alternative to a shock posts (experimenting with tire pressure or larger diameter tires).

    Saddle changes and suspension seat posts would certainly be potential solutions, but it has been my experience that once you start to play saddle roulette it ends up being an expensive and long-lasting game, particularly if you own several bicycles. I've settled on one saddle for all of my bikes -- road, off-road, personal, and tandem. It's just one less thing to throw into the mix when you're jumping between bikes.
    Last edited by livngood; 02-03-04 at 05:00 PM.

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    I beleive that there are many riders that think that a sore rear end comes from hitting a few bumps along the way when the real culprit is an ill-fitting seat. It's the hours of sitting (with 100+ pounds of constant force) on a seat that does not match your anatomical proportions that really causes the majority of problems.

    This is why so many people purchase soft foam or gel-filled seats in hopes of finding relief and yet are still plagued with a sore fanny. A hard seat that fits you well will be much more comfortable than a soft seat that provides little support.

    Mark-

    I'm curious.

    Why do you think that the standard tandem frameset doesn't err on the side of a longer stoker compartment? Is there an issue with torsional rigidity? I would think that today's stoker stem would more than make up for any extra reach required and that the majority of people would appreciate the extra few inches.

    Just wondering.

    Rgds,

    Steffan Marley

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    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by S. Marley
    Perhaps Mark can provide some personal input regarding frame performance when lengthening the tube set.
    As a tandem's frame gets longer, the torsion loads increase. Therefore, unless the tubeset is somehow made stiffer to offset the increase in torsion, the frame will exhibit more frame flex and/or feel squirrelly which increases the captain's workload.

    Oversized, ovalized, and straight gauge tubing are all things that can be used to stiffen up the frame along with changes in the frame's geometry and framebuilding techniques that will offset frame flex. Steering geometry can also be relaxed to shorten trail which will reduce "stoker induced steering".

    For the Erickson's, a very short rear stoker seat tube and steeply sloping top tube is used to stiffen up the frame geometry in combination with oversized, straight gauge, custom drawn tubing for the top, internal, down, and boom tubes. The seat tubes are externally butted at the top tube junction and bottom brackets and a oversized, thinwalled bi-ovalized downtube is used. On our uncoupled, rigid Erickson an ovalized top tube is also used to mitigate torsion flex whereas, on the coupled versions, the placement of both couplers at either end of the top, internal, and boom tubes accomplish the same thing. Our small-sized rigid and S&S coupled Erickson tandems are both steel with carbon forks and weigh in at 35lbs and 37lbs respectively -- that would be with the pedals, waterbottle cages, and 380g seats installed (watch out for those comparison weights). However, somewhat unique to Ericksons are their very long steering trail, on the order of 2.3 - 2.45" (it varies a bit depending on which fork and tires I use). Frankly, I think the long trail is a good fit with a long, high-performance tandem but that's just me.

    First time out, the Erickson felt very squirrelly. Of course, my point of reference was our very stiff 40 lb Santana Arriva (again, pedals, waterbottle cages, and seats) with nearly 1/2 an inch less steering trail and a wheel base 5" shorter than the Erickson. Once I got acclimated to the different steering geometry and Debbie understood how her movements had a much more pronouned affect on the handling, we warmed right up to its performance. Yes, it demands a bit more at slow speeds and you will without a doubt know when your stoker leans over to grab a water bottle, but it's quickly assimilated into the riding experience. The dividend is a very comfortable ride for your stoker and incredible cornering performance and responsivness at speed. We ride with 4 other couples who also own Ericksons, one couple who owns a Bushnell, and one couple who own a Rodriquez. Five of us previously owned Santana tandems, 4 steel and one aluminum model, and I don't think anyone has ever had second thoughts about their purchasing decision. That said, they're clearly not for everyone and they also don't represent how someone else's custom-sized brand of tandem would perform. For that, you'd need to contact the builders who could put you in touch with folks who have purchased customs from them to get their impressions.
    Last edited by livngood; 02-04-04 at 01:33 PM.

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    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelW
    If you want to replicate your solo position, you dont need a pro fitter.
    True and yes, it is rather easy to transfer the dimensions from one bike to the next. In fact, a gentleman named Chris Rutkowski developed and patented the FitStik to make it an easy and exacting process.
    http://www.cyclemetrics.com/.

    However, the premise here is that there is not enough room to replicate your riding position - short of resting their head on your captain's backside -- and an alternative position needs to be developed to provide an efficient and comfortable ride. This is where the bike fitter's tools, experience, and the experimentation process on a Serotta Size-Cycle or your own bike / tandem mounted in a wind trainer can pay off.

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    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by S. Marley
    Why do you think that the standard tandem frameset doesn't err on the side of a longer stoker compartment? Is there an issue with torsional rigidity? I would think that today's stoker stem would more than make up for any extra reach required and that the majority of people would appreciate the extra few inches.
    The biggest problem with understanding the tandem market is not being able to get hold of a lot of reliable demographics data. Thus, you're left to draw conclusions from what you observe, read, and experience.

    What I've concluded is the folks at Burley, Santana, Co-Motion, etc... have gotten it right... for about 90% of the folks who buy tandems. In fact, I can recall that several loyal Santana buyers were upset when Santana stretched the rear top tubes to ~27.5", noting that Burley only recently lengthend theirs to the same 27.5". So, given that smart folks run these companies I've got to think that the "majority" of their buyers are satisfied with what is offered. Co-Motion is a bit more sporty about everything on their tandems and, in addition to featuring longer steering trail than just about any other tandem maker, they also feature top tubes that are 28.5" long.

    So, if most of the buyers are happy, then there is no reason to make your stock tandems any longer than what seems to work for the large majority of your buyers. Keep in mind, only a small percentage of tandem buyers are couples where both captain and stoker are individually strong, seasoned cyclists when they first buy a tandem. So, what you have as a large segment of the market are parents buying tandems to share with kids, adult cyclists who decide they'd like to share their hobby with a spouse, recreationally minded couples who buy them on a whim, and so on. At least that is what I've come to believe based on what I've seen at some 26 tandem rallies over the past 8 years. Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of very active tandem teams where both the captain and stoker are very strong cyclists. However, only a very small number of those teams are made up from a pair of life-long hammerheads and, in many cases, they still ride their single bikes far more often than the tandem. So, what you're left with are a lot of teams where the stoker "learned to ride" on the tandem with a recreational fit, i.e., comfort bike posture or something less than an aggressive road bike or tri-geek riding position that has been honed for many years.

    Anyway, you get the point. Custom tandem buyers occupy a small segment of the market because they represent a small segment of the market.

    From the builder's standpoint, shorter is better for many reasons, along with standard rear top tube lengths that bridge all frame sizes. If you haven't ever taken notice, it is by no coincidence that Santana, Burley, Co-Motion, etc... use the same length of rear top tube on a given model of tandem (in fact, across entire ranges of tandems) regardless of the frame size. First and foremost are the economies and efficiencies associated with commonality, both in your material costs and in set-up time for your jigs. On the performance side of things, and all other things being equal, shorter is easier to make stiffer and stiff feels good, particularly to new tandem teams. Shorter is also lighter. And the list goes on.

    So, no, super-long tandems are not for everyone because not everyone needs one and not everyone likes they way they handle... at least at first blush. That's also why you never want to dismiss the first tandem that you ever ride as being "too squirrelly" because chances are you just weren't used to how a 7' long bike handles. But, for the teams who have stepped over to the dark side and tasted the forbidden fruit -- and it's a very small number -- none have expressed a desire to step back to a standard length tandem and it's the stoker's who often times are the most vocal about it.

    Parting shot on long tandems and rideability. If anyone suggests that there is anything just downright evil about how long tandems handle, remember that there are these things that people ride called Triplets, Quads and Quints. No, they don't handle all that well in tight quarters or at slow speeds, but once you get them rolling down the road they are a blast. The point in bringing up the super-long bikes is to underscore that there are ways to make long tandems that are stiff and handle well in a wide range of sizes using a variety of different building techniques. Custom tandems are just that; custom fit or tailored tandems that meet a unique set of requirements because sometimes what's available just doesn't suit your needs, wants, or desires.
    Last edited by livngood; 02-03-04 at 05:10 PM.

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    about ifs, ands & stoker butts!

    Howdy from Tucson!
    Problem is due to slightly different riding postition as a stoker compared to your single; but your problem is still solvable! Your rear ends gets sore riding 30 miles on the Co-Mo? Try getting some weight off your derriere by LOWERING your handlebars a bit; this will result in a bit more weight on hands/feet and less on the buns. Give it a try, it MAY solve your problem.
    My stoker has 29+ years of tandem experience and even she gets uncomfortable once in a while!
    Pedal on TWOgether!
    Rudy & Kay/Zona tandem

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    I have a custom tandem capable of duplicating single bike fit, from 5'2" (solid seatpost up to 5'8", shock absorbing seatpost above that) up to 6'4", with 8" of horizontal distance left between the center of the handlebars and the center of the captain seatpost with the 6'4" stoker's single bike fit, and more with all smaller stokers, and I find that it is the preference of the experienced single bike roadie turned stoker to set road single bike fit on the back of the tandem, to within the limit of detectable error, i.e., 1/8" or less.

    It seems to me that it might be possible to S&S couple(r)the rear top tube, rear direct lateral, and bottom tube, replacing the middle sections with longer sections of tubing.

    It could be that standing up frequently will indeed solve your problem. But if it doesn't, and you do identify your problem as insufficient horizontal space, please don't give up on tandeming and don't suffer in silence. One way or another, get a longer frameset. Before you do that, though, come back and ask us about tandem stoker (horizontal) fit. There are varying reasons for various lengths of rear top tube.

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    Thanks you guys for all your help. I guess my partner and I are in the minority. Both of us have been riding for 12+ years and this is our first tandem.

    Rudy, lowering the bar would put my face even lower and closer to captain's rear. I'd like to breathe and see more than black lycra.
    The stock stem only allows the bar to be pushed inward which would stretch me out and lower me also (which would be good). It's at the lowest position on the cap's seatpost. I could have the stem cut shorter to move inward further, but there's already no room between us.

    We did have the bike fitted. In fact we went in to the LBS before ordering and had them recommend this frame size. We also filled out Co-Mo's fit form and this is the size THEY recommended. The captain's top tube is slightly too long. He had a shorter stem put on and has the seat pushed forward as far as it will go (for his comfort).
    Oh-my-gosh, I just looked at "livingood's" photos. My nose is directly above the edge of the captain's butt. I'm jealous.
    By the way, this is a S&S coupled bike (if that matters).
    Sounds like we need to talk to the folks at Co-motion for their thoughts and maybe the LBS also.
    Kathy

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    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cats7418
    Both of us have been riding for 12+ years and this is our first tandem.
    You are indeed qualified for membership in the 10% club.

    We did have the bike fitted. In fact we went in to the LBS before ordering and had them recommend this frame size. We also filled out Co-Mo's fit form and this is the size THEY recommended.
    I'm afraid to ask... is this a tandem speciality dealer or just a bike shop that also sells tandems? Did you get fitted by a certified bike fit specialist or was it just a matter of the folks at the LBS & sales staff at Co-Mo plugging your stats into the fit tables?

    It should not come as a surprise to anyone that most production tandem sizing tables primarily address the captain's height and reach and the only other adjustment made for stokers is the seat tube/standover height, not the length of the top tube or reach. Therefore, for Co-Motion, You had four sizes to choose from and at 6' he fell into 3 of the four possibilities whereas you are a perfect fit for all four sizes (according to the tables). Your size was inconsequential since all four sizes use the same length of top-tube to meet the needs of stokers who are anywhere from 4'10" to 6' tall.

    The captain's top tube is slightly too long. He had a shorter stem put on and has the seat pushed forward as far as it will go (for his comfort).
    Sure sounds like it's too big for him.... I don't mind short stems (mine are 90mm), but having to slide a seat forward to where the back of the seat rails run up to the seat post clamp on a post that doesn't have much set-back to begin with (Kalloy Seraph?), that sounds just a bit odd for a frame that fits properly. In fact, it reminds me of a Large-size Co-Motion SkyCapp that was sold to one of our friends here in Atlanta that was too small. Saddle was pushed all the way back and he had superlong, highrise stem on it. Yes, they were fitted by a well-respected tandem dealer... incredible. They sold it a year and a half ago and now have the Bushnell I mentioned earlier. It made a HUGE difference in their riding positions and performance.

    Sounds like we need to talk to the folks at Co-motion for their thoughts and maybe the LBS also.
    Give your LBS the benefit of the doubt and talk to them about your fit issues first. If nothing else, it will help grease the skids for a discussion with Dwan or Dan at Co-Motion... and by all means if you need to call Co-Motion please ask for Dwan or Dan. There are lots of other really nice folks at Co-Motion, but ask for Dwan first, Dan if Dwan is not available. Hear them out and try whatever Dwan or Dan suggest as far as any adjustments or other recommendations they might make as an interim step to a frame change. Above all else, Co-Motion sincerely wants to be sure all of their customers are happy with their products and they always seem to go out of their way to do what they can to make things right within the bounds of good business practices.
    Last edited by livngood; 02-03-04 at 08:36 PM.

  17. #17
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    I believe that most riders find their tandems to be less comfortable than their solos. I think that a lot of this is due to the squirm factor. On a tandem we all try (and need) to minimize the amount of squirming around that we do so that the ride is more comfortable for our partners. This stillness often leads to quicker discomfort. The only solution I know is more frequent standing breaks or off the bike breaks.

    Hang in there.

  18. #18
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    My stoker and I rode single bikes many thousands of miles over the past 20 years. When we decided this year to go tandem we selected one that guaranteed comfort for both captain and stoker. It is a Double Vision recumbent! We love it! I can't imagine how much fun it must be to ride all day with your nose in somebody's butt!! Good luck!
    carlbikes
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    Fuji Roubaix Pros w/Ruby rockshocks; Vision R85 Recumbent Tandem;
    Cannondale, Raleigh Mtn. Bikes.

  19. #19
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    Kathy,

    It is good that you are asking all of these questions. Sooner or later, you will get things sorted out. While it is a pain, I think all reasonably serious tandem teams go through this "bicycle personalization" phase, as I'm sure you already know from all of your single bicycle experience.

    I don't want to beat a dead horse, but I thought I would mention that cutting down the inner section of stoker stem will only allow for extra arm length (read shoulder rotation and arm reach), as your seat will not be moving in this process. By this I mean that your head should not get any closer to your stoker's behind. To get closer, he would need to move his seat backward, your seat forward, or shorten the stoker's top tube. Since we know that none of those options (2 silly, 1 impossible)are going to happen, IMHO, you are in no danger of coming closer to his rear end. My wife did find that she needed to raise the stoker stem up a bit on my seat post to stay away from my back side, but the extra 2" of reach was more than an equitable tradeoff from her point of view.

    I just wanted to toss that out there as an option.

    On another note, all that I have read regarding custom stoker top tubes makes sense and my wife and I will certainly be scrutinizing this option on our next tandem purchase. That being said, when talking with Co-Motion, I would ask about all the ramifications of stretching the stoker compartment. While stoker comfort is certainly paramount, I would ask Dwan about the downsides as well. While they may be few, adding length to the wheel base has its pros and cons. If you demand performance from your tandem (quick turning, responsive, etc.), stretching the stoker top tube (along with the down and boom tubes) will certainly impact that quality. If you end up changing out the frame for a custom, you want to "hit the nail on the head" and have a bike that really fits all of your needs (comfort and performance) and leaves you not wanting for anything.

    Co-Motion is an outstanding company and I have confidence that you will find satisfaction when working with them on this (and all) issues. Just as a side note, their web site (www.comotion.com) provides a list of Co-Motion dealers. If there is one in your area, they may be able to help. We were unable to locate a solid dealer in the Albuquerque area, so we ended up travelling to Denver to Tandem Cycle Works. They are a tandem-only shop and are awesome to work with. I know that other such shops exist in other areas of the country and if you are lucky enough to live close to one, you might plan a visit. Just a thought.

    Best Regards,

    Steffan Marley
    Last edited by S. Marley; 02-04-04 at 09:31 AM.

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    Our LBS is a dealer for Co-motion. I don't know if you would call them a specialty shop for tandems, but they do have several in stock. I also don't know if the guy who fit us was a fit specialitst. Co-mo also recommended this frame size.
    Scott talked to someone at Co-mo yesterday (not anyone you mentioned). We're going in for another fit.
    Seems to me, if I push the stem in further, it will lengthen the arms and lower them which would put me closer. I guess I could be wrong. It's one of the things that C0-mo wants us to try. It could be raised a bit, but it's already about 2-3 inches higher than my single. (seat to stem ratio).
    I'll let you know what we discover this weekend.
    Kathy

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by cats7418
    I'll let you know what we discover this weekend.
    And now for the rest of the story????????

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    Quote Originally Posted by livngood
    And now for the rest of the story????????

    Weather hasn't been the greatest here. We don't get snow in Austin very often, pretty though.
    We took the bike to the north branch of the LBS that sold it to us. Had a different person fit us on it. He swapped the cowhorn bars for drop bars that were narrower and had brake hoods. I didn't realize how wide the cowhorns were. I was hesitant about this change, but it felt okay on the trainer. They also raised the stem, which put me even more upright, but at least now I can see more than the captains rear pockets. They were going to talk to Alan at Co-motion about the bike fit, but I haven't heard the outcome of that. The captain is still stretched out. They installed drop bars for him that were shorter reach. You'd think after pushing the saddle forward, turning the seat post around backwards, installing a shorter stem, and now shorter bars, they might say something about the bike being too long? Not yet.
    I don't know why, but somehow we were coasting with our pedals level on the tandem, even though I rarely do this on the single. I realized while riding the single last weekend that we were doing this, and coasting with one foot down actually takes some weight off the rear end. So, my butt is much happier now, and my positioning seems much better also.
    We had a lovely 37 mile ride yesterday with no pain. Yeah!
    By the way, after the snow melted, Saturday, it was 60 degrees Sunday, and 65 today. Never a dull moment with our winters.
    Kathy

  23. #23
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    Well, I'm sincerely encouraged with your improved comfort but I'm still a bit puzzled as to what they were thinking on the basic fit, the use of bull-horns (after all, you ride a single bike with drop-bars), and the "adjustments" they've made for your Captain -- which is a polite way of saying the kluge-job they've done on his fit. Actually, while I understand the economics and buyer demograhics side of the bull-horns, I'm still a bit disappointed that Co-Mo no longer uses drop-bars as the default set-up on their standard road tandems; can you tell I'm not a fan of the cow-horns? Oh well, at least the Robusta and Supremo still come with the drop-bars as standard fare.

    Anyway, less I digress too far, to be perfectly candid I think they (BSS?) screwed-up, quessed wrong on the size, and are acting like a car dealer who operates on the premise that you make the sale and then make what you sold work no matter what it costs in time and goodwill lost.

    Back to my puzzlement, I seem to recall that you had to order this bike from Co-Motion so that makes it doubly troubling. And, because it's an S&S bike it's triply troubling because that means it cost a lot more than the average tandem. Maybe that's why they're working so hard to "fix" it. Anyway, you guys need to ask youself if you'd be willing to keep a single bike sold to you by this same shop if they had to do as much screwing around with stems, bars, and seatposts to make it fit.

    It "sounds" to me at this point that you may be able to make the standard 28.5" stoker compartment work so I'm now more concerned about the front-end. Again, everything I've already said about stoker compartments still applies but, if you can make a 28.5" work that's OK too. As for the front end, while Alan's a nice and helpful guy, I would still strongly encourage you to get a dialog going with Dwan immediately, if only to establish a personal relationship with the co-founder and one of two guys who owns the Company that produced your tandem. I would relate your entire buying experience and the adjustments that have been made on your tandem just as you have to us in your last post and ask him what he thinks...

    War Story Time: I offered similar counsel to friends a couple years ago who ended up on a Co-Motion where it was ultimately determined that something was botched at the dealer's end that threw the rear drop-outs or frame out of alignment. The short-story with a happy ending is, someone who was initially quite disappointed in their Co-Motion buying experience was quickly salvaged once Dwan intervened. Although they didn't buy an S&S, their Robusta was similarly high-end and the simple solution was a replacement frame. No, it wasn't the only solution and had the dealer been proactive at the time of delivery it would have saved everyone a lot of time and money. Not only was it a hassle for the dealer who had to move the components over from the old frame to the new frame, but the customer had to drive 3 hours to and from the dealer over a weekend to make the exchange. Co-Motion ended up taking back a frame that only needed a minor adjustment to the replaceable drop-out hanger, but the good news was the buyer ended up with a great tandem and renewed enthusiasm for Co-Motion. They probably won't use the same dealer again, but they will most certainly consider another Co-Motion because it is a great bike and a great company run by some great people.

    Moral of the Story: Don't let a dealer's mistake get in the way of getting the tandem you wanted. It's not the dealer's name on the downtube, it's Co-Motion's. If you're not completly satisfied, I guarantee you Co-Motion (Dwan & Dan) won't be satisfied.

    Great news again on the happy butt and better positioning. Now go call (541-342-4583) or Email (dwan@co-motion.com) Dwan and feel free to tell him some lunatic in Georgia named Mark told you do so... They build great tandems and you both deserve to have one that fits properly.

    P.S. To other readers who may be considering the purchase of a tandem, shops that stock and sell tandems are all motivated to move their inventory and/or to at least 'nail a sale' before you walk out the door... more so than a shop that doesn't sell tandems. This is because tandems are expensive to stock, special orders are hard to re-sell, and because tandem buyers are often times fickle and, given more time, are considered birds of flight, i.e., just as likely to not buy or to buy from someone else as they are to return to the same shop. Therefore, be forewarned that this often times results in new tandem teams being put on tandems that don't fit. We see it all the time -- too big and too small -- and there's just no good reason for it.
    Last edited by TandemGeek; 01-30-05 at 09:16 PM.

  24. #24
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    The drop bars or cow horns are still options best I can tell by Co-Mo's website. Want a certain bar, you have to order a certain bar. Sounds like you got a bit of a bum deal during the fitting process.

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