I've been a bike nut for a while now, but I've never had a chance to go out on a tandem. However, as my boyfriend (known as The Boy) and I were talking over our New Years' resolutions, he mentioned wanting to be more active and that he'd like it if we could do something together. He didn't think he could keep up with me on a bike so he was thinking about running or something. Now, I run only under the most dire circumstances. I hate running - it hurts! That's why I'm a cyclist. I only rode my first century in September, so it's not like I'm elite level or anything, but The Boy was apparently impressed.
Anyway, I said, well, what about a tandem? almost as a joke - and almost fell over when he agreed!
So... I need some starting points. Help!
1) How do we go about figuring out sizing? I am 5'8", inseam 33" (yes, I'm a giraffe), while The Boy (he's an adult) is 5'10" or so, leg length a little shorter than mine but we can switch our single bikes without difficulty. I weigh about 135lbs, he's in Clydesdale range.
2) Do I have the terms correct that the front rider is captain and rear rider is stoker?
2a) How unusual is it to have a female captain in a mixed team? As I'm the more experienced rider, we thought that would work best for us. Also, The Boy says that he will enjoy the view
3) The Boy has very powerful legs but not much experience with cadence. I tend to be a slow and steady rider over the longer distances (my goal is touring/randonee) so my cadence of about 70 rpm is slower than many road cyclists; however, it is much faster than The Boy's tendency (he mashes. It's painful to watch. That's the other reason I want to be captain...). How hard will it be to match up, or does it matter? I've never actually looked at how the drivetrain works on tandems.
4) we're going to rent at first, but are there particular makes that you would suggest we look for if we decide to buy? I myself have a preference for vintage steel bikes, but I don't know how frame materials differ over the longer wheelbase and greater weight of a tandem. We'd be doing moderate rides, mainly weekend rambles and possibly the odd charity ride under fifty miles.
5) Um, how do you mount and launch a tandem without falling over? Not that I hold out a lot of hope there, as I'm a klutz anyway, and I won't blame anyone if I follow their advice and fall over anyway
'08 Orbea Diva "The Avocado"; Specialized Dolce comp "Sweet Thang"; Co-Motion Roadster "Blue Jay", Fuji Team Pro
Glad you found Sheldon's articles. That should answer many of your questions.
We got a tandem because cgallagh didn't think he could keep up w/me on single bikes. He took the captain's position because of his superior upper body strength. I like to stoke because I can just hammer away, unconcerned with steering and gearing, so both our strengths are utilized.
We test-rode before we purchased, and I highly recommend that route.
Re spinning vs. mashing: You can always go out-of-phase (OOP) so that someone is always hitting the power part of the stroke. But you two will have to find a compromise between your preferred pedal speeds. Hey, look, you have a goal!
As for launching and stopping: Are you using clipless pedals? If so, the stoker should clip in first, the captain should clip in one foot and when you take off, the stoker is responsible for the Minimum Escape Velocity while the captain clips in the other foot.
If you have no clipless experience then don't clip in you've practiced clipping in and out while stationary.
If using flat pedals ignore the above advice.
Post a pic when you get your tandem and have fun!
When my feet hit the floor in the morning, Satan shudders and says, "Oh, *****, she's awake!"
About matching cadence. This is a big problem for us too. I'm a spinner, rarely going under 90 rpm, often over 110, and my stoker, even though she is small, is a masher. We've been riding tandems for a long time because I try to compromise with her at around 80 rpm or so. I can feel her kick in the power when I hit the right cadence. The key is to accommodate the less gung-ho member of the team, often the stoker, so that they will always want to come back for more.
There is also the independent pedaling option where captain and stoker can pedal independently. This only removes the forced pedaling/not pedaling issues. Your cadence will still be determined by your speed and the gear the captain chooses. There is a gearing trick you can do in the independent setup to vary the cadence between captain and stoker but is a minor point. DaVinci makes the most widely used independent pedaling system, that they call ICS (independent coasting system).
The independent systems work best for riders that have large differences in capability, such as Parent/child or teams with physical capabilities that will likely stay very far apart.
In your case, my guess is that a traditional tandem will fit your needs better and be less expensive up front.
Santana and Co-Motion seem to have the biggest market share and the widest selection of price and offerings. Trek and Cannondale have some decent offerings too. Burley's are no longer made but apparently were a great bargain for what was provided. KHS is another brand, but I am not sure if they are still in production. Burley and KHS are steel only offerings IIRC. Trek and Cannondale are Al only IIRC. Santana and Co-Mo have both. You can get Carbon and Ti too but I don't think anyone would recommend that as a starting tandem unless you have alot of spare money.
You may have already read that it is easier to have the captain be the heavier/stronger rider due to the extra work. This puts most mixed teams with the male as captain. Red Rider who posted above is similar to you in that she is the more experience rider. However, I think they opted that he suck it up and captain, please correct me if I am wrong RR . Hopefully you can converse with RR on some finer points when needed . I think it would be great if you did take the captain position. A difficulty you might find is that stoker compartments can be a little short. Meaning that your slightly taller boy will be a little more cramped than you would be. However, I think this matters more to experienced riders since they typically like a little more stretch in their position. I am very close in measurement to you with a little extra weight. You should not have much difficulty finding something to fit, something in the M/M range.
There is the old adage about tandems in various forms of "Where ever your relationship is going, a tandem will get you there faster". I knew one couple years ago that wanted me to buy a tandem from them just prior to their divorce. I also just ran into an acquaintance last week that since we last saw each other 4 years ago had bought a tandem, did a very extended tour (multi-week) and are now divorced. But, the up side of a tandem is fantastic.
And a very good point that ftsoft made is to make your stoker happy. This is especially important for teams with the stoker being less experienced riders. In any case, communication is key because the stoker takes a beating being over the rear tire and add to that they are riding relatively blind to obstacles in the road. Their trust must be gained.
The best of luck in pursuing the tandem experience. Post updates and pics if you can!
As noted above, check the frame dimensions and try to get the longest rear top tube possible consistent with a frame size that will fit you. That might push you toward the Cannondale and Trek tandems. If unsure, it's easiest to measure between the centers of the bottom bracket shells. The larger, stiffer tubing is a significant advantage on tandems, especially with bigger riders. Both of you are bigger than the average size for a female American--you will appreciate the space.
Copied from my post in the "Balance on Startup" thread:
"WheresWaldo's post has it exactly right. It's hard to argue with the idea that starting off two feet (one captain foot and one stoker foot gives both riders more control over their own fate) isn't safer than starting off one captain foot. Safer stopping too. Using sticky-soled MTB or touring shoes is safer than slick plastic soled racing shoes because the MTB shoes are more likely to stick instead of skidding.
Once you've committed to starting off one captain foot and one stoker foot, leaning the tandem like a single bike makes a lot of sense. Us tall guys tend to forget that the 10.375-10.75" bottom bracket height standard on tandems is a much greater fraction of a stoker's inseam. You may HAVE to lean the bike so the stoker isn't sitting on top of sensitive parts being squished by the top tube. You steer under the lean to the degree necessary at the start. Everything (pedals, saddle, bars) is proportionally higher for a stoker because of the 10.75" BB height.
Timing a start is better than counting on it to work. Starting in a medium gear (too low gives insufficient speed, too high is too hard to start) you (the captain) say, "1,2, 3, go," and give a half stroke to the bottom of the pedal circle with the strong legs (both on one side, of course) that were already clipped in. That brings the other pedals up to the top of the circle, where you both clip in while coasting. "I'm in, you're in (in the form of a question or a statement, depending on certainty)," and then "go."
For a stop, the captain will say "3,2,1, stop," while applying the brakes. On some given number, usually "1", you both unclip. A slight steer away from the unclipped feet ensures that you will gently tip that way, and on "stop" the bike stops and the feet touch the ground.
I have seen a few people drop their all-the-way-clipped-in stokers over the years. Sometimes slippery-soled racing shoes were implicated as well. They often work if the foot goes straight down, but with a little bit of angle, they will slide right out from under you. It's a long way down for a small stoker. I have yet to see a two-foot-down team fall over, though to be fair I have seen a few starts by beginning teams that required a stop and a restart, owing to problems with coordination between the members."
Point is, one foot per rider is safer than stoker-all-the-way-clipped-in. All that is required to ride with a heavier stoker is good balance.
You're the cyclist, so it should be your tandem. Stokers or captains may come and go. Time is your enemy. Relationship accelerators are a good idea.
It takes very little extra upper body strength to captain a tandem if your stoker is cooperative.
Buying a used tandem that has components that are still common in the catalogues is a good idea. Tandems are more expensive than single bikes. They tend to go through stuff.
It may or may not be a real problem to get The Boy to pedal faster. He should. Heck, you both should. But that's the fun of a relationship accelerator. A vintage steel bike might be a bit flexible, especially if The Boy stokes. Or not. Depends on the bike. And The Boy.
I like the stoker-stays-clipped method, but I'm not you. If you're the captain, say everything you're going to do, before you do it. You'll need less of that with time, until you don't have to speak at all. Stoker does the hand signals.