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    Best place to practice? Beginner tandem riders

    Hi Folks-
    I am an avid road cyclist and am looking to get my significant other into the sport. A friend of mine has offered his tandem to us whenever we'd like to try it. Now, I am aware that this will be more involved than riding a bike on my own, especially since she is a new rider. Where would be a good place to go to practice before we hit the roads? Thanks for your help!

    MD
    MD

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    I recommend a flat, large area like a tech park on weekend. And bring your tandem friend with you, to show you the starting procedure, and you will be rolling in no time.

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    In My Most Humble Opinion, a bike path that's not too busy is a good place to learn... I'm sure most others will disagree...
    I don't even use the offensive term "Fred." -- Sheldon "All Cyclists Are My Friends" Brown (1944-2008)

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    Bikaholic blamp28's Avatar
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    I would tend to agree with Phantoj. I nice scenic bike path at a non-crowded time. Once the two of you get the hang of teaming, you'll want her to be "wow-ed" by the time you intend to spend with he on the bike. These beginning rides need to be focused on her comfort and needs. Good Luck!!
    Trek Fuel XC MTB, Giant OCR Road Bike, Rans Screamer - Tandem

  5. #5
    Freewheel Medic pastorbobnlnh's Avatar
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    Can she ride a bike? If so, riding a tandem is much simpler then expected. When I brought ours home, I was expecting all sorts of challenges on the first ride. I was convinced we would be unbalanced, that stopping and putting our feet down would be awkward, and pedaling together would be a battle. I was wrong on all counts!

    We started on our long driveway, reached the end and decided to procede up our quiet street. We had no problems taking a nice ride on the first go. My wife barely rides her own bike 100-200 miles per year, so she is no pro. She likes the fact she doesn't need to think about shifting and braking.

    I do give clear instructions such as "pedal," "rest," "braking," "turning right or left," etc. I mounted a bell on her handlebars, and will soon hook up her own bike computer. Now she'll be able to tell me to "slow down" when I exceed the speed limit!

    Best of luck on your experience!
    Bob
    Dreaming of Summertime in NH!

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  6. #6
    Old Enough to Know Better WalterMitty's Avatar
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    I agree that a large open flat space is a good place to start. But when you crash it will be on an off-camber inclined intersection with a crosswind.

    Is your S.O. a bicyclist you are trying to get into tandems, or a non-cyclist you are trying to get into cycling? It's hard for me to imagine starting a complete novice with a tandem. I'm sure there are ways and reasons to make it work, but it will take some brute strength on your part and instant compliance to instructions on your stoker's part. (assuming you will Captain) Do you have this relationship?

    You will have to work out taking off and landing rules and how to tell when one of the rules will be modified. So think about how you do those things on a single and be prepared to explain them in detail during your practice. For example "STOPPING LEFT DOWN" and "STOPPING RIGHT DOWN" means something very specific to my stoker and can be executed immediately.

    Coming to a 4-way stop I may say "STOPPING LEFT DOWN" and my stoker might say "STAYING UP" which will mean a very specific thing. i.e she won't unclip and I'll keep us upright until it's our turn to go and she will be very still and centered until we're moving again. She will expect a slight lean to the left if we stop completely (because my left foot will be "down" on the ground), and the pedals will be indexed for the right pedal to be about 3/4 up in front for the power stroke to take off.

    You may not have noticed how you stop on a slanted road, you'll have to take note, and you'll also have to realize that the stoker can't read the road from the back even if they aren't looking around at the birds and trees and otherwise day-dreaming.

    A key point for me was connecting some motorcycling skills to the tandem. You don't realize it on a single so much, particularly with a light road bike, but many cyclists use what I call "butt english" to control the bike at low speeds. Plainly put, if you want to lean the bike you shift your butt one way or the other and the top of the bike moves with it. This doesn't work so well with a tandem.

    Before you add the stoker, practice awhile by yourself and learn to "countersteer". If you don't already know what that is, it is the practice of turning the handlebars in the opposite direction from the way you want the bike to lean. So to lean the bike quickly to the right, the handlebars must be turned left. To stop the bike from falling to the left, you must steer quickly to the left to stand the bike back up. Obviously, this only works when you have some forward motion. So our tandem stops aren't the leisurely rolling stops I may do on my single, but more like a carrier landing where I keep enough speed up for manuvering until I can stick the stop with enough reserve forward momentum to make a last second correction if necessary.

    So our take-off procedure is that I straddle the bike first and hold it with both feet on the ground until my stoker gets clipped in and settled down. I then call for the "low pedal" depending on which side is downhill. If the world is flat on that particular spot my default is low left. I clip in on the low pedal and we reverse to the power start position. I'll say something like "here we go" and we do.

    I apoligize if I'm boring you with stuff you already know, and many folks here are more experienced and have better advice, but my Wife and I are in our first year of tandeming, so some of these revelations are still fresh in my mind. We haven't crashed completely yet (knocks on head) but we've had enough close calls to work out some rules and communication. We rode motorcycles two up for years and I think that has helped us. She says she prefers the tandem now because she doesn't have to fiddle with gears and making traffic decisions; I think it's because she can keep up now with out pedaling.

    If group cycling is like going for a run with friends, Tandeming is like Ballroom dancing in traffic. You can sidestep a buddy that does something unexpected if you're a single, but if someone on your team does something weird, even though your stoker has no brakes, gear shifters, steering, or view of the road ahead (think Ginger Rogers in heels dancing backwards) there's a good chance you're going down.

    Good Luck!
    Youth we got, what we need is a fountain of Smart!

    "Does it ever occur to you that I am sometimes thinking?"

  7. #7
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    We are a new tandem couple with about 200 miles under our belts in the last five weeks or so.

    We began with Sheldon's article and took it to heart.

    http://www.sheldonbrown.com/tandfat.html

    We looked and looked and finally found a tandem that seems to be working for us.

    Then we practiced starting and stopping in the back yard on the grass, till we were both comfortable. Then we hit the road. No broken bones or road rash so far.

    Good luck.
    Most economic fallacies derive from the tendency to assume that there is a fixed pie, that one party can gain only at the expense of another.....Milton Friedman

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    WalterMitty; Your style is totally opposite mine. I never knew there was so much variance between teems. My stoker never unclips until the ride comes to the end. Bike balance at stops is totally my responsibility. When we start I straddle the bike while she mounts and clips in; holding the brakes helps keep things steady. At the end of the ride she waits for me to plant both feet on the ground and give the command to dismount.

  9. #9
    Old Enough to Know Better WalterMitty's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by apage4u View Post
    WalterMitty; Your style is totally opposite mine. I never knew there was so much variance between teems. My stoker never unclips until the ride comes to the end. Bike balance at stops is totally my responsibility. When we start I straddle the bike while she mounts and clips in; holding the brakes helps keep things steady. At the end of the ride she waits for me to plant both feet on the ground and give the command to dismount.
    We do the same thing. Deviations occur for rest stops or unusual conditions and we communicate those extensively.

    But your comment is helpful as an example of the communication issue. You read my post as proposing methods opposite to your own. If there is a difference, it is that most of our rides don't allow only one start and one stop, and sometimes we're on difficult surfaces or have difficult conditions.

    If we can have a misunderstanding here in the calm of typing on a forum, it highlights how a strong willed Captain and Stoker could have to work at communicating in traffic at speed.
    Youth we got, what we need is a fountain of Smart!

    "Does it ever occur to you that I am sometimes thinking?"

  10. #10
    Elite Rider Hermes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jgg3 View Post
    I recommend a flat, large area like a tech park on weekend. And bring your tandem friend with you, to show you the starting procedure, and you will be rolling in no time.
    +1 and read this...http://www.gtgtandems.com/tech/propmethod.html
    "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Einstein

  11. #11
    Oldie, just not here! Onegun's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hermes View Post
    And as soon as you're done, read this: The Proper Method Debunked
    BICYCLE - [bahy-si-kuhl] - Noun :> A medical device used to correct the common geriatric condition of OFS, (Old, Fat & Slow), in a manner that does not induce brain-decaying boredom like walking or running.

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  12. #12
    Old Enough to Know Better WalterMitty's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Onegun View Post
    And as soon as you're done, read this: The Proper Method Debunked
    I had not read these pieces before I wrote my epistle above, I should probably study more before commenting.

    Having said that, I know I appreciate the three link postings. I probably agree more with Sheldon and Bill n Maggi, although if I was a brand new stoker I would try to find a McCready to learn on so I could walk away from the crash(es) free of guilt.

    I don't know if I would have even tried tandems if I had taken McCready's method as gospel to start. Lord knows I've tried to let my stoker stay clipped in under all conditions; I've also danced the Hokie Pokie at a couple of green lights until we worked out our system. It really is a team effort.

    One thing that did me a world of good that I want to emphasize is doing some solo Captain miles. My Wife dropped me off at the LBS to pick up our tandem and I had to ride it several miles home alone. Aside from the various comments from passing motorists, this gave me some time to familiarize myself with the differences from my single without the added workload of having a stoker on board. I think it really helped me make the transition.

    All advice is worth what you payed for it. YMMV.
    Youth we got, what we need is a fountain of Smart!

    "Does it ever occur to you that I am sometimes thinking?"

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    One word of advice: Hold off on the clipless for her if she is a rank beginner. Start her off on platforms until she gets the hang of it. Otherwise you may, from time to time, have to deal with a panic going on behind you.

    Another thing I did was ride as a stoker for a brief ride to ensure I understood what she had to deal with.

    -Old Army

  14. #14
    BreakingWind BreakingWind's Avatar
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    You might want to practice in the office parking lot of your divorce lawyer/marriage counselor...just to save time.

  15. #15
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    All good advice!
    There is no one-and-only proper method for riding a tandem. . . and on rare occasions, the stoker can be wrong!
    Communication is key to becoming a tandem team.

    And on practicing in divorce lawyer/marriage counselor parking lot: Been tandeming for 34+ years and *happily* married 54+ years!

    Pedal on TWOgether!
    Rudy and Kay/zonatandem

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    Old Enough to Know Better WalterMitty's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zonatandem View Post
    All good advice!
    There is no one-and-only proper method for riding a tandem. . . and on rare occasions, the stoker can be wrong!
    Communication is key to becoming a tandem team.

    And on practicing in divorce lawyer/marriage counselor parking lot: Been tandeming for 34+ years and *happily* married 54+ years!

    Pedal on TWOgether!
    Rudy and Kay/zonatandem
    Ha! So while correlation does not prove causation, 54 - 34 = 20 !!! (cue maniacle laughter)

    My Wife and I are doing pretty well with less than a year on the tandem, but we've been married 26 years in May.

    So while we started late, we'll have to work on catching up with you.

    NOTE: While I won't suggest that you be married for 20+ years to your tandem team mate to be successful, there are at least a couple of examples that suggest it may not hurt.
    Youth we got, what we need is a fountain of Smart!

    "Does it ever occur to you that I am sometimes thinking?"

  17. #17
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    The links above are all good and I recommend reading them. I would avoid a bike path as a starting place. The issue I have had teaching people is that when they first get someone on the back they tend to turn 10-15 degrees in the process of starting. correcting for that 15 degrees before they bike off of the path sends them over correcting the other way, and so on. In a parking lot you do not have this issue as you can simply continue going whatever direction you end up facing.

  18. #18
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    W-Mitty:
    We were riding single bikes way back when. While doing centuries would see each other at the start/lunch/finish.
    So in 1975 for our 20th wedding anniversary came home with a tandem . . . been ridng TWOgether ever since. Are now on our 5th tandem and have covered 220,000+ miles as a tandem duo.
    And marriage is not a prerequisite to be a successful tandem team . . .
    Pedal on!
    Rudy and Kay/zonatandem

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    With regard to the two opposing methods... I don't think my wife and I could use the double down method. I am a right foot starter and she, like most people, is a left foot starter. Fortunately I am much larger than her so holding her, and the bike, up is no problem.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclist5309 View Post
    With regard to the two opposing methods... I don't think my wife and I could use the double down method. I am a right foot starter and she, like most people, is a left foot starter. Fortunately I am much larger than her so holding her, and the bike, up is no problem.
    Well, you could probably learn to start on a new foot...

    But I'm sure the double-down method wouldn't work for me and my 5-year-old stoker...

    Does the double-down method work in blackjack?
    I don't even use the offensive term "Fred." -- Sheldon "All Cyclists Are My Friends" Brown (1944-2008)

  21. #21
    Senior Member geranimo57's Avatar
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    I suggest just jump on and go, if you are a confident rider it will all work out.
    My wife and I bought our first Tandem this past July. She had never ridden a bicycle and has no desire to learn. We have been riding Goldwings for almost 20 years with over 300,000 miles logged and she has 100% trust in me.. on bikes at least
    We are lucky enough to live near Tandemseast, we went over to see Mel, he had a few bikes for us to test ride. Mel showed us the proper way to mount and take off and off we went. We came home that afternoon with a new Burley with flat pedals. We started riding every morning around the neighborhood about 10 miles. After a few weeks I put on some SPD clipless pedals and we never looked back. My wife loves the ride! Normally she clips in at the start and does not unclip till we stop. We are counting the days till spring weather arrives so we can get back to our daily rides.
    Bottom line, just get on and ride.. you will work it out.

    Regards
    Scott & Arlene

  22. #22
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Stoker stays clipped. I unclip both feet if a stop will be longer than a few seconds. Too easy for things to go wrong, as they have. I say "pedal" and stoker produces correct pedal in power start position. When it's time to go, I clip into that pedal and we go.

    Agree with the "carrier landing" comment. Never thought of it like that!

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