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  1. #1
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    finding a mutually acceptable cadence

    I've broken out my old Trek T200 tandem and my partner and I are trying it. we are both long time cyclists,though on singles -- me more road bikes, Julie on mountain bikes first, and road bikes second.

    All but one of our tandem rides so far (OK, only about 5 in total so we are still novices) has ended up in a silent battle of wills and with the two of us just trying to keep it together until we can get home and get off the DAMN THING. (Tandems are a fine test of a relationship.)

    But here;s the main issue. Julie (in the stoker position) is always calling for a "harder" gear (Higher? Lower? I can never remember. just harder.) I am comfortable about two clicks up from the setting she's comfortable in. She complains that she's "spinning" and has "nothing to push against". I ask if she's pulling up as well as pushing... and on it goes until we lose it.
    I'm afraid I'm going to blow my knees out. I'm happier at about 80-90 rpm (I didn't have a watch or clock today. I'll time her preferred cadence next time. if there IS a next time.)

    what's happening here experienced tandem riders? have we just developed, in our solo careers, such different pedalling styles that we are having trouble merging them? Did Julie's longer experience on a mountain bike give her a lower preferred cadence?

    Any suggestions on how we resolve this battle?

    Peter
    Last edited by pstock; 08-09-09 at 09:09 AM.

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    I think your relationship is showing. Regardless of cadences, you should be able to work things out. If you can't, it is a sign.

    Regarding cadence, I have found that tandems demand less cadence for the same endurance, because there is more power. I don't think this means 50% less cadence, but if she wants to push, then it isn't going to blow your knees out to let her do a lower cadence.

    But, as I said, the problem here isn't really cadence. I don't want to attempt to psycho-analyze, but tandems have a tendency to bring things out that are already there. "Whereever your relationship is going, a tandem will get it there faster."

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    She prefers 2 clicks harder than you. Your confortable range is 80 to 90. My guess is that she likes something around 60 to 70. Sugested compromise: ride at 75 rpm (get a cadence meter to verify) get the longest set of crank arms that you can use (175) get her the shortest ones that she can use (165)? It will feel to you like you are going at 80 and to her like she is going at 70. jm2c

  4. #4
    rebmeM roineS JanMM's Avatar
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    If you're pedaling at 80-90 and she feels like she's spinning and wants a harder gear, then she wants a higher gear. Can you learn to to live with a slightly higher gear than you are used to? Cheaper than new cranks.
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    When we purchased out triplet used, we noticed a huge difference in our ability to get a comfortable cadence compared to our tandem. We notice that the whole bike was set up with 170's. I am pretty tall, and the Mrs. has very short legs. Put the 175's on it like i had on the tandem, and every other bike that I own, almost, and it was night and day. I too love to spin and she likes to grind. This year, it has become more of an issue for us, but we are slowly working, as Zona will say, TWOgether, to kick her cadence up slightly. After 11 years, it is tough to make those changes, but that's all part of the tandem thing. Work as a team, as long as it's approved by the stoker!

  6. #6
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    If she wants a harder gear (slower cadence) then you have two choices. Give her a harder gear or take your singles. Harmony on a tandem is not required for a successful relationship. Also, don't think of it as a battle-it's a challenge. Keep in mind that she's already accommodating you in two ways. First she (a MTBer) is road riding with you. Second, she's giving you control of her bike ride.
    In our case I slowed the cadence down to the low 80's. Compared to my preferred cadence in the 90's, I'm doing less work and stoker's doing more. My body has adjusted and my knees are just fine.
    Good luck!

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    If you really want to be successful on a tandem, you've got to make your stoker happy. The rules I live by are as follows: The captain steers, shifts and breaks. The stoker gives the orders and enjoys the scenery. In addition, the captain calls out every move, ex. "breaking, shifting, bump!, turning left", etc. It works well for us and we are a better team for it. Suck it up, make her happy and you'll both be better off for it. Hmmm, that statement goes deeper than I intended here........

  8. #8
    Legs; OK! Lungs; not! bobthib's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by professorbob View Post
    If you really want to be successful on a tandem, you've got to make your stoker happy. The rules I live by are as follows: The captain steers, shifts and breaks. The stoker gives the orders and enjoys the scenery. In addition, the captain calls out every move, ex. "breaking, shifting, bump!, turning left", etc. It works well for us and we are a better team for it. Suck it up, make her happy and you'll both be better off for it. Hmmm, that statement goes deeper than I intended here........
    1+
    I read a lot of posts and articles about tandems before getting one. There were several "rules" or more like good advice like Professor bobs above. Much of is can be summed up in a paraphrase of the old customer service adage.

    Rule 1. The stoker is always right
    Rule 2. If the stoker is wrong, refer to rule #1.

    Works great. If you think you will blow out your knees, don't pedal so hard. Don't worry about speed. Let her do most of the "push" work and you focus on the lift and slide. It will be good training for your muscles.

    BTW, I have the same problem. I just use my tandem time as an opportunity to train my muscles for the other 270 degrees of pedaling.
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  9. #9
    Senior Member joe@vwvortex's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jgg3 View Post
    I think your relationship is showing. Regardless of cadences, you should be able to work things out. If you can't, it is a sign.

    Regarding cadence, I have found that tandems demand less cadence for the same endurance, because there is more power. I don't think this means 50% less cadence, but if she wants to push, then it isn't going to blow your knees out to let her do a lower cadence.

    But, as I said, the problem here isn't really cadence. I don't want to attempt to psycho-analyze, but tandems have a tendency to bring things out that are already there. "Whereever your relationship is going, a tandem will get it there faster."
    I hate to have to agree - but I do. My wife and I bought the tandem before getting married - as we were both avid cyclists. We've enjoyed it from day one and adjusted quickly - although we have very similar riding styles. I had a tandem before with the EX - well she's the EX for a reason.

    If you have two distinctly different riding styles - as you appear to - chances are that you aren't going to enjoy the tandem that much.
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  10. #10
    another retro grouch Mr IGH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pstock View Post
    ...But here's the main issue. Julie (in the stoker position) is always calling for a "harder" gear (Higher? Lower? I can never remember. just harder.)...She complains...I'm afraid I'm going to blow my knees out. I'm happier at about 80-90 rpm...Any suggestions on how we resolve this battle?....
    Tandem riding is blissful when there's love, she's never happy so you'll never be happy...just imaging her after the baby's been up for 10 days straight and it's 3am

    Move on while you can....
    IGH's, Dyno Hubs, LED lights and old frames

  11. #11
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    80-90 rpm is ideally were you should both be. I frequently go 90 to 100 rpm on my single.
    You could try putting her on a spin bike or spin class to develop a faster cadence.
    It is something that may not come naturally and has be trained to achieve which could take time and effort. I notice a similar thing when we ride our singles. I feel comfortable pushing against very light loads when standing, but my wife has to use a bigger gear when standing. Again its something that I developed over time and by riding with others that I learned more from just watching than actual instruction.

  12. #12
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    If both of you want the tandem riding to work but really feel that the cadence issue is the only problem that's keeping that from happening, then I'd second the advice above to change out the crank lengths. Using shorter cranks means your feet need to go around a shorter distance for each revolution, so it's easier to spin faster (higher RPMs) with the short cranks. Conversely, giving longer cranks to the person who normally spins at high RPMs will naturally slow them down since their feet will now be covering more distance with each revolution.

    I certainly notice this effect when switching between some of my different bikes. The tandem has 165 mm cranks and I naturally spin faster when riding it. My touring and folding bikes have 170 mm cranks and I find that I choose a gear that gives me a little lower cadence on those. And my road bike has 175 mm cranks with the result that I tend to pick still higher gears and the lowest cadence.

    OTOH, it could well be that there are a variety of other control issues behind the cadence disagreements and in that case buying new crankarms would be a waste of money and effort.

  13. #13
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    If she wants a bigger gear, then you should probably give her a bigger gear and then you can pedal with the effort that you would like to put out. Once she gets tired of pushing the two of you around, you can pick your gear and pedal the way you would like. Though you will probably be putting in more effort to spin on the tandem than you would on your single because you are also pushing her feet around in circles. You could also think of the low cadence, high resistance work as power training. You can ride the tandem to increase your power and then ride your single to work on your spin.

    When we started riding together our prefered cadences were quite different. Kayla, a non-cyclist, was comfortable up to the mid to upper 80's and I usually pedaled at 95-105. Initially I pedaled slower and together we worked to increase her comfortable cadence. Explaining the load on her knees by grinding out a big gear she found a good reason to pedal faster. One thing that we discovered to make the higher cadence more comfortable was to switch from a suspension seatpost to a rigid post. Two weekends ago at STTR in Elmira, NY I watched other stokers on suspension seatposts bouncing while they pedaled. At this point in time we are comfortable pedaling in the 90's to 110's. I believe that the seatpost played a large role in this comfort.

  14. #14
    Senior Member DCwom's Avatar
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    My 2 cents.

    Decide why and when you want to ride your tandem, if you want to hammer out miles at top speed then maybe you should stick with your singles if you have cadence issues, reserving the tandem for more social/fun rides where you're taking it easy.

  15. #15
    pan y agua merlinextraligh's Avatar
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    To me there are 2 issues, One, deciding what you're trying to accomplish riding the tandem, and Two, communicating.

    If you're riding the tandem recreationally, and don't really care how fast you're going, I'd say just live with the stoker's preferred cadence. (which will likel yjust naturally rise with some experience on the tandem anyway.) And I wouldn't worry about blowing out your knees riding her cadence. Hurting your knees comes from high torque, not low cadence. Of course hammering at a low cadence in a big gear equals high torque an can be bad for your knees, but riding at the same torque in a bigger gear (i.e. slower and easier) is not going to hurt your knees.

    If you both want your Tandem riding to be more performance oriented, and you care about how fast, and far you go, then you need to talk to your stoker about the benefits of higher cadence, and why riding at a cadence in the 60's is really not a good idea. Perhaps look at some literature on this from respected coaches.

    Then if she agrees that raising your team cadence would be a good idea, then you can gradually work on raising the cadence. Get her a computer with a cadence display, and do some drills designed to raise cadence.

    And for you part, you may have to accept that your team cadence may be a bit lower than your individual, but if you get it above 80 you should be ok even for faster longer rides.
    You could fall off a cliff and die.
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  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobthib View Post
    Rule 1. The stoker is always right
    Rule 2. If the stoker is wrong, refer to rule #1.
    The stoker is NOT always right!
    I don't even use the offensive term "Fred." -- Sheldon "All Cyclists Are My Friends" Brown (1944-2008)

  17. #17
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    "The stoker is always right" is a mis-statement of rule #1: "The stoker makes no mistakes". There is a difference. The stoker cannot make mistakes - they have virtually no control.

    However - if you are having a hard time with cadance, put yourself in her position. Could you be a stoker? I don't think I could. Find out what cadance works for her and try to ride at that cadance. After a ride (at the appropriate time) request that you would like to ride at a higher cadance. Hopefully over time, you will find a mutually agreeable cadance.

    If you want a long, happy tandem career, make sure that your stoker is happy. Otherwise, you'll be riding your singles.

  18. #18
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Want to ride TWOgether?
    Choices:
    Compromise!
    Get her 175 mm cranks!
    Pedal on!
    Rudy and Kay/zonatandem

  19. #19
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    I was half way through a response and it just disappeared, so apologies if this shows as a double post

    Lots of advice and lots of points of view. Personally, I'm not one who views different preferences as irreconcilable.

    My beloved spouse and stoker of 20 years prefers a slower cadence. For her, it's comfort. She likes having a slower 'push' to get her saddle pressure lighter and to allow more of a third third third point of contact, saddle bars pedals.

    And when we're doing that, we're faster and she's happier, and that's what we're both after!

    I hope you both stick with it, and find a pace (with compromises) that you both enjoy

  20. #20
    another retro grouch Mr IGH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zonatandem View Post
    ...Get her 175 mm cranks!...
    For this couple, it's the other way around, he wants to spin faster, he needs longer cranks to make her happy.

    Think footspeed; cadence is porportional to linear footspeed (in inches/second). The shorter cranks have a slower foot speed for a given cadence (smaller diameter circle, less perimeter, same RPM equals less inches per second for the foot at the end of the crank).

    The rider that wants to spin faster needs longer cranks to placate the rider that prefers lower cadence
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  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr IGH View Post
    For this couple, it's the other way around, he wants to spin faster, he needs longer cranks to make her happy.

    Think footspeed; cadence is porportional to linear footspeed (in inches/second). The shorter cranks have a slower foot speed for a given cadence (smaller diameter circle, less perimeter, same RPM equals less inches per second for the foot at the end of the crank).

    The rider that wants to spin faster needs longer cranks to placate the rider that prefers lower cadence
    Thanks for that! I was starting to confuse my mind, as I was thinking the same as you. Longer cranks for stoker didn't make sense to me. We should know, because this is how we ride! My stoker likes a slower cadence, and we ride 175 for me, 170 for her. Been that way for many years. We are working her into the 80's now......

  22. #22
    Senior Member rdtompki's Avatar
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    My wife has worked her comfortable cadence up to about 90 rpm. Above that I can really feel the unevenness in her stroke. I'm good between 85-95. It's really helped to change our 11-32 to a 12-27 (9 speed) so we don't get so large a cadence drop on some of the downshifts. If you've got a really wide-range cassette this might help some. Also, sometimes when she asked for a shift I just slow down a bit knowing I can't push the higher gear at that same speed. It sounds like your partner, albeit cadence challenged by your standards, is a strong rider. This should be a big plus learning to climb once you figure out the cadence thing. Good luck.
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  23. #23
    Senior Member 72andsunny's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by osurxbiker View Post
    If she wants a bigger gear, then you should probably give her a bigger gear and then you can pedal with the effort that you would like to put out. Once she gets tired of pushing the two of you around, you can pick your gear and pedal the way you would like.
    I'll second that.

    I had always thought that I was doing a larger share of the work when we were in a bigger gear (as requested by my stoker--I prefer to spin). We tried going out of phase for a couple of thousand miles, which seemed to balance the work a little better. If you don't feel like buying new cranks, I would recommend giving that a try.

  24. #24
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    I second the advice to try putting the pedals a bit out of phase.

    I am a stoker. My husband and I have the opposite problem some of the time. I need to pedal at 90 rpm to avoid knee pain, and he's comfortable mashing at 60 rpm and also spinning at 110 rpm. Unfortunately, spinning faster than 90 rpm requires being able to pull up equally with both feet. I have not found a suspension method for below knee artificial leg that lets me pull up much on the prosthetic foot.

    I think helping your wife gradually learn to be comfortable at 80-90 rpm will be good for all of your knees. I am all for avoiding knee pain.

    My husband gets increased leg strength from tandem riding with me on the road, which benefits his MTB riding.

  25. #25
    Legs; OK! Lungs; not! bobthib's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr IGH View Post
    Think footspeed; cadence is porportional to linear footspeed (in inches/second). The shorter cranks have a slower foot speed for a given cadence (smaller diameter circle, less perimeter, same RPM equals less inches per second for the foot at the end of the crank).

    The rider that wants to spin faster needs longer cranks to placate the rider that prefers lower cadence
    I don't agree. Cadence is revs per min. No matter what the crank length is, 90 cadence is 90 rpm. Now maybe he can't keep up a 90 cadence with 175 (or 200) cranks, but the he'll still be unhappy. Get a Di Vinci.
    BT
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