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  1. #1
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    Captain / Stoker communication - keys to success

    Have always wanted a tandem and found a KHS in good shape at a garage sale. Not sure whether my wife and I would enjoy tandeming. Our first spin around the neighborhood was fun and bodes well. Question:

    1. Is there a communications system or standard practices that keep cap and stoker in sync? Something that means stop pedaling, or get ready to turn right, or bump ahead?

    2. My wife is a bit anxious about not being able to see what's ahead. Besides good communication (see above) is trust something that just develops over time? What makes new stokers comfortable back there?

  2. #2
    Oldie, just not here! Onegun's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeSz View Post
    1. Is there a communications system or standard practices that keep cap and stoker in sync? Something that means stop pedaling, or get ready to turn right, or bump ahead?
    See my site: http://billnmaggi.tandemrides.com/2008/07/13/blueant_interphone/

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeSz View Post
    2. My wife is a bit anxious about not being able to see what's ahead. Besides good communication (see above) is trust something that just develops over time? What makes new stokers comfortable back there?
    See Tandemgeek's site: http://www.thetandemlink.com/LearningCenter.html
    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.

    2005 Trek T2000 Tandem, 2003 Burley Tosa Tandem, Pacific Dualie beater tandem, and 6 singles including 2 fixies.

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  3. #3
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    As a captain, I try to imagine being in her position and I find that it would be difficult to trust someone that much: Limited visibility, no control and high speeds.

    As captain try to be as predictable as possible, listen to your stoker and do what she asks. Be trustworthy. The key to a long term tandeming experience is a happy stoker. If she doesn't like it, you won't be a captain for long.

    There have been teams on this forum who have crashed and the stoker was still willing to get back on. I'm not sure how quickly my stoker would regain trust.

  4. #4
    Gear Combo Guru Chris_W's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeSz View Post
    1. Is there a communications system or standard practices that keep cap and stoker in sync? Something that means stop pedaling, or get ready to turn right, or bump ahead?
    Communication is usually brief to be fast. Terminology that I normally say to my stoker includes:
    Coast (to stop pedaling)
    Pedal
    Bump
    Stopping (if we're actually coming to a full stop)
    Signal right/left (before turning, it is good to ask your stoker to signal the turn for you)

    I also normally say if I'm going to change gear on the front to a different chainring by calling out the name of the ring we're going to (granny/small, middle, big ring), but I don't bother doing so when shifting on the rear (after some experience, your stoker will get to know when to expect you to shift on the rear due to going out of the normal cadence range).

    Terminology that my stoker normally says to me:
    Slower/Brake! (I sometimes let the bike roll a bit too freely on the downhills; I've heard that some captains get pinched or smacked for this, but so far my stoker has made do with verbal commands, fortunately)
    Cross-chaining (sometimes I forget where the chain is and leave it on the big ring while trying to shift all the way to the lowest gears on the back)
    Trim (when the chain rubs on the front derailleur)

    Most other things are less common and/or can be said at a more relaxed pace, and so we don't use any specific terminology.

    Don't worry, you should get the hang of it pretty quickly, and you'll soon find out how much fun tandem riding can be.
    Last edited by Chris_W; 10-13-09 at 01:13 AM.

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    Thanks for the links and pointers. I think we are getting off to a good start.

  6. #6
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Yup, communication is key to successful tandeming!
    Been doing it for 34+ years.
    Enjoy the ride TWOgether!
    Rudy and Kay/zonatandem

  7. #7
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    1. When I hear my stoker gasping for air, that means slow down. 2. If she is crying on a decent that also means slow down! :-) Just kidding, well kind of. Number 2 did happen once. Anyway, trust and communication is the key. Let her know what's coming up, and over time some stuff will become instinctive. Karen can tell by my pedal stroke if something is coming before I call it out. She can feel me ease off for a shift, and know if a turn is coming the the outside leg will be staying down etc. If I don't call something bad, I may get a smack. Sometimes you miss things like in a paceline if it isn't called out ahead for you by others. But try to let her know what's going on and hopefully all will be well.

  8. #8
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    All good advice here.

    I'd echo the view that if you make the early rides entirely predictable, then some kind of empathetic 'click' develops very soon - a lot of communication about shifting and effort happens through the timing chain

    The only thing I'd add - asking 'Are you still there?' on a climb is not usually viewed as a helpful communication. I stopped doing that after the bruises subsided

    Have fun

  9. #9
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    Things that I also say to my tandem partner:
    teeny ring/middle ring/big ring - when I hear noisy shifting and I think he doesn't know which chainring the bike is on.

  10. #10
    Cyclist- Bike 'n a half
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    I'm a long time boater, and my stoker learned a lot about boating before we started tandem riding. One thing that we've carried over from one sport/hobby to another is that there is one, and only one, name or phrase for certain things that makes the message very clear without discussion, debate, or misunderstanding due to wind noise.

    A couple of examples are;

    The front chain rings are small, middle, big. There's no confusion between the "little" ring & the "middle" ring.

    She has more neck mobility and a bigger mirror than I do, so when we get ready to make a left turn I'll ask her about the traffic behind us and she'll either say "clear" or "car back", never "clear back".

  11. #11
    Dharma Dog lhbernhardt's Avatar
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    The only verbal communication I use as the pilot is to call out the bumps coming up, or RR tracks. I'll sometimes announce "post" to get out of the saddle for the tracks, but if I say "tracks" and get out of the saddle, she'll quickly follow suit.

    I don't announce braking or shifts; after nearly 40 years of cycling, they just come too automatically. I've often shifted before I've even thought about it.

    Luis

  12. #12
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    .........""One thing that we've carried over from one sport/hobby to another is that there is one, and only one, name or phrase for certain things that makes the message very clear without discussion, debate, or misunderstanding due to wind noise.""".....

    Great advice, I could not agree more, this is a huge safety issue... particularly with ""CLEAR or CAR BACK""!!

    Bill J

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    I'd just like to bump this thread back up to thank the guys who have posted on this topic. I got into cycling heavily again this Summer, and discovered the growing tandem scene. It looked like fun so I bought a gently used department store tandem off of Craigslist for $175, disassembled most of it and made sure it was reassembled properly. Swapped the mtb tires for Michelen road treads and put my reluctant stoker on the back. She exhibited all the expected anxieties on downhills, turns, in traffic, etc, and I fought the urge to express my impatience with her.

    That's about the time I found this thread, and several others like it. Heeding the advice here, I hit the brakes gladly upon subsequent requests, heightened my awareness of her comfort level and adjusted my communication properly, and if I felt unfulfilled on return from our short rides around the neighborhood, I jumped on my half bike afterward and got my fix. In the process, she began to trust my judgement, she relaxed enough to enjoy the ride, and we'll be participating in our first group ride this weekend. We're already discussing the purchase of our first "real" tandem, because she plans on doing this a LOT next year.

    It's been good for our fitness levels AND our marriage, and I owe a debt of gratitude to the collective wisdom on these boards, and the willingness of those who shared.

  14. #14
    Cyclist- Bike 'n a half
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    Quote Originally Posted by Igetit View Post
    It's been good for our fitness levels AND our marriage,
    To paraphrase as stated many times in many different ways; "whatever direction a relationship is going, it will get there twice as fast on a tandem bike".

    Congratulations on your good relationship & best wishes for many miles riding and building a stronger marriage riding together.

  15. #15
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    My stoker uses some non-verbal comunication (comes in handy when windy or while going fast) Tap on my left hip = car back; run finger up my lower back = shift up (she wants to stand); tap on right hip= get off the front of the pace line (she is getting tired); nice rub in my back= she loves me

  16. #16
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    You've got all the sensible advice already, which I fully support and use

    But, just for the sake of 'daft'

    Don't overlook the riding crop. Cheap, simple, direct, unambiguous, no wasted words

    (Sorry dear, just on-line with my friends, I'll come and do the washing up now)

  17. #17
    Oldie, just not here! Onegun's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Igetit View Post
    It's been good for our fitness levels AND our marriage.
    Nice to see a nic of "Igetit" being used by someone who really does get it!
    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.

    2005 Trek T2000 Tandem, 2003 Burley Tosa Tandem, Pacific Dualie beater tandem, and 6 singles including 2 fixies.

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  18. #18
    Senior Member WebsterBikeMan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wobblyoldgeezer View Post
    You've got all the sensible advice already, which I fully support and use

    But, just for the sake of 'daft'

    Don't overlook the riding crop. Cheap, simple, direct, unambiguous, no wasted words

    (Sorry dear, just on-line with my friends, I'll come and do the washing up now)
    ... but doesn't it hurt when she hits you with it?

  19. #19
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    When my wife and I rode together, I would tell her everything. Right turn, left turn, shifting, stopping, shut up, standing, stopping, shifting, etc.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by steveseebold View Post
    When my wife and I rode together, I would tell her everything. Right turn, left turn, shifting, stopping, shut up, standing, stopping, shifting, etc.
    Perhaps one of those is why you don't ride together anymore?

  21. #21
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    About the only thing I call out for is unavoidable bumps(if I see them in time). Gear changes and coasting seem to work fine just by me backing off on the power, or maybe even a bit of backpressure sometimes.
    The only thing I would like to improve on is knowing how to balance our efforts, especially in a bunch ride situation where the total output required is variable. I think sometimes I find that I may be doing very little to sit in the bunch but my stoker may still be cranking harder than me, and sometimes vice versa. Any ideas?

  22. #22
    Oldie, just not here! Onegun's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dean V View Post
    The only thing I would like to improve on is knowing how to balance our efforts, especially in a bunch ride situation where the total output required is variable. I think sometimes I find that I may be doing very little to sit in the bunch but my stoker may still be cranking harder than me, and sometimes vice versa. Any ideas?
    Perfectly normal. Prior to using an intercom system, (or anytime "stealth mode" is called for), Maggi churns out a consistant pace that she could maintain over the length of the ride. And since I can see what's needed, I get to do the interval work to keep us on, (or keep us from crossing), the wheel in front. The key there is, (again), to discuss group riding with your stoker and explain what you need.

    We now use the BlueAnt interphones, so we can keep a running conversation if need be to control power output.
    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.

    2005 Trek T2000 Tandem, 2003 Burley Tosa Tandem, Pacific Dualie beater tandem, and 6 singles including 2 fixies.

    TampaBayCycling.com - A LOCAL Cycling Forum
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  23. #23
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    Don't overlook the riding crop. Cheap, simple, direct, unambiguous, no wasted words
    This made me laugh out loud wobblyoldgeezer! It's a good thing I didn't have one during those first few rides, I might have made the mistake of using it!

    And thanks for the compliment about my nicname Onegun, I appreciate it

  24. #24
    DoubleTrouble cgallagh's Avatar
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    Haven't seen this since we first started riding tandem. Thought it best to repost. All captains and stokers should read this and understand it.

    http://tinyurl.com/6pmxhx
    Two blondes walked into a building-You think one of them would have seen it.
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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by wobblyoldgeezer View Post
    Don't overlook the riding crop. Cheap, simple, direct, unambiguous, no wasted words

    (Sorry dear, just on-line with my friends, I'll come and do the washing up now)
    Wow, that Instant Karma's pretty fierce

    (See thread in 50+, "tumble from folder"). I tumbled, she didn't. I shouldn't tease, I know, but surely that's a harsh payback?

    Heigh **

    Keep safe, all

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