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  1. #1
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    climbing on tandems

    hi,

    We recently bought our first tandem, a trek 1000, so far we love it and it was in our budget. Being new to tandeming, can someone please give some climbing tips. Should both captain and stoker stay in the saddle? out of the saddle? We live in the flats of coastal Texas but most rides we did on singles have some hills. Thanks for any info.

    moyerajm

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    Congrats on the new tandem! We have a Trek T2000 & love it. Neither one of us is out of the saddle on hills, captain adjusts gears as necessary. We build up speed prior to the hill, as usual, and then just gear down 1 or 2, whatever keeps us pedalling hard enough. We usually ride on the large chain ring & in the upper gears, we rarely use the middle or small chain rings. But if one or both of you is comfortable out of the saddle, then that's OK too. Each team will develop their own methods.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by mlwschultz
    Congrats on the new tandem! We have a Trek T2000 & love it. Neither one of us is out of the saddle on hills, captain adjusts gears as necessary. We build up speed prior to the hill, as usual, and then just gear down 1 or 2, whatever keeps us pedalling hard enough. We usually ride on the large chain ring & in the upper gears, we rarely use the middle or small chain rings. But if one or both of you is comfortable out of the saddle, then that's OK too. Each team will develop their own methods.
    Thanks for the reply, right now we both stay in the saddle but it is hard for me not to stand. If I do it gets pretty wobbly. The wife is not yet brave enough to stand with me to see how it is. May have to try with the bike on a trainer. The 2000 has some better components than the 1000 but the frames are the same. The cost difference was enough for me to go with the 1000 and see if the wife would like riding w/ my dairyaire in her face. At least I do not drop her now.

  4. #4
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    If pilot wants to stand on tandem he must do 2 things:
    1. Tell stoker he is going to stand.
    2. Do NOT rock the bike; this is not your single you are riding! Stoker will feel like the tail wagging the dog if you do not keep upper body and tandem upright.
    But you can climb with one or the other standing; with both standing or both seated. Practice all options and see which suits your tandem team.
    Pedal on TWOgether!
    Rudy and Kay/Zona tandem

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by zonatandem
    If pilot wants to stand on tandem he must do 2 things:
    1. Tell stoker he is going to stand.
    2. Do NOT rock the bike; this is not your single you are riding! Stoker will feel like the tail wagging the dog if you do not keep upper body and tandem upright.
    But you can climb with one or the other standing; with both standing or both seated. Practice all options and see which suits your tandem team.
    Pedal on TWOgether!
    Rudy and Kay/Zona tandem
    Great point on the rocking - this may be the best way to sour your stoker on riding. I received a pretty good lecture today (from the back) including the "you need to ride back here and see what it feels like"! The best I have been able to do is getting a little off of the seat and trying to stay stable. No chance of both standing at once on our bike.

  6. #6
    SDS
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    Standing is probably something you need to learn to do on a tandem just to save your butt. Standing up from time to time keeps the blood flow to where you sit going, and that will help save you from saddlesores, butt pain, etc.

    First thing to do is to learn to stand up and coast together. You can do that on downhills and level spots if you have enough speed saved up to burn some off coasting.

    If you've got enough space between the captain and the stoker, you can learn to begin pedaling from a coasting standing position, and to start from a seated position and stand up and pedal.

    Easiest way I know of to learn is to stand up and coast in a high gear on a moderate uphill, and then to start pedaling slowly, concentrating on form and not power so the bike does not go everywhichaway. From there you can advance your skills by practicing doing this at higher and higher cadences until you get up to single bike standing rpms. When you are beginning to learn, the uphill and the high gear keep some resistance under your feet, which helps with your coordination, and the slow pedaling rate makes it a little easier to keep control of the direction you are going.
    It's not hard to learn to start from a seated position and stand up and pedal. With experienced stokers I tell them I'm going to stand up, and they can come up or stay seated. Then I just say, "Ready....Now." (sometimes this shortens to "Now."), timing it so my right foot is at 2:00 or so when we start standing up. I should mention that I am left-handed, so that is probably backwards for everybody else. The idea is to give yourself something to stand up on, at the same time driving the pedal down (more power) as you stand up, which is why you start standing up at the beginning of a power stroke. With experienced stokers either one of you or both can stand up without disturbing the bike much. With less experienced stokers, having decided we are going to stand up, I say "1, Stand Up.", with "1", and "Stand Up.", both being pronounced at the 2:00 mark for the right foot. With an experienced stoker in a serious sprint, I would stand up anywhere in the crank circle, but usually we are going so fast that the aerodynamics are better in a seated position.

    As for climbing, it's just like a single bike. Seated spinning is the fastest way up a long hill, because few of us can stand up all the way up the hill. You can make more power standing, but it is not as efficient and will tire most of us quickly. One very useful technique on tandems is to stand up to crest the rollers, precisely where tandems tend to lose speed compared to guys on singles. Tandems can be very fast over small rollers, where they can carry speed farther up the hill, and then accelerate from that speed down the opposite side.

    I can stand up and climb for miles, and I do some training like that. It's not the most efficient way up the hill, but it helps build muscles. Few women can stand up and pedal for far, and you will have to keep that in mind. They just don't have the quads for it. The thing to do is to ration the amount of standing pedaling so the women can do it throughout the ride.

    When I began riding with experienced stokers, I told one of them that another stoker had asked me not to stand up while she was seated because the cadence was lumpy and rocking the bike was hard on her bottom. The experienced stoker told me "Nahhh...you just follow the bike. Go ahead and stand up with or without me." I've been out with her enough times to know she was serious about that. I'd like to train all the stokers up to that standard, but going out with stokers of limited capacity is part of why I ride a tandem. It slows me down just enough to get me into normal club ride speeds, and pulls the stokers up to ride with the guys.

    If you're both standing up it seems like you rock the bike slightly less than the normal amount. You have to pay extra attention to keeping the bike going straight. If I am seated and the stoker is standing, the front wheel tends to wobble a little under the bike, but the bike goes nearly straight and hardly rocks. If I am standing and the stoker is seated, I try hard to keep the bike upright and going straight.

  7. #7
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    Here are a few of my thoughts for new teams learning how to stand and ride out of the saddles on a tandem:

    1. Riding a tandem is like ballroom dancing: You’ve got to dance to the same tune, someone's got to lead, someone's got to follow, and it takes practice to do it well.

    a. By dancing to the same tune, the implication is that both captain and stoker(s) will need to use a similar out of the saddle riding technique or style. Some cyclists are bike throwers who use a lot of upper body strength to throw the bike back-and-forth as they climb, whereas others keep their bikes perfectly upright. If the captain is a bike thrower, then both riders will have to stand and ride out of the saddles, otherwise, most stokers will feel like a sack of potatoes on the back of the tandem, making them uncomfortable and the tandem hard to control. It’s worth noting, even smooth captains or teams will “rock the bike” if they use a pedal cadence that is too slow or as they tire: not even the pros are immune to this.

    b. By leading and following, this reinforces the idea that both riders need to work as a team if they want to enjoy a smooth transition from sitting to standing and back to sitting. Part of this is tied to communication (addressed below) as verbal or in some cases physical or visual cues are needed to make sure the captain and stoker stand and sit in sync. It is noted that a light touch or hand signals are used by most teams who race, so as not to tip off the other teams that an attack is about to be launched.

    c. Practice is another way of saying “Just Do It”.

    2. Communication is essential: Use lots of verbal commands while you are practicing, encourage your riding partner to provide lots of candid feedback on what they are experiencing, and then critique your sessions and discuss what you think you could do next time to solve any noted problems.

    a. As you refine your technique, your commands can be reduced to something like “Lets stand”… “OK”… “Ready”… followed by “Ready to sit”… “OK”.

    b. Note that either the captain or stoker should be able to initiate the request to stand or to signal when it’s time to sit.

    c. You’ll find that some teams use the “Let’s stand… on three”… “One, Two, Three…” to coordinate their stand while others will just key off of the captain’s movement, i.e., when captain stand, the stoker goes up. When the captain sits down, the stoker sits.

    3. Learning to Walk Before You Run: Some teams do best by working up to standing and pedaling while others just “go for it” and work off the rough edges. For those who want to work up to it, there are a few things you can do as you ride to sharpen your skills and work off any anxiety.

    a. The easiest first step is to simply find a relatively flat road where you can coast and then stand together without pedaling, aka. ‘The Butt Break’. Taking butt-breaks not only helps you to avoid saddle fatigue, it affords an opportunity for a tandem team to practice their communication skills as they prepare to stand, stand, and then sit while coasting and without the added movement caused by the pedaling motion. Teams can experiment with standing independently (best done only by the stoker, for obvious reasons to the stoker) or together, and can shift the down leg from right to left to get a feel for how the tandem will react as their weight shift from one side of the bike to the other (hint: if you lean left or right the tandem will too).

    b. From standing and coasting it’s a pretty easy step to your first pedal strokes. As you are standing and coasting the bike should be slowing down which is good as -- assuming you haven’t shifted gears – you will have a bit more pedal resistance under your feet vs. what it was when you stopped pedaling and began coasting. As with standing, one of you will need to call out the command for, “Ready to pedal/go/whatever on three…” and then “one, two, three”. Away you go. Pedal a few strokes and then coast again or sit down and resume your ride. Critique your performance as you ride, decide what adjustments you need to make, and then give it another go. You could find you master this on the first try while others may have to keep at it a bit

    c. Once you have a basic feel for how the tandem will react to how you move when you stand and feel comfortable with it, head for a moderate climb and give it a try there. However, do yourselves a favor by not letting your cadence / pedal rpms drop below 75 on your first tries. Again, pedaling at a low cadence invites bike rocking and the more the bike rocks, the harder it is to control. So, keep your cadence up on your first small hill climbs and you should find that you’ll have a bit more control and less bike movement. If you wait until you’re slogging up the hill at 45 – 60 rpm when you decide it’s time to stand, it WILL be significantly more challenging and that can be self defeating when you’re trying to learn. Over time, you’ll most certainly find yourself in situations when you’ll need to stand and grunt-out a climb but, it’s counter-productive when you’re trying to learn. Again, learn to walk before you run…

    4. Advanced Skills: Once you have the basics down you’ll be able to work on improving your form.

    a. If you have STI or Ergo shifters, you’ll also be able to practice shifting the rear derailleur while standing and pedaling out of the saddle. This is a normal thing for many teams to do, as when you get ready to stand on the flats or when attacking a hill you’ll always want to shift up into a next (harder to pedal / taller) gear so that your increased power will be matched with added resistance. Once standing you may find that you need to shift the rear derailleur up or down a cog and, so long as you’re still carrying a moderate degree of pedal cadence (~75 rpm), shifting shouldn’t cause you to loose too much momentum or cause the chain to slip on the cogs. The latter happens when your cadence drops and the drive train is loaded up with tons of torque as you grunt out each pedal stroke. Moreover, if you’re in a 28t or 30t cog, it’s rather easy to bend or fold a cog while shifting under a heavy load at a low RPM.

    b. Perhaps one of the most exciting things to do with your standing skills is the bunch sprint... particularly for a county line sign. Again, if you can master the hills, you can master the flats.

    Remember, the real key is practice, practice, practice combined with lots of communication.

    EDIT 1: Sorry for the long reply; apparently Scott & I were working on something in parallel off-line after work. You'll note that we advocate both similar and dissimilar approaches which ain't all that unusual: there's more than one way to skin a cat.
    Last edited by livngood; 08-04-04 at 06:40 PM.

  8. #8
    SDS
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    I have really enjoyed coming to this tandem forum because of the synergy of the multiple knowledgeable replies, coming from varied backgrounds. Altogether, we really know our stuff, and we don't have too much trouble pointing out the errors of those who do not.

    So I like getting more than one answer to any question. Even if they are duplicates, that assures that the answer is correct. Of course, that's not exactly what happens, and there is much to learn from the differences.

    One thing I left out is that, pretty much like Mark (but not exactly....), for any given fixed speed I will upshift to stand (usually right before we stand), and downshift to sit (while we are in the process of sitting). Two or three gears with the tight 11-21 cassette that is almost always on the bike (even for Goat Neck last weekend), and less with a wider ratio cassette.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by SDS
    Standing is probably something you need to learn to do on a tandem just to save your butt. Standing up from time to time keeps the blood flow to where you sit going, and that will help save you from saddlesores, butt pain, etc.

    First thing to do is to learn to stand up and coast together. You can do that on downhills and level spots if you have enough speed saved up to burn some off coasting.

    If you've got enough space between the captain and the stoker, you can learn to begin pedaling from a coasting standing position, and to start from a seated position and stand up and pedal.

    Easiest way I know of to learn is to stand up and coast in a high gear on a moderate uphill, and then to start pedaling slowly, concentrating on form and not power so the bike does not go everywhichaway. From there you can advance your skills by practicing doing this at higher and higher cadences until you get up to single bike standing rpms. When you are beginning to learn, the uphill and the high gear keep some resistance under your feet, which helps with your coordination, and the slow pedaling rate makes it a little easier to keep control of the direction you are going.
    It's not hard to learn to start from a seated position and stand up and pedal. With experienced stokers I tell them I'm going to stand up, and they can come up or stay seated. Then I just say, "Ready....Now." (sometimes this shortens to "Now."), timing it so my right foot is at 2:00 or so when we start standing up. I should mention that I am left-handed, so that is probably backwards for everybody else. The idea is to give yourself something to stand up on, at the same time driving the pedal down (more power) as you stand up, which is why you start standing up at the beginning of a power stroke. With experienced stokers either one of you or both can stand up without disturbing the bike much. With less experienced stokers, having decided we are going to stand up, I say "1, Stand Up.", with "1", and "Stand Up.", both being pronounced at the 2:00 mark for the right foot. With an experienced stoker in a serious sprint, I would stand up anywhere in the crank circle, but usually we are going so fast that the aerodynamics are better in a seated position.

    As for climbing, it's just like a single bike. Seated spinning is the fastest way up a long hill, because few of us can stand up all the way up the hill. You can make more power standing, but it is not as efficient and will tire most of us quickly. One very useful technique on tandems is to stand up to crest the rollers, precisely where tandems tend to lose speed compared to guys on singles. Tandems can be very fast over small rollers, where they can carry speed farther up the hill, and then accelerate from that speed down the opposite side.

    I can stand up and climb for miles, and I do some training like that. It's not the most efficient way up the hill, but it helps build muscles. Few women can stand up and pedal for far, and you will have to keep that in mind. They just don't have the quads for it. The thing to do is to ration the amount of standing pedaling so the women can do it throughout the ride.

    When I began riding with experienced stokers, I told one of them that another stoker had asked me not to stand up while she was seated because the cadence was lumpy and rocking the bike was hard on her bottom. The experienced stoker told me "Nahhh...you just follow the bike. Go ahead and stand up with or without me." I've been out with her enough times to know she was serious about that. I'd like to train all the stokers up to that standard, but going out with stokers of limited capacity is part of why I ride a tandem. It slows me down just enough to get me into normal club ride speeds, and pulls the stokers up to ride with the guys.

    If you're both standing up it seems like you rock the bike slightly less than the normal amount. You have to pay extra attention to keeping the bike going straight. If I am seated and the stoker is standing, the front wheel tends to wobble a little under the bike, but the bike goes nearly straight and hardly rocks. If I am standing and the stoker is seated, I try hard to keep the bike upright and going straight.
    Thank you for all the tips. My wife and I both read all the replys. This forum is so helpful. It show what class of people cycle. Thanks again.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by zonatandem
    If pilot wants to stand on tandem he must do 2 things:
    1. Tell stoker he is going to stand.
    2. Do NOT rock the bike; this is not your single you are riding! Stoker will feel like the tail wagging the dog if you do not keep upper body and tandem upright.
    But you can climb with one or the other standing; with both standing or both seated. Practice all options and see which suits your tandem team.
    Pedal on TWOgether!
    Rudy and Kay/Zona tandem
    Thanks for the info. Will try next ride!!!

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by livngood
    Here are a few of my thoughts for new teams learning how to stand and ride out of the saddles on a tandem:

    1. Riding a tandem is like ballroom dancing: You’ve got to dance to the same tune, someone's got to lead, someone's got to follow, and it takes practice to do it well.

    a. By dancing to the same tune, the implication is that both captain and stoker(s) will need to use a similar out of the saddle riding technique or style. Some cyclists are bike throwers who use a lot of upper body strength to throw the bike back-and-forth as they climb, whereas others keep their bikes perfectly upright. If the captain is a bike thrower, then both riders will have to stand and ride out of the saddles, otherwise, most stokers will feel like a sack of potatoes on the back of the tandem, making them uncomfortable and the tandem hard to control. It’s worth noting, even smooth captains or teams will “rock the bike” if they use a pedal cadence that is too slow or as they tire: not even the pros are immune to this.

    b. By leading and following, this reinforces the idea that both riders need to work as a team if they want to enjoy a smooth transition from sitting to standing and back to sitting. Part of this is tied to communication (addressed below) as verbal or in some cases physical or visual cues are needed to make sure the captain and stoker stand and sit in sync. It is noted that a light touch or hand signals are used by most teams who race, so as not to tip off the other teams that an attack is about to be launched.

    c. Practice is another way of saying “Just Do It”.

    2. Communication is essential: Use lots of verbal commands while you are practicing, encourage your riding partner to provide lots of candid feedback on what they are experiencing, and then critique your sessions and discuss what you think you could do next time to solve any noted problems.

    a. As you refine your technique, your commands can be reduced to something like “Lets stand”… “OK”… “Ready”… followed by “Ready to sit”… “OK”.

    b. Note that either the captain or stoker should be able to initiate the request to stand or to signal when it’s time to sit.

    c. You’ll find that some teams use the “Let’s stand… on three”… “One, Two, Three…” to coordinate their stand while others will just key off of the captain’s movement, i.e., when captain stand, the stoker goes up. When the captain sits down, the stoker sits.

    3. Learning to Walk Before You Run: Some teams do best by working up to standing and pedaling while others just “go for it” and work off the rough edges. For those who want to work up to it, there are a few things you can do as you ride to sharpen your skills and work off any anxiety.

    a. The easiest first step is to simply find a relatively flat road where you can coast and then stand together without pedaling, aka. ‘The Butt Break’. Taking butt-breaks not only helps you to avoid saddle fatigue, it affords an opportunity for a tandem team to practice their communication skills as they prepare to stand, stand, and then sit while coasting and without the added movement caused by the pedaling motion. Teams can experiment with standing independently (best done only by the stoker, for obvious reasons to the stoker) or together, and can shift the down leg from right to left to get a feel for how the tandem will react as their weight shift from one side of the bike to the other (hint: if you lean left or right the tandem will too).

    b. From standing and coasting it’s a pretty easy step to your first pedal strokes. As you are standing and coasting the bike should be slowing down which is good as -- assuming you haven’t shifted gears – you will have a bit more pedal resistance under your feet vs. what it was when you stopped pedaling and began coasting. As with standing, one of you will need to call out the command for, “Ready to pedal/go/whatever on three…” and then “one, two, three”. Away you go. Pedal a few strokes and then coast again or sit down and resume your ride. Critique your performance as you ride, decide what adjustments you need to make, and then give it another go. You could find you master this on the first try while others may have to keep at it a bit

    c. Once you have a basic feel for how the tandem will react to how you move when you stand and feel comfortable with it, head for a moderate climb and give it a try there. However, do yourselves a favor by not letting your cadence / pedal rpms drop below 75 on your first tries. Again, pedaling at a low cadence invites bike rocking and the more the bike rocks, the harder it is to control. So, keep your cadence up on your first small hill climbs and you should find that you’ll have a bit more control and less bike movement. If you wait until you’re slogging up the hill at 45 – 60 rpm when you decide it’s time to stand, it WILL be significantly more challenging and that can be self defeating when you’re trying to learn. Over time, you’ll most certainly find yourself in situations when you’ll need to stand and grunt-out a climb but, it’s counter-productive when you’re trying to learn. Again, learn to walk before you run…

    4. Advanced Skills: Once you have the basics down you’ll be able to work on improving your form.

    a. If you have STI or Ergo shifters, you’ll also be able to practice shifting the rear derailleur while standing and pedaling out of the saddle. This is a normal thing for many teams to do, as when you get ready to stand on the flats or when attacking a hill you’ll always want to shift up into a next (harder to pedal / taller) gear so that your increased power will be matched with added resistance. Once standing you may find that you need to shift the rear derailleur up or down a cog and, so long as you’re still carrying a moderate degree of pedal cadence (~75 rpm), shifting shouldn’t cause you to loose too much momentum or cause the chain to slip on the cogs. The latter happens when your cadence drops and the drive train is loaded up with tons of torque as you grunt out each pedal stroke. Moreover, if you’re in a 28t or 30t cog, it’s rather easy to bend or fold a cog while shifting under a heavy load at a low RPM.

    b. Perhaps one of the most exciting things to do with your standing skills is the bunch sprint... particularly for a county line sign. Again, if you can master the hills, you can master the flats.

    Remember, the real key is practice, practice, practice combined with lots of communication.

    EDIT 1: Sorry for the long reply; apparently Scott & I were working on something in parallel off-line after work. You'll note that we advocate both similar and dissimilar approaches which ain't all that unusual: there's more than one way to skin a cat.
    All the info is so helpful. This forum is just way to cool. We are the only tandem in a 50 mile radius that I know of and hoping we will start something new around here. This is why the forum is a great in source, cause there is nobody around here to ask.

  12. #12
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Glad the info was of some use.
    Did our first attempt at tandem riding in late 1974. Bought our first tandem in Jan. 1975 as a surprise 20th wedding anniversary present. Been riding ever since.
    Back then there was no one we could ask questions of, as tandems were an extreme rarity. Not even the bike shop owner could tell us anything except: "get on and try it."
    Through trial and error we got our act together; about 3 months later we were a good tandem team. Now some of the learning curve is eased by this forum, and others.
    Because various folk were telling us what we could/couldn't do on a tandem we started putting our experiences into words and have done some writing on the subject for various cycling/tandem oriented publications and have held tandem workshops.
    So now you two are pioneers in your area of Texas! After you get your act together, we're sure you'll be able to assist others to enjoy the shared ride experience!
    Good luck!
    Pedal on TWOgether!
    Rudy and Kay

  13. #13
    SDS
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    Admittedly while this is on-topic, it is slightly off-subject, but it is almost too good not to post. Below is a link to a picture of me getting passed by a titanium Seven tandem on Mount Evans during the races. They were doing about 11 mph and I was only doing 10mph. As I related elsewhere, I asked for permission and hopped onto the back tire for 3/4 mile or so, and then I thought that in the interest of long-term performance, I should continue at my own pace. That was a strong and acclimated team.

    http://www.3catsphoto.com/MTEVANS04/...036_072404.htm

    As you can see, the rear stoker compartment is quite short. It might be survivable, but it doesn't look comfortable or desirable. You can contrast that picture of the Seven tandem with the link to the long-stoker-compartment-tandem (my tandem "Moby") posted near the bottom of the "5'10" stoker with long arms and Burley tandems" thread:

    http://home.att.net/~thetandemlink/p...llery/moby.jpg

    One of these days I've got to get a photograph taken in profile with us both on the aerobars and a background blurred by speed as the camera pans to follow us, but that would require that someone get ahead and stop to get a picture, and so far it hasn't happened.
    Last edited by SDS; 08-21-04 at 05:37 PM.

  14. #14
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    I will add a couple of tips about standing up together:

    1. I notice it helps keep the bike motion "quiet" when I keep the tip of the saddle between my legs. This requires that I lean over the bars a little, but it's not that uncomfortable.
    2. My wife likes it when I call out the cadence with a "one two one two" or "nice-and-easy-nice-and-easy" or something like that. Problem is, I'm usually breathing too hard to talk when standing...

    Good luck, the best thing in my opinion is just get out of the saddle together and try it for short, frequent bursts until you're comforatble with it.
    Chris in Charleston, SC (formerly Bamberg)

    - Red Bull Pro SL /Dura Ace/Ksyrium Elite/Flight Deck
    - Hercules Team Alu/Tiagra/Mavic CXP33
    - Hercules Trekking/Deore
    - Koga Miata tandem/LX/Magura Julie hydraulic discs
    - 10 € folding bike from a campsite at the Baltic Sea coast, one-speed, coaster brake, handlebar and various components from trash piles, new tubes and tires doubles its value to at least 20 €

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