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Tandem Cycling A bicycle built for two. Want to find out more about this wonderful world of tandems? Check out this forum to talk with other tandem enthusiasts. Captains and stokers welcome!

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Old 12-06-09, 03:56 PM   #1
Thigh Master
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Tandem vs Solo Climbing A G A I N

Please accept my apologies up front for a topic that has been beaten to death. In any case I'm still clueless on it. So here goes:
My stoker and I have a few days left to commit to the Markleeville Death Ride. Some solo riding friends roll their eyes at us for considering it on our tandem, not to mention that last year out of 2,800 riders, ONLY 10 were tandem. By and large, is climbing a lot of steep stuff (10-15% grades) more work on a tandem than solo?
I assume of we train together we will be prepared together, so what am I missing? Why aren't there more of us on this big climbing challenge? Is it because there are just fewer tandems proportionately?

Any thoughts appreciated.
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Old 12-06-09, 05:57 PM   #2
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The answer is simple. If you and your stoker could train for the Death Ride and do it as individuals, like to climb, are fairly closely matched in power to weight ratio and work well as a team on the tandem then the tandem will work.

My observation is that most tandem teams have one person on the team who could not finish the event on their own or if they did would be road kill at the end. And with most generalities there are exceptions. The result is that on a tandem that team will say that tandems do not climb well.

Another observation is that in NorCal, there are some great female stokers capable of doing the Death Ride, the Everest Challenge and etc. However, they prefer to ride single bikes as individuals and try to win / place in events / races. Why would they want to stoke on a tandem?

To make a tandem work on a long ride with a lot of climbing, you need a team that has great threshold power i.e. 1 hour power that can make a climb, recover and do it again. If one person on the team begins to fatigue, the lost efficiency will make the tandem a poor climber.

Finally, you can take a simple test. Go climb Page Mill Road to the top and coast down and then climb it again. How did you feel on the second climb. If you felt great then climb it again. This is what the Death Ride is all about. Climbing and descending difficult hills.

Last edited by Hermes; 12-06-09 at 06:24 PM.
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Old 12-06-09, 05:58 PM   #3
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I donīt have the stats, but just under 1 % of all cyclists being tandemists sounds about right. Climbing on a tandem is a matter of legs, just as singles, you just donīt have the tandem advantage of less proportional wind resistance, just the two of you and four legs. Go for it.
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Old 12-06-09, 07:37 PM   #4
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Being a much stronger climber than my wife, my climbing speed on the tandem is much slower than on my single.
But I have also noticed that although my wife is not a strong climber, she climbs faster on her single than we do on the tandem.
I think tandems have an inherent disadvantage going uphill just due to the bike being longer.
I don't think you should be discouraged from doing the ride on the tandem, but realize you will be going slower up the hills and you need to put in sufficient training or may be regretting it.
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Old 12-06-09, 08:21 PM   #5
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One of the keys is doing a lot of tandem clibmbing together. This may sound like a no brainer, but my point is that if you do a lot of climbing on your own and your stoker does a lot of climbing on your own, you may still struggle to climb together (especially for LONG days of climbing). So ride your tandem up hills A LOT!

I cannot comment on the Death Ride, but my wife and I do a lot of climbing in the Colorado Rockies. We have completed the Triple Bypass several times on the tandem (I believe the Death ride has quite a bit more climbing though). We also completed the Leadville 100 on our mountainbike tandem this past year. We spend a disproportionate amount of our riding together on one of our tandems.

We enjoy climbing together. We especially enjoy riding up the local canyons and hearing the comments like, "aren't tandems supposed to be slow climbers?", to which we have yet to find the appropriate response.

Yeah, you'll likely be a little slower than either of you would be climbing, but if you do it a lot, you'll be surprised how fast you go up hill (and so will your friends on single bikes).

I don't know if I have given you any specific advice other than, Tandems CAN climb! You just need to get used to climbing together. Go get out there and have fun climbing!! "Practice makes perfect" or as my childhood coach used to say - "NOT practice makes perfect", its "PERFECT PRACTICE makes perfect".

I say go for it! Have fun riding together and you'll have lots of great stories to tell when you're done.
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Old 12-06-09, 08:56 PM   #6
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Have you done the Death Ride before? I've done it five or six times, and the climbs are mostly in the 6-10% range with a couple sections that go as high as 18% (ie the section just before the lake climbing Ebbetts Pass). It is a difficult ride but if you are good climbers on your single I see no reason you can't do the Death Ride on a tandem. A light tandem would be really nice. Just as important as your climbing skills, are your descending skills up to the task? The descent off of Ebbetts is very technical. Every year there are a slew of accidents on Ebbetts. Mainly because of poor bike handling skills. The descents on Monitor are also fairly technical though not as many hairpins. If you ride aggressively you are going to be very hard on the breaks on this ride. All of the descents are long and fairly steep so make sure you take that into account. Carson Pass is the fastest descent because it is the straightest. I hit 65+mph on my single coming down Carson. Brakes shouldn't be an issue on Carson (unless you don't like going fast) becuase it's so straight. Take the proper precautions for your type of riding and go have fun! The DR is a very cool ride, you'll have a blast.
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Old 12-07-09, 01:01 AM   #7
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Just as important as your climbing skills, are your descending skills up to the task? The descent off of Ebbetts is very technical. ... The descents on Monitor are also fairly technical though not as many hairpins. If you ride aggressively you are going to be very hard on the breaks on this ride. All of the descents are long and fairly steep so make sure you take that into account. Carson Pass is the fastest descent because it is the straightest. I hit 65+mph on my single coming down Carson. Brakes shouldn't be an issue on Carson (unless you don't like going fast) becuase it's so straight. Take the proper precautions for your type of riding and go have fun! The DR is a very cool ride, you'll have a blast.
Given these long, steep and technical descents, what do you recommend for brakes and rims? Wouldn't the Death Ride with, for example, Zipps, and calipers be a set-up for carbon rim melting and/or tire popping? The Zipps at least have an aluminum braking surface. My Edge's are all carbon, and I'll have a disc brake, but I am thinking to use an aluminum front rim to avoid rim melting.
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Old 12-07-09, 07:50 PM   #8
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I've never heard of carbon rims melting. I would imagine that they'd have to get really hot before that happens and you'd probably blow a tire off the rim first. True carbon fiber handles very high temps and should be better at preventing heat transfer to the tires than aluminum. Wheels with ceramic coatings also work well for that. To be honest, I don't know how good the cf used on the Edge wheels will perform in those situations. Are you using Cork pads? Be careful if you switch between aluminum and cf rims and make sure that don't use the same pads. The pads can pick up little aluminum slivers and ruin your cf rims.

You are running a very light bike so I would think that a rear disk and a front rim brake should be fine (that's what I run and me and my bike are bigger/heavier than yours). Just make sure you don't drag the brake and you should be fine.
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Old 12-07-09, 11:13 PM   #9
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I've never heard of carbon rims melting. I would imagine that they'd have to get really hot before that happens and you'd probably blow a tire off the rim first.
It happens. The resins melt.

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Old 12-07-09, 11:30 PM   #10
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Wow, I hadn't seen that before. Those hills in that area aren't even that long! I think you may be on the right track about using a standard front wheel on the DR. Even if you don't ride the brakes, you're going to seriously work them on the DR. Just remember to switch (or clean) your brake pads after you switch back to the Edge front.
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Old 12-08-09, 01:28 AM   #11
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Among the many centuries I've done single or tandem, none have contained the word "death."

Just sayin'....
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Old 12-08-09, 01:55 AM   #12
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Among the many centuries I've done single or tandem, none have contained the word "death."

Just sayin'....
Didn't you know that a ride isn't worth doing unless it has a word like death, hell, terrible, or devil in the title!
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Old 12-08-09, 10:31 PM   #13
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Didn't you know that a ride isn't worth doing unless it has a word like death, hell, terrible, or devil in the title!
It would be hard to do any significant number of challenging rides and still avoid the horrific themes.









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Old 12-22-09, 11:53 PM   #14
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Had recent email exchange with a captain who says that on the same hill he makes 300w, his stoker 200w, but on the tandem they crank 600w. Interesting...
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Old 12-23-09, 10:31 AM   #15
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We enjoy climbing together. We especially enjoy riding up the local canyons and hearing the comments like, "aren't tandems supposed to be slow climbers?", to which we have yet to find the appropriate response.
How about a, "Yes, so we've read (or been told) ..."

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By and large, is climbing a lot of steep stuff (10-15% grades) more work on a tandem than solo?
Any thoughts appreciated.

Imho, 10-15% grade climbs will be challenging especially if you are a good climber and used to the quickness of a single bike. Basically you'll only be evening up if you AND the stoker are both very strong climbers which is a relatively rare combination. That in mind, it should still be a tough but rewarding experience.

Just don't expect to beat the fastest singles going uphill.


.

Last edited by Stray8; 12-24-09 at 09:12 AM.
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Old 12-24-09, 12:21 AM   #16
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Didn't you know that a ride isn't worth doing unless it has a word like death, hell, terrible, or devil in the title!
Sez you.

We aren't lacking for challenging climbs; we just prefer to do organized rides that don't strike fear into the hearts of the stoker.

To each their own. Good luck!
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Old 12-24-09, 09:52 AM   #17
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Go for it! It's a great ride but hard! The first time I did it, I finished three passes, then four, and then since then all five. Oh, never did it on a tandem but I would if I didn't have scheduling conflicts with other rides.
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Old 12-24-09, 11:17 AM   #18
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Sez you.

We aren't lacking for challenging climbs; we just prefer to do organized rides that don't strike fear into the hearts of the stoker.

To each their own. Good luck!
Well...making your stoker cry is a bad thing...not that I have ever done that...
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Old 12-28-09, 07:31 AM   #19
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The answer is simple. If you and your stoker could train for the Death Ride and do it as individuals, like to climb, are fairly closely matched in power to weight ratio and work well as a team on the tandem then the tandem will work.

My observation is that most tandem teams have one person on the team who could not finish the event on their own or if they did would be road kill at the end. And with most generalities there are exceptions. The result is that on a tandem that team will say that tandems do not climb well.

Another observation is that in NorCal, there are some great female stokers capable of doing the Death Ride, the Everest Challenge and etc. However, they prefer to ride single bikes as individuals and try to win / place in events / races. Why would they want to stoke on a tandem?
I'm certainly no expert on anything tandem, ESPECIALLY climbing since we live in So. Fla. where our biggest climbs are bridges. But what Hermes says makes the most sense of all that I have read. From a logical point of view, and assuming a bike weight that is 2x a solo bike, I don't see why a tandem would be a handicap in climbing. Some one above mentioned something about "a longer bike" but what principle of physics would be at work there?

IMHO, the reputation that Tandems are poor climbers stems from either 1. the bike is more than 2x the single bike weight, or 2. One rider is not able to "pull their weight" or a combination of the two factors.

If there is another law of physics at work here that I'm missing, please let me know.
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Old 12-28-09, 09:47 AM   #20
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The psychology of climbing on a tandem seems to outweigh the physics. When I'm climbing on a single I've got complete control of the engine and I'm weighing my pain level against my desire to complete a climb. My stoker is working hard on hills, but won't have the same perception of climb difficulty, amount of climbing remaining, etc. The engineer in me wants an individual power readout, but we're not racing and there is no money involved. It's supposed to be fun even when it hurts. If we're facing a long (>1 hour) climb I ask my stoker to dial in something sustainable and I try to make up the difference, but as I've learned recently I've got to learn to ask for more when the grades exceed 9 or 10%.
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Old 12-29-09, 09:13 AM   #21
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The psychology of climbing on a tandem seems to outweigh the physics. When I'm climbing on a single I've got complete control of the engine and I'm weighing my pain level against my desire to complete a climb. My stoker is working hard on hills, but won't have the same perception of climb difficulty, amount of climbing remaining, etc. The engineer in me wants an individual power readout, but we're not racing and there is no money involved. It's supposed to be fun even when it hurts. If we're facing a long (>1 hour) climb I ask my stoker to dial in something sustainable and I try to make up the difference, but as I've learned recently I've got to learn to ask for more when the grades exceed 9 or 10%.
I agree with you on wanting individual power meters. I think as captains we push to hard to make up what the stoker can not give us in our effort to match our performance on a half bike. But then it may be better for our relationship if we only put a poeer meter on the captain to prevent us from blowing up before the end of the ride. A power meter on the stoker my cause some regrettable utterances form the captain.
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Old 12-29-09, 02:24 PM   #22
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What an interesting thread.

OP, every good wish in your target ride, and I'm sure you'll both do great

Nothing to add that's meaningful to the thread, but there have been times in the past that stoker and I have 'stalled' the bike on steep climbs because we didn't have small enough gears to keep rotating at 50+rpm when the road speed fell to below 6 or so mph - and at that combination I ran out of balancing strength at the bars. When Stoker hopped off I was able to continue the climb solo, thereby looking like a showoff smartass, which was at no time my intention - it was just that with two-up moving slowly, about half of my (limited) strength was going towards balance rather than progress

So, my view - gears small enough to rotate 50+ at 3 or 4 mph will help you up at the 1: in 4 or 5
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Old 12-29-09, 06:08 PM   #23
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WOG,
Several have mentioned slowing cadence, but what I'm finding when I lower cadence from let's say 75 to 60 my effort seems to go up despite the actual power requirement going down. Some of this may be balance related, but it's almost as though my average power has gone down, but my peak effort (loss of momentum maybe) seems to go up. Might be related to miscommunication with stoker. Lesson: need to practice this under controlled conditions.
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