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  1. #1
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    New to Tandem, Many Questions about Overweight Cycling

    Hello there,

    I've been cycling for a while now, averaging 600 miles a year. I'm 6'1" and 200 lbs and eager to share the joy of cycling.

    My friend and I have been talking about tandem cycling for the future, and we need some help. He is 5'7" and currently weighs 320 lbs. His goal is to get down to 300 in the next two months with a another goal down the way of 250 lbs.He's been working hard at it, and I have every confidence he'll make it. We want to exercise together and share some cycling fun.

    If we were to look into tandem cycling what weight should he work towards before we start into this? I know almost any weight can work, but realistically, what would be enjoyable for him? Are there bikes that can hold up to our combined weight, do we just need upgraded tires and a larger seat for him, or do we need to have something custom built (which is an option for us)?

    What about the first trial of a tandem at the local bike store? I'd imagine any bike they'd let us rent in downtown Portland, Oregon is going to be a casual cruiser and wouldn't work for us at all. No?

    I see plenty of great pictures of couples having a great time on tandems, but what about two gentlemen? Tandems are special and you get heads to turn all the time I'm sure, but is having my best friend staring at my ass for hours on end frowned on in the cycling circles?

    What can we expect for his performance when he is so far overweight? If he can walk 5 miles then he can ride 5 miles? Ride 2 miles? Ride more? Should he be able to jog a bit before ever thinking about getting on a bicycle? Are there are resources for overweight cycling?

    Thank you,

    Tom / Doc4

  2. #2
    Pants are for suckaz HandsomeRyan's Avatar
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    You might also check out the Clydesdale Forum here at BF as it deals specifically with issues relating to big (over 200lb) and tall (over 6') riders. I know there are several people in there who began their cycling careers well into the 400lb range. Very supportive atmosphere in there and no matter how big you or your friend is, they won't be the biggest or tallest guy there.

    Sometimes I make my younger brother ride on the back of my tandem. You can't worry about what other people will think of you for riding together. Yes, we do get funny looks, but my wife and I get funny looks when we ride tandem too. To answer your question though- Anyone who looks down on you and your friend for doubling up on a tandem and having fun together does NOT represent the mainstream tandeming community.

    Renting a tandem is a great start. There is nothing wrong with 'cruiser' tandems either. This forum is filled with primarily road tandem owners but there are several mountain and cruiser tandem owners around (myself included). The 26" wheels and fatter tires help support the weight of larger riders and if you are just getting started, the upright body position and easy gearing could be beneficial too.

    As far as performance of your friend there are a lot of variables to consider and I doubt anyone here will be able to give you an accurate answer. If you are on a pretty flat course I think at least 3-4 miles could be doable right out the gate but there is really no way to be sure other than getting on a bike and riding to see what kind of stamina the two of you will have.

    Good luck!

  3. #3
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    As noted above, the Clydesdale forum here at BF would be a great place to discuss your fitness and training questions.

    As for tandems that can manage your weight, a 26" wheeled Cannondale MT like an older LosDos would be your best option. They can be found second hand for reasonable prices, come with very durable 26" wheels that handle large volume tires and they are about the strongest / stiffest tandem frames you'll find short of a custom-built model.

    Finally, as for the aesthetics / stigma / self-consciousness issues that might come with the two of you riding a tandem, that's something that only YOU and your friend can address. Anyone who rides a tandem is going to draw attention to themselves and all kinds of comments. The less conventional you appear, the more 'colorful' the commentary becomes.

  4. #4
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    We look down on the male/male teams on our club and local rides because they usually beat the cra... out of everybody in the group. No, seriously, we see nothing wrong with a male/male team or a female/female team and I do not know of a single team that does.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Stray8's Avatar
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    Does your friend already possess some cycling skills (e.g. balance, stamina)? Depending upon his current physical condition, he might be totally fine as a stoker, or he might consider practicing spinning on a stationary bike for a while just to build up his legs and cardio.

    In any case, I think that you'll both have a real blast riding a tandem bike together. There's nothing quite like it.

    I think that his size draws more attention in public than anything else and if he's stoking on a tandem, people will see that he is being proactive in getting fit and should therefore be encouraging. Unfortunately there may be the occasional dickhead comment, but there's no way of avoiding jerks completely and they should not discourage him from doing what he wants to do.

    Since speed and distance riding will likely not be a priority early on, a 26" wheeled stiff framed mountain tandem (as suggested by TandemGeek) would be a fine start.

    Glad to hear that you're both interested in tandeming and if there are any other questions, we'll be happy to help encourage both of you!




    .
    Last edited by Stray8; 02-05-10 at 12:09 PM.

  6. #6
    Senior Member ScottCarney's Avatar
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    Hey, congratulations to you and your friend for grabbing the reigns. Don't worry what others think, you'll make tons of new friends who think your interesting because you tandem together.

    I'm 6' 2'' 205 , myself and have been as heavy as 250 (lbs). Even through my heaviest phase I was commuting and cycling for fun. For me, serious weight loss meant diet and bumping the bike (gradually) up to 300-400 miles/week. You burn 500-1000 cal/hour depending on effort level cycling, so it's among the most efficient calorie burners. But still, saying no to the fast-food lunch will knock down 1500 cal pretty easily.

    Sorry, that's starting to run preachy, not my intent, just my own experience.


    Anyway, if you get up into serious training level riding here are a few things a novice out of shape guy should probably be aware of or warned about:

    1. Bonking. You're trying to lose weight. You cut calories, eat less. You go out and ride and feel great for an hour. You're miles from home. Suddenly you feel no so great. Your legs just can't be willed to give you power. You feel geenerally lousy and your head gets a little foggy. You've just bonked. Your body ran out of fuel. You need to eat a little as you ride. Have a banana or a granola bar every 45 minutes or hour. Drink lots of water. Keep a "Gu" pack on you in case it gets really bad.

    2. Saddle sores. Pretty much explains it all. The funny lycra tights with what looks like a diaper pad are used for a reason. Sores happen but can be dealt with. Don't just "power through" buy don't let it put you off. Just deal with it. Balms, pads, tights, and most importantly the right saddle for you can make it all ok. Don't confuse saddle sores, a skin problem, with the soreness of your sit bones. Your sit bones will acclimate, that is, you should just power through that ache.

    3. Have a reasonable train plan with attainable goals. Don't try to bump up you weekly milage more than 20-30 miles at a go and don't try to bump your one-day milage more than about 5 at a time. I like to ramp up by starting with a couple of short (meaning 30 miles for me, that may mean 10 miles starting for you) rides per week and add another day each week till I get to 5-6 days/wk. Then I add 5 here, 5 there, till I've got a couple of 80 mile days, a couple of 40 mile days and a day or 2 of just fun little sprints. And then the season is over and it's time to hybernate (just kidding). Have fast days and slow days. Days you stop and take pictures and picnic, and days you put the hammer down and go for a new speed record.

    4. Remember that it's fun. If you dread riding, you'll stop. If it ceases to be fun, figure out why and fix that. maybe you pushed too hard, too far. Back off. Maybe you need an extra day off. Maybe you need to find a social group to ride with. Maybe you need to get away from the social group you're riding with. Just remember that fun is the incentive that will keep you getting on the bike long term.

    5. Tires. Lots of opinions on this. My feeling is that if you're riding for fitness, pick a tire that is comfortable to ride and flat resistant. Flats are annoying especial for a novice who may or may not be comfortable fixing them. The whole point of an inflatable tire, as opposed to solid rubber, is that it provides pneumatic suspension. Rock-hard skinny tires tend to fatigue me on long rides. The transmission of road imperfections to your body takes a toll. I run 700x28mm on my single and 700x35 on my tandem. Just a personal choice, but there's my thinking.

    Good luck guys.

  7. #7
    Banned. Mr. Beanz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doc4 View Post
    I see plenty of great pictures of couples having a great time on tandems, but what about two gentlemen? Tandems are special and you get heads to turn all the time I'm sure, but is having my best friend staring at my ass for hours on end frowned on in the cycling circles?
    You tell me!...One of my videos featuring a few local forum members. One of which is Dutchboy2 and his club "The Greasers". He is a very highly ranked finisher on bikejournal and one of the guys in the video is currently #1 on bikejournal today. Theses guys end the year with 15,000'sh miles.:ee:

    I should have gotten more vid of the tandem, it's and old Santana, a different frame design than today's. Has somewhat of a "double seatstay". I forgot what the name of the design is but different.

    Two guys on the tandem, very nice cool guys, but aint nobody making fun of them!


  8. #8
    Senior Member VaultGuru's Avatar
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    Since you have more experience, I am assuming that your friend will be the stoker. The one caution I can give to both of you is that at 320lbs, your stoker can move the bike around a lot just by changing position, looking over one shoulder, then the other, turning around to look for traffic, etc. You need to spend lots of time on either lightly traveled bike paths or roads to get the hang of working as a team. You don't want to get into a potentially dangerous situation and have your friend unexpectedly move the bike in an unpredictable direction.

  9. #9
    Senior Member swc7916's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Beanz View Post
    Has somewhat of a "double seatstay". I forgot what the name of the design is but different
    I believe it's called a "marathon" frame.

  10. #10
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    All is good advice . . .
    Rent a tandem first for perhaps a weekend, even if it is a cruiser . . . learn how to ride TWOgether on that bike.
    If you like what's happening, then consider buying a used one to really get your act together for a year.
    Then, if you are still a team, you'll be a lot more knowledgeable and could buy something new or custom.
    Who cares what other folks think when you're having fun?
    Are you worried about how you look now? Quit worrying and do something about it.
    Had male friend, he 350 lbs as pilot, and female stoker pushing 200 lbs.
    Heck, once they got going everybody wanted to draft them! It was like drafting a semi!!!
    Yes, they rode several hundred milers . . .
    Go for it!
    Pedal on TWOgether!
    Rudy and Kay/zonatandem

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Beanz View Post
    You tell me!...One of my videos...
    Hey, didn't that couple in the California Triple Crown Jerseys just get a tandem? I want to see it!

    Regarding the topic, we have ridden three Fleches (360k rides in exactly 24 hours - team event) with male/male tandem teams. Like cornucopia72 said, nobody gives them any grief since everyone is too out of breath trying to hang on to their wheel.

  12. #12
    Banned. Mr. Beanz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by reversegear View Post
    Hey, didn't that couple in the California Triple Crown Jerseys just get a tandem? I want to see it!

    Regarding the topic, we have ridden three Fleches (360k rides in exactly 24 hours - team event) with male/male tandem teams. Like cornucopia72 said, nobody gives them any grief since everyone is too out of breath trying to hang on to their wheel.
    That would be "Kings Hockey" and his wife, double century/rando riders. I'm not sure about the new tandem but I will PM him and see if he responds here with a picture!

    The other two couples were on tandems.

    ----------------

    BTW, I see you aren't too far from here. I have seen a couple that resembles Kings Hockey riding a purple Calfee tandem. Purple carbon seatposts, handlebars and stems all made by Calfee! Geeze, that thing is beatuiful! I wonder if you are thinking of the other couple? I was confused early on before meeting KH.
    Last edited by Mr. Beanz; 02-06-10 at 06:53 PM.

  13. #13
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    Sorry for being off topic, but...

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Beanz View Post
    That would be "Kings Hockey" and his wife, double century/rando riders... I wonder if you are thinking of the other couple? I was confused early on before meeting KH.
    I don't think so. I am pretty sure it is the same couple that I have seen on a brevet or two. I think they may have even spent the night at our house.

    He has been riding a lot this year, I think he did a series with San Diego as well as with PCH Randos.

    The question I have for Kings Hockey is did they get a tandem to take to Paris in 2011? That would be awesome! I hope we can keep up!

  14. #14
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    I wanted to take a moment to say thank you for the amazing support/suggestions being offered.

    When Doc4 made the suggestion to me that we attempt this, I laughed and, inwardly, I was terrified. Sir Issac Newton and myself have always been at odds. However, after reading this forum and the great time and effort that you posters spent in giving practical and sensitive advice encourages me greatly.

    Thank you again.

  15. #15
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    Best

    Yes. Great info. Thank you all for the help.

    Best...forum...ever.


    Tom / Doc4

  16. #16
    Senior Member KINGS HOCKEY's Avatar
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    Yes RG we just picked it up. No pictures yet. You will be able to see it in a couple of weeks at the 300K.

    PBP is the goal, (Cascade this year) it has S & S couplers for that reason. I have seen you ride, so am sure you mean can the wife and I keep with you.
    Last edited by KINGS HOCKEY; 02-08-10 at 09:44 AM.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by KINGS HOCKEY View Post
    You will be able to see it in a couple of weeks at the 300K.
    That is some good news! Looking forward to seeing you then AND in Paris ( http://www.rusa.org/Download/PBP_2011_Brochure.pdf ) in 2011 with Jun and Naoko. PBP on a tandem is absolutely the way to go. Start praying for nice weather now!

    BTW I heard that a couple of dudes rode the 300k in San Diego on a tandem. Nobody is giving them any grief as they were one of the fastest times on a hilly course.

    You have me thinking about how to put together an all tandem Fleche Team... Way fun.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Homeyba's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by reversegear View Post
    You have me thinking about how to put together an all tandem Fleche Team... Way fun.
    Count me in on that! Have tandem, will fleche!
    It doesn't get harder, you just go slower.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Homeyba View Post
    Count me in on that! Have tandem, will fleche!
    Logistically, sandwiched in between the 600k and the 1000k it is going to be tough. Gotta check with Mrs. Reversegear. See you Saturday.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doc4 View Post
    ..My friend and I have been talking about tandem cycling...He is 5'7" and currently weighs 320...do we just need upgraded tires and a larger seat for him,
    As far as seats/saddles go - don't assume that wider/softer are automatically better. In fact, if you're coming from a limited cycling background the opposite is more probably true. First off, a saddle doesn't care about how wide you are over the hips, it's only concerned about the distance between your sit bones. A good lbs will have you sit on something that will take an imprint from your sit bones and recommend a saddle based on that.
    Next: soft vs firm.
    Your sit bones may not like prolonged contact with a solid surface, but they can take it.
    The issue with soft saddles is that as your sit bones sink into the cushion, more pressure will transfer onto other areas(perineum?) that are far less suited for the task of carrying your weight. My first and only gel saddle was nice at first, but would leave me entirely numb after 20 minutes. Gave my riding buddies quite a laugh when I got off the bike and my legs folded on the first ride.
    Next: manage your expectations
    As far as I'm concerned there are no comfortable bike saddles, at least not when compared to any other established object intended to be sat on. It might sound harsh, but all I'm looking for in a saddle is a manageable amount of discomfort. And although I'm quite pleased with my current saddle there's no way I'll ever get on my bike unless I intend to ride it.
    Next: conditioning and desenzitation
    Even if you have a saddle that has a good chance of working out for you, expect a period of acclimatization. Heck, even though I'm a regular bike commuter I experience transition pains when I bring out the MTB from its winter hibernation.
    If your friend has a stationary bike that can take a regular saddle(with rails) it might be a good idea for him to try it out there. Otherwise you might get somewhat disenchanted by the number of short rides needed before he has built up tolerance for the longer rides. Remember that you want to keep it positive and fun, and not literally a PITA....
    For a stoker on a tandem a suspension seat post might be a good idea. Single riders can go light when we encounter a bump, but that option isn't as easy for tandem riders. Most have elastomer damping, so regardless of weight there will be some functionality left. It'll take the edge of small bumps and road buzz.

    Last: as cyclists in a society for generations conditioned to view the car as the natural choice for personal transportation regardless of purpose or distance you will be looked at anyhow, you're already part of the freakshow so to speak.
    You're not harming anyone, or in violation of any law, so the onlookers reaction is the onlookers problem.
    From other cyclists the probable reaction is one of friendly curiosity regarding the features of tandem riding.
    I might get quietly amused by riders whose gear is a significant mismatch from their ability/attitude, but pretty much the only thing that would prompt me to say something negative about another rider is if they behave in a way that puts themselves or others at immediate risk.

  21. #21
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    One of the nice things about tandems is most of the major manufacturers are small enough that they will actually respond to questions from consumers.

    Certainly before buying a tandem bicycle I'd inquire about the rider weight thing. My wife and I have recently ordered a new Rans recumbent tandem and the manufacturer has a 260 lb. weight limit for each rider. I'm thinking that they mean it too because the dealer I'm working through asked when I ordered the bike.

  22. #22
    rebmeM roineS JanMM's Avatar
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    I don't think that anyone has mentioned the fact that big mass is a Good Thing going downhill. That's assuming that your bike (brakes!) and your handling (and braking!) skills are adequate for the speed.
    Of course, big mass is Not Such a Good Thing going uphill.
    As the weight loss goals are met, the uphills will get better and the downhills will.....................................still be great because it's a tandem!
    Last edited by JanMM; 02-19-10 at 04:56 PM.
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