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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 02-26-10, 11:33 AM   #1
sauerwald
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Another First Tandem post

I too just bought my first tandem. I am a much stronger rider than my wife, so my hope is that with the tandem we will be able to do longer rides, and stick closer together.

The bike that I picked up is an older bike, but is in very good condition, and built with good quality components - it is a Schwinn Paramount, it has Phil hubs front and rear, Mafac cantilever brakes, and mostly Campy running gear - 7 speed with a triple chainring. The bike has non indexed, bar end shifters, which is what I run on 2 of my 3 single bikes.

My request for this group is suggestions on what types of rides we should be thinking about for getting used to riding this beast.
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Old 02-26-10, 12:12 PM   #2
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Rides that will suit your wife's level of fitness, comfort related to saddle time and safety and of course her enjoyment.

In other words, a couple short, leisurely rides that you talk about in advance so you can agree on the route you'll ride, how long (time / distance) you'll ride, the pace you'll ride (cadence & speed) and the like. Once you agree on the ride plan, stick to the plan for those first couple rides. Many a new team has gone out for a 10 mile ride that thought they felt good enough to go longer, only to find that when they had gone 10 miles then had to ride another 10 to get home.

Encourage her to tell you if she's uncomfortable with her posture, the cadence, speed, etc... during the ride and be responsive to her concerns. When you're finished riding, talk about what went well, what didn't go well and when your next ride will be so that you can address those things.

Remember, you need to bring the riding tempo down to her level and then work to bring her level up.... perhaps to your level but maybe not right away if ever.
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Old 02-26-10, 12:44 PM   #3
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Also somewhat new to tandem with less than a 1,000 miles ridden. I also have a higher overall fitness level than my wife (stoker) - I keep repeating to myself -Rule #1 ALWAYS keep the stoker happy! If the stoker is not happy - makes for a short ride. There is probably a life lesson somewhere there as well :0
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Old 02-26-10, 01:46 PM   #4
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As you say "for getting used to riding", I'd start by looking up Sheldon Brown's commentary on getting started on a tandem, as well as the "Proper Method" by Bill McCready. Having done that, you can choose whether or not to follow that advice. There is certainly less-than-universal agreement that the "Proper Method" is the only, or superior method, but it doesn't hurt to be familiar with it. And probably try it out.

The next thing you want is a location that is reasonably flat, and has relatively few intersections and little traffic. Your first exercises are starting, stopping shifting, coasting and turning. And it's hard to get through the first ride without experiencing all of them. All of them will be different on the long bike than on a single. And communication is key. Start out by over-communicating. Agree how to get started. Get good at calling coasts and shifts, who signals turns (I prefer that the stoker does, since I can keep both hands on the controls through turns). Once you're good at starting and stopping intersections are less of a problem.
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Old 02-26-10, 02:00 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sauerwald View Post
I too just bought my first tandem. I am a much stronger rider than my wife, so my hope is that with the tandem we will be able to do longer rides, and stick closer together.
I'm no expert, and I can't guarantee much, but I can tell you YOU WILL STICK CLOSER TOGETHER! At least for the ride! And if you don't follow the rule found above (Keep the stoker happy!)

If you don't keep the stoker happy on the ride, It might be tough to stick closer toghether after you dismount.
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Old 02-26-10, 08:00 PM   #6
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Communication is the key to being a successful tandem duo. While you may think you know what your are doing, she has no clue. So communicate everything including starting count down (for several rides). Shifting, braking, coasting, bumps, turning all are said out loud so stoker has no surprises. Stoker Kay does all the signaling upon pilot's instructions: left,right, slowing/stopping. Stoker can stay clipped in when captain stops for light/stop signs.
Ask her how she feels . . . saddle OK, pace OK, need to stop? Hey, do stop for coffee/ice cream or whatever, this is not a race, these are rides in whereby she is getting accustomed to something totally new. She can't look over your shoulder and can't see the bump coming up . . . inform here and possibly coast (do say 'coasting' as she is not a mind reader) so she can lift her butt a bit to minimize the hit.
You the captain are sitting in the middle of that frame, she really gets to feel the bumps sitting almost over that back wheel.
That Paramount is a bit of a short wheelbased machine and quite agile; to her it may feel like the dog waggin' its tail back there. So try to avoid sudden jerky changes without informing her.
Appreciate what she is doing . . . she is trusting you. Earn that trust!
Witin a half dozen rides she will learn to trust you . . . or not.
Enjoy the ride TWOgether!
Rudy and Kay/zonatandem
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Old 02-26-10, 11:08 PM   #7
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When we started riding our tandem (about 16 years ago) I would call "shift" or "big shift" in the middle of an otherwise normal conversation. After a few years, I no longer needed to call the regular shifts, and after a few more years, I no longer called the big shifts. There are always a few occasions when trail-riding will invite the calling of "branch" ... which means you both should duck.

From about day two, we had the Captain's pedals advanced by 90 degrees from the Stoker's pedalls. This modification enables us to perform much smoother starting and up-hill riding. It prohibits us from standing on the pedals.

Remember, you have another person's life entirely in your hands. Enjoy the 'curiosity factor' of tandem riding.
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Old 02-27-10, 05:32 PM   #8
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Pedaling 90 degrees out-of-phase (OOP) is also our preferred way of pedaling.
Tandeming since 1975 and riding OOP since 1977.
For us: easier start-ups; easier climbing as there is always a pedal going over the top when riding 90 degrees OOP.
Also, less flex in the frame as we are not both stomping together with the left and then the right foot.
Give it a try if interested . . . do it for a couple weeks. If you don't like it, it's very easy to switch back to In-Phase (IP) or wherever you prefer your pedals to be.
After you get accustomed riding TWOgether, communicating properly becomes a bit less of an issue.
However, after 225,000+ miles on tandeming, we still communicate . . . on and off the bike! Works for us!!!
Pedal on!
Rudy and Kay/zonatandem
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Old 02-27-10, 06:06 PM   #9
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Thanks for all the input - We did our first ride (around the block, not sure if that counts - but we did remain upright), and I am making some adjustments to the bike to make her more comfortable. One more question - compared to my single bikes, this bike has really big gearing - the rear cogs go from 12 to 24, and the front rings (triple) are 54 - 45 - 36. I am not super fast, but do a fair amount of climbing - my fun road bike has a 12-28 cassette, and 52, 42, 32 rings. Is it normal for the tandem to have bigger gearing or is that just something particular to this machine?
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Old 02-27-10, 07:32 PM   #10
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We run 54-42-30 chainrings and 12-34T cassette.
We appreciate the 54x12 combo for a long/fast downhill and the 30x34 combo up a long steep climb with a ferocious headwind (like today).
Going around the block (successfully) is a good start.
More successful rides are just around the next bend . . .
Pedal on TWOgether!
Rudy and Kay/zonatandem
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Old 02-27-10, 07:34 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by sauerwald View Post
Thanks for all the input - We did our first ride (around the block, not sure if that counts - but we did remain upright), and I am making some adjustments to the bike to make her more comfortable. One more question - compared to my single bikes, this bike has really big gearing - the rear cogs go from 12 to 24, and the front rings (triple) are 54 - 45 - 36. I am not super fast, but do a fair amount of climbing - my fun road bike has a 12-28 cassette, and 52, 42, 32 rings. Is it normal for the tandem to have bigger gearing or is that just something particular to this machine?
As a general rule, tandems have wider range gearing than comparable single bikes. Tandems tend to go a little higher on the high end and have easier hill climb gears on the low end.
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Old 02-27-10, 11:20 PM   #12
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Gear choices vary a lot and are pretty personalized....BUT, since you asked..... 54- 45-36 and 12-28 are quite large tandem gears IMHO That is unless you are either a very light weight team, a very strong team, have a super light weight tandem or you only plan riding on the flats.
I sure would not want to ride those gears in the hilly areas around the bay area.
Since you have a new stoker, that I trust is not yet a strong rider, I would forget about the big top end - go fast gear combinations like 54/28 and focus on the other end and build up from there. Start with a small ring gear of 30 or 28 with a rear cog package of 12-32, and go from there....maybe a 42 middle and 52 big ring. Those gears will allow you to spinn more and not beat up your stoker until some riding strength is developed. At this stage there is little down side to going with gearing that is too easy on her, versus a real big downside if you have too big of gears that kill her legs right from the start. Obviously we are trying to keep it fun for her so 'easy' is a good thing. Good luck.

Bill J.
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Old 02-28-10, 09:02 AM   #13
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I would suggest to keep to the "flat" Valley until you are familiar with the bike's gearing and your team's ability. There are plenty of nice climbs to the west of you but I would not venture there until you figure out the above.
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Old 02-28-10, 03:41 PM   #14
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I go for the widest possible gear range possible. Thus I have 24, 39, 53 chainrings with an 11 x 34 cassette. There are those who say this combination is unworkable. With bar-end shifters, it works fine.

BTW. What ever you do, don't scare the stoker!
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Old 03-01-10, 11:17 PM   #15
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My wife and I adapted quite easily to riding tandem from day one. Perhaps the most difficult thing to do was to develop a steady spin together at around 90 rpm, but once we did that, the rest came relatively easy. If I want to push harder while my wife wishes to put in less effort, we can continue to ride at the same cadence. Of course, we may end up riding slower at times, but we always keep the same spin, and I can always get the kind of a workout I expect to get. IMO, that's the beauty of riding a tandem together. In most cases, my wife has trouble riding a solo bike any more than 20 or 25 miles, but she can easily do 50 or more on the tandem. I attribute this to the fact that she has the flexibility to use a lighter pressure on the pedals if she chooses to do so.
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Old 03-22-10, 02:20 PM   #16
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OK - Update time. My wife and I took the tandem out for the first real ride (we had done a couple of rides around the block as I was adjusting things, and swapping out components) We rode a total of 10 miles, up and back on a nearby bike trail. I was planning on reporting how things went here, but my wife did a much better job of it (especially her perspective), on her blog:

http://me2nocal.blogspot.com/
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Old 03-22-10, 03:22 PM   #17
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OK - Update time. My wife and I took the tandem out for the first real ride (we had done a couple of rides around the block as I was adjusting things, and swapping out components) We rode a total of 10 miles, up and back on a nearby bike trail. I was planning on reporting how things went here, but my wife did a much better job of it (especially her perspective), on her blog:

http://me2nocal.blogspot.com/
Now that was funny.

I hope it goes better for you two on future outtings. I also hope that this story becomes as funny to you as it is to me .
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Old 03-22-10, 04:04 PM   #18
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Sounds as if she has the right attitude for the tandem. Good laugh, sense of humor, and an open mind! My wife had not ridden anything on the road as a serious rider when we got our first tandem. Our first weekend consisted of picking up the tandem on Thursday night, 10 miles on Friday, adjusting the fit all the way, 20 on Saturday, and 30 in the Sunday. I found a lot of accomplishing that was overcoming the mental barrier for her of the mileage number. OMG 20 miles! etc. But she trusts me, and we communicated a bunch. Things are so much more intuitive now after 13 seasons. This will come with time. Enjoy yourselves! BTW it is possible to overcome making the stoker cry on a ride, but I won't hijack this thread....:-)
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Old 03-22-10, 05:37 PM   #19
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Avoid 'white knuckling', don't have a death grip on those squishy bar ends and you'll find the rest of your body will also 'de-tensify'! Also, to save the buns, make sure you are wearing padded cycling shorts.
Give your captain a big hug for being so considerate . . .
You two will make a great tandem duo!
Pedal on TWOgether!
Rudy and Kay/zonatandem
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Old 03-22-10, 08:30 PM   #20
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zonatandem gave an impressive list of things that the captain needs to communicate to the stoker while tandeming and we agree with every single one of them. However, after a number of years of riding together we feel a key signal was omitted from the list...FARTING. This gives the stoker a chance to hold her breath while you quickly ride away from the odiferous emission. Pat & Gabrielle - TEAM COW.
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