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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 03-11-10, 11:38 PM   #1
stevage
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Tandem plus trailer

Hi all,
Just thought I'd repeat the question I asked in the touring forum: how bad is it to tour with a tandem plus Bob trailer? The gf and I are going to ride for about 8 days in southwest France in a few weeks. I'm going to try and keep the daily distances to around 40-50km so we have enough time to actually see stuff, rather than just zoom past it. Neither of us has much experience with tandems - I've ridden one for about 30 minutes once. We do have a reasonable amount of touring experience in general.

If we take camping gear, I can't see any other way to carry it all - two rear panniers certainly isn't going to carry clothes, tent, sleeping bags, mats etc for a week.

Also, how true is it that the stoker can just relax, enjoy the scenery and let the front person do the pedalling? That would work well for us, as I'm quite a bit stronger, and would like a workout, whereas we'd like her to not be too exhausted at the end of each day...

Thanks for your insights...
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Old 03-12-10, 12:09 AM   #2
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There was a report a couple of weeks ago about a camping tour in Chile and Argentina. That couple carried all their gear in front and rear panniers. But we have never toured camping... only credit card touring spending the night at hotels or hostals.

Regarding your other question, unless your route is almost flat and your GF weighs almost nothing, she will have to pitch in and help you pedal or you two are going to find yourselves walking even the slightest hill without regard about how strong you are. 40 to 50 km a day is very doable if you two are in descent shape and the terrain is not very steep.
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Old 03-12-10, 04:26 AM   #3
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With front and rear panniers, plus some frame bags and a handlebar bag you could probably just get away without the trailer as long as you travel pretty light. Given that it'll be in April, you'll probably have more clothes than you would take on a summer tour, making travelling light that much harder. Having a trailer will make packing much easier. Just be prepared to handle the total length of the thing when going through small French villages.

She'll definitely have to put a bit of energy into pedalling, but it'll be no problem for you to be doing substantially more than 50% of the work. You daily distance sounds very sensible, and you should have lots of time to enjoy the places.

Enjoy the trip!
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Old 03-12-10, 09:25 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stevage View Post
Hi all,
Just thought I'd repeat the question I asked in the touring forum: how bad is it to tour with a tandem plus Bob trailer?
Looking on CrazyGuyOnABike, you'll find that of the tandem riders - the majority are not doing fully self-contained (i.e. not camping, or not cooking, or both). But that feels like just a bit over half. Looking at the other half, I'd guess that at least half of them use a Bob. Most of them are quite happy with that decision, although there is one couple currently on tour that figured out this year how to get everything on the bike, to lose the extra weight of the combination of the trailer itself and the extra "stuff" it permitted them to drag behind them.
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Originally Posted by stevage View Post
I'm going to try and keep the daily distances to around 40-50km so we have enough time to actually see stuff, rather than just zoom past it. Neither of us has much experience with tandems - I've ridden one for about 30 minutes once. We do have a reasonable amount of touring experience in general.
While I wouldn't highly recommend the approach of starting into your tandem experience, I'm not one to talk. Our first tandem experience was a ride from Lake Louise Alberta to Jasper - I forget whether it was three or four nights. That one was planned to be inn-to-inn, and on that road the daily mileage was determined by what was the shortest distance we could ride and still get lodging.

Keeping the distances down to 40-50 km should make for quite easy days; given you both have experience touring, figure the time on the road that the average of you two would take for that kind of distance and you'll have a rough guess at the time you'll need on the tandem.
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If we take camping gear, I can't see any other way to carry it all - two rear panniers certainly isn't going to carry clothes, tent, sleeping bags, mats etc for a week.
For self-contained touring, we use Arkel TT84s. Photos and lists at this page. Note on the "Equipment List" page, the kids have the TT84s, because they can carry more weight than their decrepit parents, and then we have a better chance of keeping up . These panniers are specifically for tandem touring, and they are huge. More info on the Arkel web site. Some folks who are particularly good at travelling light can get away with just normal (large) rear panniers, plus front panniers, bar bag, possibly a frame bag and/or bento box, and a trunk - or stuff strapped to the back rack. Our reasoning for going with the TT84s is 1) we're the pockets type of people; you have to make your own organization out of the huge bag on the trailer; 2) the trailer itself weighs more than all of our (empty) panniers by a pound or two; 3) a trailer needs a different size spare inner tube and possibly tire; 4) we figured we would be able to get everything in, based on looking at the volume of the TT84s and comparing that with what we already have (rear panniers shown on our bike in the cgob journal).

So it can be done either way.
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Also, how true is it that the stoker can just relax, enjoy the scenery and let the front person do the pedalling? That would work well for us, as I'm quite a bit stronger, and would like a workout, whereas we'd like her to not be too exhausted at the end of each day...
Unless you're on a DaVinci, with independent coasting, she's going to be pedaling at the same cadence as you. She may not be putting as much power into the stroke, but the legs, they're still goin' round. You say you've both done a fair bit of touring. Given that, 40-50 km isn't much for daily rides, so I wouldn't be too concerned.

More of an issue is getting used to riding together, and you're doing it with a load. There are more than enough threads addressing "the first ride", the importance of communication, etc. I recommend you avail yourself of them.

Last edited by WebsterBikeMan; 03-12-10 at 09:28 AM. Reason: remembered another reason
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Old 03-12-10, 10:51 AM   #5
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We use a Bob trailer on our tandem. This is the only way for us. I hate the feeling of bags on the bike. With the Bob, all the weight is off the bike and it handles like a bike. You just feel the trailer pushing and pulling on the hills, and that's it. 30 seconds on, and 30 seconds it is off the bike. At first we had a tendency to overpack as if we were loading a car trunk.
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Old 03-12-10, 11:30 AM   #6
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These people towed a Bob trailer from Alaska to Florida: http://www.teamangell.com/
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Old 03-12-10, 05:31 PM   #7
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+1 to Bikeforums, WE use a bob, it is not without hassles, but bags are not a free ride either, either way, pack light
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Old 03-12-10, 06:36 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by BikeForums.net View Post
We use a Bob trailer on our tandem. This is the only way for us. I hate the feeling of bags on the bike. With the Bob, all the weight is off the bike and it handles like a bike. You just feel the trailer pushing and pulling on the hills, and that's it. 30 seconds on, and 30 seconds it is off the bike. At first we had a tendency to overpack as if we were loading a car trunk.
+ 1 on just about all of that.
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Old 03-12-10, 07:47 PM   #9
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We use the Arkels for longer trips ... but they do weigh quite a bit. They are huge! We also like all the pockets to keep us organized. We are just finishing a shorter tour of Southeast Arizona and used just two rear small panniers and a trunk bag. We find that "less is more." You might want to check out some of the ideas here on how to reduce weight while touring: http://www2.arnes.si/~ikovse/weight.htm
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Old 03-12-10, 08:10 PM   #10
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Have never wanted to tent it on a bike tour; there is just way too much stuff to take: tent, pads, sleeping bags, cooking gear and food.
The more room you have the more stuff you'll take. You also need to remember a spare tube for that small wheeled Bob trailer . . .
We tend to be minimalists and have survived dozens of tours, supported and on our own. We have toured with exactly 22 lbs in 2 panniers for 3 day long weekends. We appreciate a hot shower and a good bed and avoid hassles of all that, sometimes wet and heavy, camping gear. In France you will not have too many distances between towns, so whatever you need you can buy.
Out here in the western US we have some very long distances between towns/services.
40 to 50 Km is very do-able and you should be able to sight see to your hearts content. We've done quite a few tours with distances from 50 to 100 miles (not Km) a day.
BTW have your brushed up on your French . . . bon voyage et laisez les bon temps rouler!
Enjoy the ride TWOgether!
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Old 03-12-10, 08:27 PM   #11
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Trailer is a net negative weight wise, and a net positive handling wise. So it depends on which of those two is more of a concern for you. I was always more concerned about extra weight on downhills than uphills; make sure your brakes are rock solid. That's true either way, but even more so with extra weight.

When my stoker wanted to have an easy day, the deal was she could take it easy except when I called for help on the uphills. Worked well for us.
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Old 03-13-10, 08:17 PM   #12
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You don't need to convince me about minimalism These days I normally tour without panniers. But two people, with camping gear will be a squeeze into two panniers. Definitely not taking a stove though - going bike touring in France and eating dehydrated meals in a tent? Something not right there...

Thinking about it a bit more, if I can put the tent on the handlebars, and our sleeping mats on the rack, that leaves us with one pannier each for a sleeping bag and clothes, which should be plenty. I've decided it's worth bringing our panniers (Ortlieb Back roller Plus) - the ones offered by the bike hire company are 12L!
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Old 03-14-10, 01:59 AM   #13
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Thinking about it a bit more, if I can put the tent on the handlebars, and our sleeping mats on the rack, that leaves us with one pannier each for a sleeping bag and clothes, which should be plenty.
I'm not sure how you'd mount the tent on the handlebars, but it sounds like a bad idea handling-wise. In general, you should try not to put much weight on the handlebars, because it'll throw off the steering. To put weight on the front end without affecting steering too much then the weight needs to be centered around the front axle, which is why front panniers are normally placed quite low down. The more weight you have and the further from the axle it is, the more the handling will be affected.
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Old 03-15-10, 02:07 AM   #14
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Topeak makes a bicycle tent called a Bikamper that uses the bike itself as part of the tent frame. It stuffs small into a bag that straps to the handlebars. It looks interesting, but I've yet to see one in use. And, it is for a single person / single bike. I haven't seen a version for a two people / tandem bike.

http://www.topeak.com/products/Bike-Tent/Bikamper
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Old 03-15-10, 08:30 AM   #15
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You don't need a trailer, but you will need front and rear panniers plus a rack top bag. Here is my packing list with pictures of all the gear and how it packed into four panniers and a small backpack that I tied over the rear panniers (list is in Spanish, but pictures will work for your question)

http://www.tangotandem.org/Equipo%20...%20Austral.htm

You can also read about a round the world tour with only panniers here:

http://www.karennben.com/

I cannot tell you about the benefits of a trailer with a tandem, never pulled one, but the one major drawback I see is getting your trailer to the start of your tour, airlines are charging for everything these days, so getting to the tour with your bike and gear plus a trailer might cost you more money and stress. Once you are used to it, loading and unloading the bike of panniers takes 2 min. However if instead of a backpack tied to the rack I had a full set of Ortlieb panniers including their rack top bag so I did not have to deal with straps, I would get it down to 1 min. For straps I used two long double sided Velcro straps, they worked well.

http://www.ortlieb.com/index_white.p...e=p-search.php

I had no trouble handling the loaded bike after the first 10 km of getting used to it, and we were on tough roads.

Total gear weight was 28 kg.

I did not have a handlebar bag, I had two small frame bags, which added a little to the loading time.

A major advantage I see to the trailer is being able to strip the bike of contents by just disengaging the trailer, but that is countered by the trouble of handling and storage of the trailer every night, and finding your stuff in a big trailer bag rather than distributed over four panniers.

40-50 km is a good distance, as long as the hills are not bad.

Do let us know what you end up doing and how it worked!
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Old 03-17-10, 07:44 AM   #16
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I probably should have given a few more details We're hiring almost everything, but bringing our own panniers because theirs are too small. They don't provide front panniers, or rack bags. But I'll bring a dry bag that we can strap to the rack.

Re:
>I'm not sure how you'd mount the tent on the handlebars, but it sounds like a bad idea handling-wise. In general, you should try not to put much weight on the handlebars, because it'll throw off the steering.

I've done this a few times. I sort of tie it below the handlebars, resting against the head tube, making a sort of poor man's handlebar bag. Having tried both, I can tell you it makes a big difference whether the weight is above or below the level of the handlebars - but I couldn't tell you why.

At the moment I'm still leaning towards avoiding the trailer, but am going to try and plan things so we can try both. We're using this company "Bike Bus" which specialises in delivering bikes to you, so presumably that means if we're not coping without a trailer after a day, they can bring it to us.
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Old 03-17-10, 06:23 PM   #17
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If you don't have front panniers, you definitely need a trailer for self supported tandem travel, even if you fit the volume, you would end up with too much weight on the rear rack. Plus getting your panniers onto a different rack will take a little adjusting, and not all racks fit all panniers well, why deal with it if the company you hire will do it for you?. Use their trailer and their small panniers, that would be my bet.
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Old 03-25-10, 08:47 AM   #18
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I did both light-touring and self-contained touring with a Bob trailer.

To carry it all (camping gear and all), I found it was better to match Bob with a small set of front panniers : fully loaded, Bob puts quite a lot torsion force on the frame due to the weight/height of the cargo far, far away form the pivot point of the bike (the steer tube).

Wile light-touring, we rode a naked version of Bob (no fender, no flag) on 85psi 1.25in slick tire with as little luggage in the waterproof bag. If it weren't for Scotland's ever changing weather, we could have carried 25% less cycling and evening clothing... We really liked the feeling; the bike was not as lively as usual, of course, but speed was good (better aerodynamic than panniers) and the handling was almost as good as it gets.

A couple of friends toured from Vancouver to Montréal, then south to New Orleans and up to Arizona with a pair of tandem specific Arkel panniers with no problems but a few eyelets pulled out of their 40 holes Mavic rear rim.

Note that the more recent Bob trailer is considerably stiffer than the older one. It does not have a tendency to bounce all over the place and feels steady up to 70kph (and more -- I guess).

To answer your last question, the stoker has to pedal but doesn't have to put in the effort -- technically. That being said, you want your stoker to at least carry her own weight!
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