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  1. #1
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    Learn to ride a bike on a tandem?

    Hello. My wife never learned to ride a bicycle as a child, and she has gotten nervous and discouraged about maintaining her balance the few times she has tried to learn on a solo bike. Our question is whether it would be easier or harder for her to learn as a stoker on a tandem, with me in front. Can someone who does not know how to ride a bike learn first to ride as a stoker, or is it better for her to stick with trying to learn on a solo bike first? And if she does start as a stoker on a tandem bike, will that then make it easier for her to learn to ride solo?

    Maybe I should mention that I am not a hard-core cyclist myself and have not ridden on a tandem. But it looks fun, and I think I can learn.

    We would love to be able to bicycle together either way. Thanks for your advice.

  2. #2
    Senior Member swc7916's Avatar
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    This is exactly why we ride a tandem. My wife can ride a single bike, but is uncomfortable with it. If the two of you want to ride together, get a tandem and learn to ride it.

  3. #3
    Senior Member 3bluebikes's Avatar
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    It would be good if you could find a local shop which rents tandems. Start with a tandem which is very low tech, (flat pedals, minimum shifting, easy to use brakes, etc.) with the saddles adjusted to a comfortabe height and ride around an empty parking lot until you both are comfortable. Stay away from traffic until you both are confident. My stoker says she would be uncomfortable as a stoker if she were a non rider especially since I am so much bigger than she is and she cannot see what is ahead. Bicycling Magazine published an article with a clever way to learn to ride a bicycle. Take the pedals off the bike, lower the saddle so the rider can sit flat footed, find a gentle grassy hill, and coast down a few times, each time holding your feet off the ground a little longer.

  4. #4
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    We used to teach tandeming.
    Had several folks who had never ridden bicycles . . . tandeming takes the fear out of balancing and controlling a bike.
    Yes, you can ride TWOgether!
    Pedal on!
    Rudy and Kay/zonatandem

  5. #5
    Tandem Vincitur Ritterview's Avatar
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    Differing abilities of the captain and stoker are the reason to get a tandem, not a contraindication.

    I decided to get a tandem last year after coaxing Mrs. Ritterview through the 2009 Solvang Half-Century. Average speed 12.9 mph.

    Our maiden voyage on our new tandem was the 2010 Solvang Half-Century. Average speed 17.1 mph.

    Your results may vary (Mrs. R is actually pretty fit, and was held back mainly by lack of confidence). But if she was an accomplished cyclist we could probably have ridden together on half-bikes (with me pulling), and kept up a good pace. It was because we had differing abilities that the tandem experience was positive and transformative.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by 3bluebikes View Post
    Bicycling Magazine published an article with a clever way to learn to ride a bicycle. Take the pedals off the bike, lower the saddle so the rider can sit flat footed, find a gentle grassy hill, and coast down a few times, each time holding your feet off the ground a little longer.
    This is the approach I would use rather than using a tandem as a way to learn bicycling. But rather than a grassy hill, I use an almost flat and empty parking lot as the training area. The learner just pushes themselves along like on the old 'hobby horse' style of bike. Rolling is much easier and smoother on a paved parking lot than on a grass surface and with the ability to put their feet down easily there should be very little risk of falling. I've taught both children and adults this way with no falls involved.

    Only after the learner has gotten used to coasting for extended distances without having their feet touch down and also steering in both directions do you reinstall the pedals. But still keep the seat very low (and use pedals without clips or other fastenings) so they can quickly put a foot down if still needed. Practice pedaling around and then gradually start to raise the seat to a more normal height as proficiency is gained.

  7. #7
    Senior Member rdtompki's Avatar
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    My twin sons learned to balance on small two-wheel coasters many moons ago. Never used training wheels. Ditto my older grandson who is now 7 y/o. It would seem best if the stoker had gotten comfortable with basic bicycle balance, the prospective captain having gotten comfortable with captaining by stoking and then captaining for an experience tandemist. I think it's important for the captain to have attained a certain proficiency in the case of an inexperience and, possibly nervous, stoker.
    Rick T
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  8. #8
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    I can't speak to whether or not riding a tandem helps a non-rider to learn to ride solo, but I will say that my wife is in the exact same boat as your wife. She never learned to ride as a child. I tried to teach her several times using the "remove the pedals" method. I also had a "bike buddy," which is basically a inverted u-shaped bar that attaches to the rear hub. You run along behind the learner essentialy balancing for them, until they learn to do it for themselves. Both methods were unsuccessful. Last year, we rented a tandem, and were able to ride with no problems at all. We plan to purchase a tandem this summer. My hope is that she will naturally learn about balance and lose her fear of falling. Hopefully, by the end of summer, she will be riding both tandem and solo.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Stray8's Avatar
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    Certainly possible. I helped teach/reintroduce cycling to two people by having them first stoke on the tandem. I recently loaned my tandem to a neighbor who cycles and wants to spend time riding with his wife (non-cyclist who fell off a folding bike last year and is skittish riding solo). It a great way to get someone used to cycling.

    .

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by barryj View Post
    Hello. My wife never learned to ride a bicycle as a child, and she has gotten nervous and discouraged about maintaining her balance the few times she has tried to learn on a solo bike. Our question is whether it would be easier or harder for her to learn as a stoker on a tandem, with me in front. Can someone who does not know how to ride a bike learn first to ride as a stoker, or is it better for her to stick with trying to learn on a solo bike first? And if she does start as a stoker on a tandem bike, will that then make it easier for her to learn to ride solo?

    Maybe I should mention that I am not a hard-core cyclist myself and have not ridden on a tandem. But it looks fun, and I think I can learn.

    We would love to be able to bicycle together either way. Thanks for your advice.
    Hi Barry, I just wanted to give an update. Took my wife out on a solo today. Within 15 minutes, she was riding on her own. She was so excited! I attribute it to riding on the tandem and learning subconciously how to balance. So, yes a person can learn to ride a solo by riding a tandem.

  11. #11
    Legs; OK! Lungs; not! bobthib's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ritterview View Post
    Differing abilities of the captain and stoker are the reason to get a tandem, not a contraindication.

    I decided to get a tandem last year after coaxing Mrs. Ritterview through the 2009 Solvang Half-Century. Average speed 12.9 mph.

    Our maiden voyage on our new tandem was the 2010 Solvang Half-Century. Average speed 17.1 mph.

    Your results may vary (Mrs. R is actually pretty fit, and was held back mainly by lack of confidence). But if she was an accomplished cyclist we could probably have ridden together on half-bikes (with me pulling), and kept up a good pace. It was because we had differing abilities that the tandem experience was positive and transformative.
    RV, did you guys really hit 53 mph last year? And was your average cad really only 45 rpm? I noticed no cad this year, and your top speed was only 34, but overall a much faster ride.

    We were supposed to do a quarter century but a stoker sore hip and time pressure cut us to 17 mi. It was a great day non the less.
    BT
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  12. #12
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    my wife doesn't ride a bike on the road AT ALL (vs. me riding/racing on & off for ~25 years). lack of confidence, never done it in the past, etc. etc., and nyc isn't exactly a great place to give it a whirl for a 1st timer.

    she's only recently began riding a road bike indoors on a stationary trainer that we set up for her, and understands clipless pedals and a little bit of the gear shifting thing.

    we rented a tandem once recently, and had a blast. enough so that we're now getting one for ourselves.

    you only live once--go for it!

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