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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 05-16-10, 09:19 AM   #1
jbenkert111
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Why is it always the male in front or the captain?

This forum made me think of something that I have always wondered about. I am 70 years old and have never rode a tandem, but have considered trying it. It looks like fun. To my question, I have NEVER seen a female as captain when there is a male and female riding. Is thia a male macho thing or what. It use to be mostly that way in cars, but not so much anymore. Can females not steer a bike so good. :-)

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Old 05-16-10, 02:25 PM   #2
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you get differing opinions on this. Personally, I think it works better to have the larger, physically stronger rider on the front. You want bothe riders on the same page cornering. Howver sometimes even the most coordinated team will be out of synch and the capatian will need the bike to go exactly where it needs to go now, without time to discuss the situation. That is much easier to do with the Captain being bigger and phyiscaly stronger.


So if the Male is significantly bigger/tornger it makes sense for him to be Captain. If the 2 are similar size strength, then other facotors, such as woh is the more xpereinced rider, better handler, and personality prefernences should be determining factors.

All that said, in practice, those descision crieteria will often, not always, favor a male captain.
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Old 05-16-10, 04:09 PM   #3
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Merlinextraligh hit the major issues. My wife and I both use the same seat height so no adjustment is needed for us to switch seats on the Santana Arriva. However since the size disparity is greater for most couples, the taller (usually male) is the typical one for the captain position. We actually did swap positions once in awhile, but one minor mishap when my wife was captain, made her decide that it was just a lot more comfortable being the stoker. It certainly did not hurt my ego to sit in back, and in fact I took some pride in having my wife as captain, but it just did n't continue that way beyond a year or so. BTW the tandem is now 25 years old, and although in remarkable condition, is ridden less because it takes a bit more agility to mount up two riders simultanously. But in short, nothing wrong with either sex in the drivers seat, just a result of a multitude of factors. Tom
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Old 05-16-10, 05:11 PM   #4
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In our 33+ years of tandeming have seen less than 10 couples whereby the female captains.
As stated above, usually the taller larger/stronger person is the pilot.
Have seen a couple females captaining their spouses that were blind, including one couple going full-tilt on the outdoor velodrome in Kenosha, WI
.Being in your 70s does not stop anyone from tandeming. We are 77/75.
Go for it!
Pedal on TWOgether!
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Old 05-16-10, 07:12 PM   #5
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As above. But males are more likely to be control freaks than females...



I'd ride stoker if I had a Colson-type (rear steering...) tandem...
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Old 05-16-10, 08:33 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jbenkert111 View Post
This forum made me think of something that I have always wondered about. I am 70 years old and have never rode a tandem, but have considered trying it. It looks like fun. To my question, I have NEVER seen a female as captain when there is a male and female riding. Is thia a male macho thing or what. It use to be mostly that way in cars, but not so much anymore. Can females not steer a bike so good. :-)

John B
To get a valid answer I think that you would have to ask a number of individual teams what they do and why. Otherwise, all you get is a lot of unsupported assumptions.

In the case of my wife and me, I have always been captain because I have quite a bit more bicycling experience than she does. I suspect that's the case for many tandem teams but I don't really know for sure.
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Old 05-16-10, 09:02 PM   #7
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Back in the day, the lady was in front on a courting tandem.

That is how it started out, about circa 1890:



Daisy Bell likely rode in front.



Its what you'll see in very old photographs.



For example, chichi's 1898 Barnes.



The woman is in front on recumbent and semi-recumbent tandems such as the Bilenky Viewpoint.

Courting tandems appeared to be popular until at least WWII.



The woman is in front on recumbent and semi-recumbent tandems such as the Bilenky Viewpoint.

I'd like to have a custom maker (e.g. Bilenky), make a modern courting tandem, because it would be fun to have Mrs. Ritterview in front.
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Old 05-17-10, 01:24 AM   #8
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I see a slightly different reason. Most tandems are not built with enough stiffness of frame to hold the taller, heavier person as stoker, especially for touring with loaded bags. When my wife and I had our tandem built a quarter century ago, we knew she would not be happy staring at my rear end all day, so we had our bike built to accommodate either captain/stoker arrangement (she is 5ft 6in, 130 lbs and I am 6ft 2in, 200lbs). We pay a price in weight, but it is much more enjoyable to have both of us able to see the road. We also have the stoker handle the shifting and the disk brake.

As far as the comments about having the stronger rider control the bike by being captain, I'm not buying it. From the stoker position if I want to make us go somewhere,we go there. In fact, I have to stop looking sometimes in order to allow myself to just trust the captain's judgment and not override it.
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Old 05-17-10, 06:20 AM   #9
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I see a slightly different reason. Most tandems are not built with enough stiffness of frame to hold the taller, heavier person as stoker, especially for touring with loaded bags. When my wife and I had our tandem built a quarter century ago, we knew she would not be happy staring at my rear end all day, so we had our bike built to accommodate either captain/stoker arrangement (she is 5ft 6in, 130 lbs and I am 6ft 2in, 200lbs). We pay a price in weight, but it is much more enjoyable to have both of us able to see the road. We also have the stoker handle the shifting and the disk brake.

As far as the comments about having the stronger rider control the bike by being captain, I'm not buying it. From the stoker position if I want to make us go somewhere,we go there. In fact, I have to stop looking sometimes in order to allow myself to just trust the captain's judgment and not override it.
You are making my point. You're heavier, and likely stronger, than your wife. So you as stoker can make the bike go where you want. Flip the arrangement around, and you can use your size and strength to make it go where you want, even if she's working against it in the back.

I'll grant you that even my smaller stoker can significantly affect the direction of the bike, but if need be, I can overpower that input, whereas, she can't overpowe me if I'm stoker.

There are going to be times in traffic, or in a pack where you have to react quickly, and the Captain and the stoker may not be on the same page, particularly since the stoker may not be seeing the whole situation. It works better if the captain can control that situation.
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Old 05-17-10, 09:11 AM   #10
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Some videos I have seen where both riders were male had the stronger rider sitting on the back. The reasoning being that the stronger rider should be more directly attached to the drivetrain. When we first got our new tandem, I offered to let my stoker try the front and she absolutely refused. For serious recreational riders, I think the most important consideration is handling skills. I think there are different reasons for different teams that lead to this choice. There is also the sizing of the bicycle to consider. If there is too much of a height difference between the riders then it only works to have the shorter rider on the back of the bike. Some women just prefer not having to deal with steering the bike so they can look at the scenery more, some men have issues with the lack of control from the back. It can be scary back there for the first few rides. It's definitely not a "macho" thing in that case.

If possible, I think it's not a bad idea to do at least one short ride sitting in the opposite position than you usually do. It gives you a better appreciation of what it is like for your partner all the other times.
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Old 05-17-10, 09:12 AM   #11
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Some videos I have seen where both riders were male had the stronger rider sitting on the back. The reasoning being that the stronger rider should be more directly attached to the drivetrain. When we first got our new tandem, I offered to let my stoker try the front and she absolutely refused. For serious recreational riders, I think the most important consideration is handling skills. I think there are different reasons for different teams that lead to this choice. There is also the sizing of the bicycle to consider. If there is too much of a height difference between the riders then it only works to have the shorter rider on the back of the bike. Some women just prefer not having to deal with steering the bike so they can look at the scenery more, some men have issues with the lack of control from the back. It can be scary back there for the first few rides. It's definitely not a "macho" thing in that case.

If possible, I think it's not a bad idea to do at least one short ride sitting in the opposite position than you usually do. It gives you a better appreciation of what it is like for your partner all the other times.
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Old 05-17-10, 09:57 AM   #12
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so awesome to see stories like this. thanks for the inspiration!

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Originally Posted by zonatandem View Post
In our 33+ years of tandeming...

[edit...]

Being in your 70s does not stop anyone from tandeming. We are 77/75.
Go for it!
Pedal on TWOgether!
Rudy and Kay/zonatandem
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Old 05-17-10, 10:41 AM   #13
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My take....

Ultimately, it's whatever works best for each team and apparently most teams simply subscribe to the most commonly-seen configuration: comformity is a powerful thing. It's why most road tandems have 700c wheels, drop-bars, in-phase cranks, and why so many cyclists wear lycra... no matter how silly it can seem.

However, setting aside conformity, from a more practical standpoint the person who most often captains a tandem is the one who has the strongest desire... subject to certain size constraints and/or physical limitations.

There are plenty of female captains out there with kids or in some cases adult stokers of both sexes; you just gotta get out there and look around to find them.

As for tandem design, construction and stability, mass-produced tandems are built to meet consumer demand. If most consumers wanted steer from the rear courting tandems, or semi-recumbents, or any other configuration instead of the far-more dominant upright design then that's what builders would build. Again, take a look around at the bigger tandem rallies and photo archives and you'll find all kinds of one-off tandems designed to accommodate non-standard sized teams or special needs.
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Old 05-17-10, 03:30 PM   #14
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It isn't always the man in front. If the couple are about the same size, either one could be in front, and I've seen women in front in those situations. One couple on the PBP switched off ... she rode in front for a while, then he rode in front for a while.

The person in front has to have good upper body strength, enough to hold person in the back up on the bicycle. The person in front also has to be a very confident bicycle handler. So maybe that's why it is often (but not always) the man in front.
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Old 05-17-10, 03:50 PM   #15
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We had a team here where the smaller woman captained. She was the more experienced and was thus more comfortable when she was in command. It was neat for both of them because they could both see ahead. That would be an advantage in a paceline or challenging terrain. They also thought it was more aero since they were more wedge shaped. If the stoker is quiet it doesn't take that much strength to captain.
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Old 05-17-10, 08:29 PM   #16
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Well, we will be one team of very few. My husband is visually impaired and has reached the point of not being able to ride is own bike. So, next week we pick up our daVinci Joint Venture. We're both very excited to be able to get back on the road together. Yes, he's a much bigger guy than me, but I do have an advantage of being 5'8" tall. He also rides on the back of my Goldwing motorcycle, so we have experience riding together and I am used to handling the combined weight of the Wing and him.
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Old 05-17-10, 09:30 PM   #17
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I've ridden a rental tandem with my ex-husband, and I was in front.

If I were to ride with my current husband, I would be in front (but we would have a hard time finding one that fits us properly as he is 8 inches taller and about twice my weight). I'm a far more experienced bicyclist than he is.

I've also taken male passengers on the back of my motorcycle, including some twice my weight or more.

On a semi-recumbent tandem, I rode in front as stoker with a male friend in back as captain.



We did try switching (me in back as captain) but only rode that way for about 15-20 minutes as he was too tall and I couldn't see over his head! (That's what the giggling is about in the video.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vtFwC...os=O-i6d65nVpA
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Old 05-18-10, 05:30 AM   #18
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Kudos to the female tandems captains and motorcyclists (a Goldwing!).


One of the joys that I have found in riding a tandem bicycle is enjoying the same companionship as carrying a pillion on my motorcycle...only going slow enough to smell the roses....
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Old 05-18-10, 09:31 AM   #19
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Merlinextraligh pretty much covered my take on post #2. I also agree the larger/stronger/more experienced rider should be on front for safety. If I were the less experienced, I'd prefer to be on the back.

Last week, for whatever reason,(unknown to both of us) my wife wanted to go right, we needed to go straight. She is only 110lbs and I'm 190, she nearly pulled my back out with me forcing the bike back on line before I could yell for her to stop. I may have over-responded physically, but we were doing 30+ MPH in a paceline and would have pretty much taken everyone down if I hadn't. I was quite shocked at the leverage I had to apply to the bike to keep it straight. Had I done something similar on the back, it would have been nasty for us.
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Old 05-18-10, 10:22 AM   #20
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Merlinextraligh pretty much covered my take on post #2. I also agree the larger/stronger/more experienced rider should be on front for safety. If I were the less experienced, I'd prefer to be on the back.

Last week, for whatever reason,(unknown to both of us) my wife wanted to go right, we needed to go straight. She is only 110lbs and I'm 190, she nearly pulled my back out with me forcing the bike back on line before I could yell for her to stop. I may have over-responded physically, but we were doing 30+ MPH in a paceline and would have pretty much taken everyone down if I hadn't. I was quite shocked at the leverage I had to apply to the bike to keep it straight. Had I done something similar on the back, it would have been nasty for us.

+1. Ridding on the triplet with strong/stubborn/controlling/inexperienced stokers.... I can attest to that...
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Old 05-19-10, 11:56 AM   #21
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Thanks, learned alot. Especially the weight factor, too much in the back and it would make for an unbalanced bike. Also, the post about creating a wedge (carbobfiberboy) was excellent. As a competitive runner and biker,I can attest to drafting being an important tactic. Well, I'm off to buy a tandem, then all I need is a partner, or stroker, or captain, or ?? whatever, :-).
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Old 05-22-10, 08:25 PM   #22
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My husband was much bigger than me, as well as the more experience cyclist when we started, so it made sense for him to be in front. As my cycling experience grew, it was also clear he was the much more conservative rider when it came to risk taking, which again, makes more sense for him to be in front. I know a couple who are the same size, and both have massive amounts of cycling experience. She is gonzo, he's not quite that bad. He's usually in front, for his sanity.
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Old 05-23-10, 12:01 AM   #23
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Because I'm 190 lbs and refuse to date a 190 lb female, that's why.
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Old 05-24-10, 12:35 AM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ritterview View Post
Back in the day, the lady was in front on a courting tandem.
chichi's 1898 Barnes[/URL].


The lady may be in front, but the guy is still doing the steering. Note the rods going from the rear steerer tube to the fork!

I've seen the same setup executed with a chain, with cogs on front and rear steerers. The fellow on the tandem was riding solo from the stoker's seat.

On one of the recent club rides, an older fellow stoked a tandem piloted by his university-age daughter. She was built like a typical female soccer player, and she was pretty strong. I think she must have outweighed her rather thin dad, but it was all muscle!

When you consider the weight placement on a tandem, it does make sense to put the heavier rider in front, since the tandem's balance point is usually just behind the pilot's saddle. Too much weight on the stoker's saddle might cause the tandem to understeer when brakes are eased off on a fast, hard turn.

Luis
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Old 06-10-10, 08:20 PM   #25
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Thanks, learned alot. Especially the weight factor, too much in the back and it would make for an unbalanced bike.
Discovered this one when we got a tandem last summer. The Boy is twice my size but I am by far the more experienced rider; we tried it with me as captain and the bike wobbled all over the place. It wasn't a matter of strength but simple physics. So he rides captain and I stoke for now, until he loses some weight and I can boot him off the front seat ( not as bad as it sounds... he was disappointed that he had to ride in front because he wanted to look at my rear end, not the road, in the first place )
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