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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 09-13-04, 11:46 AM   #1
nochain
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how fast is fast ??

ok,,,, I am kinda new here. I was wondering what kind of stories you all have for, "insane eyeball bleedin downhill speed demon records" ??? I am from texas, so not alot of hills. Our highest speed is 49 mph. It was a roller coaster hill and the dip was so extreme that we hit 49 at the base and ended up at 4 mph ! at the crest of the next hill !! geez..
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Old 09-13-04, 12:08 PM   #2
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My oldest stoker starts yelling "Slow Down, Dad!!" if we get over 30, though we did hit 40 the other day during the Cache Valley Veloists Century. I should point out that once it was done, she was pretty proud of the 40mph and announces it at every opportunity. My younger boy (8 years old), however, yells "Faster, Dad!!" at the slightest downhill. He's been up to 38.5 and wants more.

The previously mentioned 40 is as high as I've got on the tandem. Years ago (like 20+), I hit 65 on my single bike on the way down Spooner Grade between Lake Tahoe and Carson City, NV behind a truck. 'Bout peed my wool shorts when I looked down and saw the big 65 on the ol' Avocet 20 computer. I let the semi-truck go and quickly slowed down, but 55 was pretty normal in a full tuck down that same stretch without drafting.

I'm a lot older, and wiser, now. I keep it under 45 these days on my single, though the ol' gravity accelerator around my waist surely would allow me to exceed that easily if I tucked in tight and let the brake levers alone...

Last edited by Eurastus; 09-14-04 at 06:27 AM.
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Old 09-13-04, 01:28 PM   #3
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I suppose the art of going fast is closing your eyes and hope you don't hit anything, If you saw the trees and bushes going past at Mach 3 you'd soon slow down. I mainly go offroad, and now look for gravity laden terrain to see if my pilot has still lost his brain. In fact, if he starts braking before I think he should, then he does get an earfull from me. Last year, 2003, we did the South Downs Way and got 46mph at Butser Hill. A fairly smooth grass downhill, but with a few hollows that take your breath as you bottom out on them. This year we had improved the brakes and Fork on the Dale, and got 53mph. Those slight hollows are at that speed massive great big dips, but we are hoping that if we go for it next year, we'll get 60mph. Remember, that is offroad, but admittedly on grass that is fairly smooth. On our local hills ,once again on the South Downs, we have a hill in Friston forest. On a Solo, I can get 37mph. We know it is a bad day if the Tandem doesn't get 47mph on this one, and it is a flint covered, rutted clay track for about 1/2 a mile. Definitely the best type of downhill, only a wiggle in the middle, rock hard in the summer, and like ice when it's wet. Definitely good for the ego if you get down it without falling off. (Only done that once and won't do it again thankyou)
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Old 09-13-04, 01:47 PM   #4
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It depends...

Our fastest recorded speed on tandem remains 63mph without a super-aero tuck and I think we've broken the 60's on perhaps 3 occasions in 7 years while on very steep descents and in a very aero tuck. Of the folks we ride with, that's about the record. Breaking into the 60's takes an incredibly steep (15%+ grade), straight (although not necessarily long if it's steep enough) descent and a moderate amount of body weight with good aero position and an accurate speedometer. I've read an account on the list where a rider claimed 73 mph and that's pretty damn impressive for anyone who's not actually doing a full-out downhill speed trial or a pro in the Alps (Sean Yates holds the Tour de France record for downhill speed at 74.5mph).

More in the realm of normal for us with local mountains that have 8% - 14% descents that drop for .25 - .5 miles with some run-out are top end speeds in the mid-50's. The "best" descents for speed demons are the ones that last several miles at 4% - 8% with twisties where you can maintain speeds in the mid-40's on the straight sections and leaned-over in the corners in the mid-30's.

Closer to home, mid-40's are quite common... pretty much an everyday occurence even on a ride like yesterday's relatively flat to rolling route where I think we saw 43mph without getting into an aero tuck.

Ultimately, speed is something a "team" is either comfortable with or it is not. The operative word here is "team". If the captain loves the fast stuff but the stoker doesn't, you're not doing yourself any long-term favors by making them white knuckle those descents. Moreover, if you need to negotiate high speed and/or sharp switchback turns, a scared-stiff stoker will make your tandem handle the same as it would with a 100lb+ sack of concrete on the back. So, at least from my perspective, you need to temper your search of speed for your stoker's comfort level. Debbie wasn't keen on it at first but, over time, she gained confidence in me and the tandems and is now a head-down, full aero tucking stoker who is always the first one to check and proudly announce our max speeds. If your stoker isn't keen on speed then that's a pretty good indication that she'd be a good candidate for controlling that drag brake... lest she figure out that she can grab that brake cable running down her top tube and achieve the same result with the rear rim brake!
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Old 09-13-04, 03:30 PM   #5
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Do you guys,and ladies, get the speed out of those tandems by the fact that those bikes are a, no offense, "heavier mass"? I have been on some pretty steep hills and have a problem getting anything over 30 mph. But that is a mountain bike though. Maybe I need some bigger hills or carry some bags of concrete on the way down.
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Old 09-13-04, 03:41 PM   #6
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First, let me say I am all grown up (liar!), and since speed is a given with a tandem it is incidental to the experience and we don't pursue it because it will happen anyway and it is risky. So my maximum speed with the stoker with whom I have most experience is only 45.5 mph. We know we can do better any time we want to.

But there have been other stokers....my first Cannondale J/L stoker, since moved to Santa Fe to help run a restaurant, went down Mansfield Highway (now parkway?) from Cedar Hill toward Joe Pool Lake, up to 59 mph, with only a 56 X 12 high gear. Now we have 53 X 11T, of course. Another stoker wanted more than 50 mph on her very first ride, a speed we easily achieved going down Mountain Creek Parkway between Wheatland and Eagle Ford. Not sure what city that is in because Duncanville and Cedar Hill and Dallas all run together there.

When you are looking for hills with serious speeds, you are best off if there are no intersecting side streets. Having a car pull out at the wrong moment can ruin your whole day. So the best thing to do is to get out in the country west of Fort Worth. In town, though, early Sunday morning you might be able to do a burner of a descent down Hampton Road from I-30 to Commerce Street.

I was at the FWBA Death Ride last year, and somebody new to tandems and steep hills was boasting about the mid-fifties top speed on his computer. Some of the more experienced tandemers gently mentioned that speeds in the high 60's were typical when the road is not wet. Single bikes typically hit speeds in the middle fifties on the first day. Last year I was chasing tandems downhill on the easier slopes of the third day, and I allowed them a little bit too large of a gap and they got away at 56mph to my single bike 55 mph.

For me tandems are about bringing along stokers who could not otherwise keep up, and dancing with the pack, whatever that turns out to mean on the day. Probably my single most favorite thing is pulling on rollers that trend downward with a tailwind, with speeds in the middle to high 30's. In circumstances that are just right for the big bus, that is an incredible experience.

I am not sure what I am doing this coming weekend, but there is presently a slim chance that I will be out on the FWBA 100-miler on a tandem. I might also do the same ride on a single. Don't know where else it goes, but that ride definitely goes UP Cherry Pie Hill, which is Hwy 4 going north into Palo Pinto. The rear admiral likes to mash up hills and insists on depriving me of the chance to spin, so I will not be allowed to have a gear on the tandem lower than 28 X 23.
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Old 09-13-04, 03:48 PM   #7
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My stoker/victim and I have gone over 60 on my tandem recumbent. I was in full Luge position with my partner leaning way forward. The hill is on a 12 percent grade. I'm unsure as to the exact speed because after 60 mph, my speedometer registered 7.5, and would jump in three or four mph increments. It was like sticking your head out the car window on the freeway. Great fun if you live through it!!
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Old 09-13-04, 07:03 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wfin2004
Do you guys,and ladies, get the speed out of those tandems by the fact that those bikes are a, no offense, "heavier mass"? I have been on some pretty steep hills and have a problem getting anything over 30 mph. But that is a mountain bike though. Maybe I need some bigger hills or carry some bags of concrete on the way down.
Greater mass + the same things that make a personal bike go downhill fast...

1. Tires with low rolling resistance will net you a few mph
2. Tight fitting, aerodynamic cycling apparel will net you a few mph
3. Big gears (54t x 11t) will propel you well into the 40+ mph range and net you a few mph
4. Heavier Mass will indeed help to a point** and net you a few mph
5. An aerodynamically efficient riding position + all of the above will net you a bunch of mph...
**If there's too much mass you miss out on the full aero advantage
6. And last but not least is having "the need for speed"... which is what separates the "insanely fast" descenders who only touch their brakes as a last resort, from the very fast descenders who cover the brakes, to the pretty fast descenders who sit-up and catch the wind and brake before each turn, from the folks who like having and use drag brakes.
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Old 09-14-04, 06:19 AM   #9
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My wife and I routinely hit 50+ on small river bluff hills in our area, but 57 is our best. I'd like to have a go at one of those 60 mph hills!
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Old 09-16-04, 08:35 PM   #10
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This summer we hit 48 mph on the triplet with the drag brake on full - a very steep hill in upstate NY. I have no idea how fast we would have gone if I had let it ride, but with a 4 year old on the bike, we prefer to keep it under 50 mph. A car was coming toward us, ready to make a left turn, and I just about had a heart attack because I feared that he would not accurately judge our speed. Fortunately he was cautious and waited for us to pass before turning.
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Old 11-07-04, 02:51 PM   #11
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Best surprised look we have ever seen was on the face of a minivan driver as we passed him. It was on a long, steep, deserted 4 lane and the minivan passed us as we had just climbed to the top and were starting down the other side. The speed limit is 55 and on the way down, best that I could judge, they were probably close to that. We went past pretty quickly, tucked in tight. Only later when we looked at the computer for MAX speed did I see that we had hit 67.5.
We always use Kevlar belted tires & replace them as soon as we see any wear. But now if a deer or moose were to wander out onto the road............
John & Cathy
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Old 11-07-04, 09:33 PM   #12
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Deer?
Descending on our tandem in the mid-40s speed range from Bisbee, AZ, stoker requested for pilot to 'brake'. Pilot complied; just then a small deer darted out in front of us! Whoaaa! Almost got T-boned!
Moral of the story: listen to your stoker!
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Old 11-24-04, 12:27 AM   #13
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As stoker, sometimes you just have to tuck in and trust him (the captain). We've done 63 on these northern CA roads and that was only because I had the drag brake on. Yeah, we get looks from cars because we're out in the lane with them. I still remember the first time we went riding with a couple new to tandeming and they were shocked that we pedaled going down hill. Heck, isn't that part of the reason for a tandem? Speed! Of course, you have to know the road and the intersections, etc.
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Old 01-31-05, 06:34 PM   #14
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We did about 55 MPH only once and my wife told me: We are not to go over 40MPH in any downhill!! The other day we hit 36 MPH in the flat and it was so darn hard, that she told me: In the flat you are allowed to go over 40MPH. As far as the drag brake that Tandemgeek mentions, I will like to see how anyone in a tandem with a loaded weight of 390 lbs. can come down Tollhouse Rd. near Fresno California, without stoping every few minutes to cool the rims, and without a drag brake. On second thought I won't like to see it!
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Old 01-31-05, 07:32 PM   #15
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BE CAREFUL WITH IN EXPERIANCED STOKERS.

I was riding with my friend, who hasent really been on a tandem before, and we were goin down at hill at about 25 mph, he freaked out. He didnt realizethat you cant steer or brake from the back but he still franticly tried to stop the bike. He wouldent move the pedals, and it took alot of work to keep him from making us crash or scraping the pedals on a turn.

so, make sure they dont freak out at the worst times, especially at "speed" or goin down hill.
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Old 01-31-05, 07:33 PM   #16
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other than that, speed can be fun, especially when you have a smart, experianced team
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Old 02-01-05, 09:02 AM   #17
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Back in the early eighties, when I was young and indestructible and stupid enough to think so, we commonly descended Feedlot Hill west of Austin, Texas, just south of the intersection of Ranch Road 620 and Ranch Road 2222, on singles at speeds in excess of 50 mph. We used much more of the curving road at the base of the hill than was judicious, but in those days we seldom saw cars on that stretch of road. Never did it on a tandem. Probably why I'm still here to type this. Don't know if a tandem could easily hold a lane at the base of the hill. I'm sure somebody's done it, but I wouldn't want to try unless the road was closed, and maybe not even then. Nowadays you'd be committing suicide; traffic is so heavy it'd be hard to even get up to speed, much less avoid getting run over.

Highest measured speed on a tandem is 46 mph, once. Resulted in the fitting of a "throttle governor" to the stoker's seat. Now, when the tandem accelerates into the high thirties, the governor intuits excessive speed and slaps the captain on the back of the helmet, simultaneously emitting a noise that sounds uncannily like a familiar female voice saying, "Slow down, knucklehead!"
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Old 02-02-05, 09:40 AM   #18
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Oh, yeah, 50+ mph down the Feedlot on a colnago, helmetless...

Stupid, stupid, stupid.
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Old 02-06-05, 08:14 AM   #19
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About 50 mph when I was young and my son and I did a race together. Up that hill was the 2-5 mph range. Now where we live there are no hills to really take the test, the max is 30-ish with wife and I really pushing it going down however, uphill we still do around 5-7. I have felt my wife attempt to put the brakes on a many of times.
We have a fellow Tandem team that go around 20 to 25 mph most of a 20 mile ride. I wonder how fast they would go down hill since they can really push it on flat ground.
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Old 02-06-05, 01:41 PM   #20
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Our top speed on our tandem is 61 km/h. We achieved that on a downhill between Graskop in our Mpumalanga Province dropping down on the most wonderfull stretch of twisting downhill to the Mac Mac waterfall on the escarpment. I did not realise we were going that speed and when seeing it sat up. I am sure we would have hit the "ton" (100km/h) id I had not chickened out. That was before M had her own speedo. Recently we reached 89km/h during the Hyper to Hyper challenge form Johannesburg to Vereeniging in our Gauteng Province. Our highest top speed on a flat road was 40 mph. There was a breeze from the back bit our "superior pedalling technique" !!!!!! did the job :-) !!!!!! I find it totally amazing that we as cyclists can be so totally in control of a hunk of metal!!!!
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Old 02-07-05, 07:44 AM   #21
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Sorry the posting above should read 61 mile/hour NOT km/h
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