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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 07-24-10, 11:04 AM   #1
Homeyba
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Can you feel your stoker pedaling?

Thought I'd ask this since I rarely can feel them pedaling. I'm sure I'd notice if they stopped but I don't feel them through the pedals except on rare occasions. I've only had two stokers and both are fairly high level athletes. I assume this is a good thing because it means we're in sync, pedaling in circles and have similar cadence requirements? Is it just the power differential between my 230lb vs my 115lb stokers? It sounds bad though with I say I can't feel them back there at all. What do you all think?
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Old 07-24-10, 01:19 PM   #2
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I feel my"stoker force" every-time I try to coast or lighten-up to shift without the proper communication, which incidentally is more often than not! After all these years I assume she can read my mind as she demonstrates that ability quite often. Other then these situations I only feel the "stoker force" when she stands without warning.. perhaps as a comeback to my lack of verbalization?

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Old 07-24-10, 01:26 PM   #3
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I can't feel my stoker when she is in sync, but we're trying out OOP on our daVinci and when she gets 180 degrees out of phase I know she's back there! Strange thing is that she is flawless at getting in sync; we have pictures that look at those we had a single timing chain, but getting 90 degrees OOP is proving to be a problem. I really want to try OOP to improve our climbing and maybe standing.

when she stops pedaling I really know she's there, even when she just hesitates to get in sync. The other day she asked me to stop pedaling on the flat and she was able to keep us going at 18 mph for a short stint - not bad for a senior citizen.

A second note - I had my 200 lb. cyclist son on the back one time and he was so smooth I couldn't even tell what phase he was in, but if he had stopped pedaling it would have been obvious.
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Old 07-24-10, 02:14 PM   #4
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Usually not, but when I do I think give me more of that!
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Old 07-24-10, 05:11 PM   #5
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When riding normally, I can't really feel her power in the back. We are just in sync. But when we need to put the hammer down, I can feel her power come on immediately. If I need "more leg" when climbing, I can feel the increase in power. She says the same things about me. Definite transfer of power feel between us
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Old 07-24-10, 05:17 PM   #6
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I can feel her when I screw up. I think she's even more particular about the perfect stroke than I am, so when I get tired and start getting sloppy, I'll feel her back there. The opposite doesn't happen so much. I can sure feel it when I'm trying to accelerate and she hasn't gotten the message! So now I often just say "Accelerate!". That works good. Sometimes we'll hit some wind or a little hill and she's back there daydreaming and all of a sudden realizes that more is required - I'll feel my saddle shoot forward. But even then I don't feel her through the pedals. The whole thing is so smooth I call our Speedster "Our racing limo."

She says she seldom feels me, either. I've had a problem with one leg being stronger than the other. She's helped me concentrate on powering the weak leg up the backstroke because she can feel the imbalance. That's helped a lot.
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Old 07-24-10, 09:18 PM   #7
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Only when we are trying to make it through an amber traffic light! . . . then the afterburner kicks in!
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Old 07-24-10, 11:21 PM   #8
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Yes, I was quite lazy today and kept backing off the pedals... She's the only reason we maintained an 18 average running our errands around town today. If I had my way, it'd have been a 15mph afternoon. So that would be an emphatic: YES!

Noteworthy, our unspoken communication is excellent. We had a large floppy ear brown lab chasing a tennis ball stop us abruptly in the road today. We did not go down. The owner of the lab couldn't believe we didn't crash. Still reacting to the situation and not thinking, My only response was :I'm just thankful I wasn't in the car; Keep him out of the street as we clipped back in.
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Old 07-24-10, 11:34 PM   #9
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Yes, cgallagh can tell when I let up, and he can tell when I push the pace. On our ride today I did both: Pushed the pace +3 mph for a while, and I could tell that he wasn't ready for that, and when I was distracted by some crop dusters and unconsciously let up the effort he felt that, too.

As the stoker I can feel when he lets up and when he hammers. When I feel nothing I know we're in sync -- we're 90* OOP and for 95% of our rides neither of us have problems with the other being slow/fast. That's what keeps us returning to the tandem again and again.
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Old 07-25-10, 01:47 AM   #10
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Well, we ride with me (195 lbs) as stoker and my wife (130 lbs) as captain, 90* OOP. I can definitely feel her output and I know she can feel mine, especially on climbs where I sit in the saddle and she stands. Our one concession to my greater power is having the stoker control the shifting, but since we sometimes change positions without any noticeable impact on shifting smoothness this seems to have been unnecessary.
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Old 07-25-10, 11:57 AM   #11
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Those who are OOP 90*, who leads? I assume captain?
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Old 07-25-10, 02:46 PM   #12
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Yup, with us captain's pedal leads.
Been OOPers for well over 230,000 miles . . . guess we like it!!!
Pedal on TWOgether!
Rudy and Kay/zonatandem
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Old 07-25-10, 04:01 PM   #13
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Sounds like it's pretty "normal" to not be able to feel your stoker if everything is in-sync and in our case in-phase. It just doesn't sound good when your stoker asks how they were doing and your answer is "I couldn't feel you pedaling." We did break a course record so we must have been doing something right...
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Old 07-25-10, 04:07 PM   #14
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We're new to tandem cycling, and I can really tell when she lets up. We have a DaVinci with independent coasting and when the stoker stops there is a noticeable lessening of power and I can feel it in the pedals. We have not really tried OOP, much less standing. We really saw the power of a tandem today. As we cruised along a flat country road @ about 14 MPH, we were suddenly passed by another tandem easily going 25-30 MPH. We barely had time to say Wow! before they were out of hearing range. They made us wish we were younger and more fit.
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Old 07-25-10, 10:22 PM   #15
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Those who are OOP 90*, who leads? I assume captain?
I would try it both ways and see which is better. We have the stoker leading which seems better while standing. However, I think it is trial and error to see which feels better under all riding conditions.
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Old 07-25-10, 10:30 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Homeyba View Post
Sounds like it's pretty "normal" to not be able to feel your stoker if everything is in-sync and in our case in-phase. It just doesn't sound good when your stoker asks how they were doing and your answer is "I couldn't feel you pedaling." We did break a course record so we must have been doing something right...
We ride OOP and feel each others' power but as I remember, we rode IP for awhile and had the same impression. My question is how do your stokers compare with you when you climb together on singles. Climbing and TT races is where the action is. If your stokers' power to weight is equal or better than yours, I would not worry about it. At your size, your power may dominate (even if their power to weight is better than yours) such that you do not feel their power.
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Old 07-25-10, 11:52 PM   #17
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This is a great question, and for me, the answer relies on who I have as my stoker: (these are based on my experience on our triplet
1) With only my 8 year old daughter: I rarely feel her through the pedals EXCEPT when she decides to push. If going up a hill or if we are trying to pass a rider ahead, she will stand up and push hard. This I can feel. Our wattage certainly increases during these times and we certainly pick up some speed.
2) with my wife (not an avid cyclist nor a regular excersiser) and daughter. I rarely can feel much from the stokers. I feel like I am working my heart out to achieve moderate speeds. Sometimes my stokers will say that they were really trying hard or they might say that they were not feeling good and were trying to rest a little. I honestly cannot feel the difference. As with number 1, the only time I can feel it is when there is some impetus for a little extra. For example, if I ask the team for some extra in order to get into another tandems draft, I can usually feel the energy for a few seconds.
3) I have ridden with a friend who is a strong cyclist. HOLY COW, it is such a different feeling. Instead of feeling like I am riding a heavy bike, it is exactly the opposite. I could feel their output big time. I especially felt it when needing to coast. I would have to announce "coasting" or would have to force the pedals not to turn around.

Last, we now ride a tandem recumbent trike that has independent coasting for the stoker. This has brought new attention to this question. On a recent touring trip, my wife and I were talking about something and she apologized for not pedaling for a while because she needed to rest her legs (with the indepedent coasting, she can coast while I keep pedaling). I had not noticed that she had stopped pedalling. Similarly, when she started pedaling again, I didn't notice.

Since our reasoning for the tandem has little to do with speed, I don't really mind pushing the family along in order to stay together...
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Old 07-26-10, 11:13 AM   #18
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... My question is how do your stokers compare with you when you climb together on singles.
I don't know because we've never ridden together on singles. Based on her power to weight ratio I'm sure shes a very good climber. I climb like a guy who weighs 230lbs climbs. (I'm a few minutes slower than the Cat 1 guys...)

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Climbing and TT races is where the action is. If your stokers' power to weight is equal or better than yours, I would not worry about it. At your size, your power may dominate (even if their power to weight is better than yours) such that you do not feel their power.
We climb quite well on the tandem. I think you hit on the power differential though. She only weighs 115lbs. While she is a professional athlete and for her size she is very strong, she just doesn't have the horsepower to match mine. She was partially picked to be my stoker because with her light weight we figured it would help get us up the mountains faster.
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Old 07-26-10, 11:59 AM   #19
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Back when we were riding our Santana with a conventional timing chain sys;em I couldn't tell how hard my stoker was pedaling. Since we bought the recumbent with ips all that I have to do is coast to see how hard she's working.
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Old 07-26-10, 02:50 PM   #20
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My experience jibes with djembob02, on the tandem with my wife, we are working together and in phase, and I don't notice the power because she is consistent, but I would if she let up. With my kids, I don't usually notice it either, but I definitely do notice if one of them decides to give an extra push to catch someone, make a light, attack a hill, etc. Interestingly, on the quad, where I would think the total weight is between 500-600 pounds, I would have thought it would be hard to detect anything, and usually it does feel like I am working very hard compared to our speed, but I will say that when we hit a hill and I call out for a boost, it is amazing to me that my kids will stand and provide a substantial power gain that is easily detectable.

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Old 07-27-10, 02:13 PM   #21
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I feel my stoker (wife) when we are riding alone and not in a group. We fall into a vicious cycle of going faster and faster. If I try to tone it down, I feel like a louffer. She has been riding during the week, when I am working (she was excessed from her job), and I really feel her when we start up a hill because she is in better shape than I am in right now!
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Old 07-27-10, 11:12 PM   #22
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I think that another way to phrase the question is: Is your stoker carrying his/her own weight? Here's a useful exercise you can try: get on the tandem with your stoker and go up a moderately steep hill, maybe a couple of hundred meters. Now, go back to the bottom of the hill, have the stoker dismount, and then ride the tandem back up the hill by yourself.
If it was harder by yourself (or even felt the same), you stoker is definitely pedaling and carrying his/her weight.
If it was easier by yourself, then your power is subsidizing the underachieveing stoker! My previous stoker once went on a group ride on her single. She couldn't believe how hard the hills were to go up by herself. Well, at least I was getting a good workout...

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Old 07-28-10, 09:55 AM   #23
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Interesting topic. My wife and I are relatively new to tandems (riding since February), she has 4 years of single bike experience and I have 8. She says riding tandem is more difficult than her single bike, and I feel the same way. Our tandem speed is slower than my single bike speed, but faster than her single bike speed.

My wife is a fairly strong cyclist compared to other women, but on single bikes I'll drop her in a heartbeat on both flats and climbs. No matter how much she trains, we'll probably never have a comparable power-to-weight ratio (unless I just sit on the couch and start eating Cheetos all day). This is just our physiology.

We ride often with heart rate monitors, and have them programmed for our individual zones. I can call out, "4.2", indicating I'm in low zone 4, and she'll respond with her zone to see how closely we match. This has done a lot to answer any questions on who is working harder. It has also taught her how to work harder on a bike. Initially she thought she was working hard, then saw a low heart rate and understood she could push harder. It also keeps me honest -- more often than I like to admit, she'll call out a higher zone than me. Generally we try to stay within 0.5 zones of one another and find we are most efficient that way. It gives us both peace of mind instead of going by "feel", which is highly subjective.
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Old 07-28-10, 10:40 AM   #24
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I often feel light differential stoker pulses simply because they're felt when I'm riding single bikes. Plus I often ride with kid stokers so the difference in power output is significant.

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Old 07-28-10, 01:12 PM   #25
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jeff^d

Good post! My wife and I do something similar with HR. Although, I'm faster on my single bike than the tandem and she's slower on her single than the tandem. I suspect it's an average power/weight ratio for us.

Our *biggest* problem is how much effort to put into it. I often cover surges on group rides myself and forget to tell her when to pick it up or let off. She's getting better and learning, but it is taking time. Lately, we've been doing cadence drills. 100-105rpm to force us to both become smooth. Those drills alone have not picked us up any more speed, but we are less whipped after a hard ride.
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