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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 02-22-11, 09:06 AM   #1
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First Tandem Ride...

My GF and I had our first tandem ride this weekend. I wasn't sure how easy it would be for us to adapt and I had planned on going to a big empty parking lot for the first run. However, as the time got closer I just said to heck with it and rode the tandem solo to ensure brakes and gearing were in order. Then my GF hopped on and we headed into town to run some errands.

The first 3kms was lightly traveled MUP so that provided a safe shake down zone to get dialed. I often haul her on the back of my Surly Big Dummy cargo bike so controlling the extra weight and how it felt with two people on one bike wasn't an issue at all. I was communicating a lot at the start, but after a couple hours we paired it down to big bumps, sharp turns, and front chain ring shifts. I was amazed how much you knew what was happening through the chain like on a fixed gear.

We've got a ways to go getting our pedal strokes synchronized, but we had some good moments and some poor ones...so we know what success is supposed to feel like.

My GF liked the teamwork aspect and started to automatically coast with the right foot forward and set the right pedal correctly for a power stroke off the start while I held onto the bike at a light.

One of the reasons we were interested in a tandem was that although she is fit she bikes quite slowly compared to me and even compared to her friends. On the tandem we dropped her friend riding a single on the first climb and then I waited at the top for her to catch up and started to coast down the other side...we even started to gap her again just coasting and I braked a bit so her friend could catch up completely. My GF is usually the one at the back of the group trying to stay in contact so she loved being at the front of the pack and passing other cyclists. I need to use a GPS next time as she was eager to know how fast we were going!

I think she is sold on tandem riding and is looking forward to more. Personally I enjoy riding my single better, but I enjoyed the tandem ride with her better than trying to ride with her on two single bikes. We also enjoyed the tandem better than when I haul her around town on the cargo bike because she feels more involved rather than being cargo!

We rode for 4hrs+ with stops all over town dealing with traffic and lights/stop signs. I think our next ride will be a 30km jaunt to the next town for lunch and then back on a MUP. Being able to pedal for longer periods without starting and stopping all the time will hopefully allow us to work on syncing our pedals.

Thanks for all the great posts on this sub-forum. I did a lot of reading here to get info on this new cycling pursuit - it was very helpful...
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Old 02-22-11, 10:16 AM   #2
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Congrats...that is about the most perfect "first Tandem ride for a new team" that I've ever seen !! It has all the right ingredients for long term success. Nice job for doing your homework and then executing perfectly.

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Old 02-22-11, 10:26 AM   #3
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Vik, congrats on the tandem. My wife and I also have very different riding characteristics. I found it hard to ride with her on our singles. The tandem is a great equalizer. While we are slower on the tandem than I am riding solo on my Volae, we are much faster than when we ride our singles together. Not only that, but she is getting stronger and we are doing much longer rides than we ever were able to do on the single bikes. I have found over time that as she has become a stronger rider, I prefer the tandem over riding solo.

Keep us posted on your progress.
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Old 02-22-11, 10:37 AM   #4
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Great first ride!
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Old 02-22-11, 11:02 AM   #5
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+1 on the truly great first ride, but you will have to get over that thing about braking on the downhills Singles have enough of an advantage climbing; show them no mercy on flats and downhills.
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Old 02-22-11, 11:04 AM   #6
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Thanks. It went better than I had expected, but after a while I stopped analyzing it and just rode the bike. Things just sorted themselves out.

We had some funny moments when she kept trying to coast and I was still pedaling away. She asked why I wasn't coasting on that section and I asked her why she wasn't pedaling! We also got to chat about spinning vs. mashing and had to compromise somewhere in the middle.

I'm interested to see if the tandem riding changes how she rides her single. She has the athletic ability to be faster, but somehow it's not coming together on the single even though she is a daily 5km bike commuter for the last 6 months.
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Old 02-22-11, 01:58 PM   #7
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vik, It sounds like you have a good foundation to be built upon. Most of the unspoken communication will come with time and experience. You do have to be watchfull...the tandem does take the best of the two riders, but it is easy for the stronger rider to overshadow the weaker. If your stoker is so slow on her single, there is a good chance that you are doing more than your share of the work! Try to be mindful of your effort as compared to your normal single riding. Of course, this can't be compared on the hills, but can be on the flats. Also, let the bike go-let it accelerate on the downhills, because you are at a disadvantage going up. If you let it go, you will really enjoy rolling terrain. Do be carefull not to scare your stoker; it is a blast for you to fly downhill at 50+ mph, but not so for a new stoker who can't see forward and has no control over the brakes.
Speaking of my own experience, it took me until about the age of 58 to gain enough maturity to realise that my wife and I ride for different reasons. I like to spar a bit with my riding buddies, but she is content to just cruise. I was always driven to do long distances; she draws the line at 35-40 miles (or sometimes less). Once I stopped trying to force my ideas about cycling down her throat, both of us started to really prefer the tandem to the singles!
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Old 02-22-11, 02:42 PM   #8
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...Singles have enough of an advantage climbing; show them no mercy on flats and downhills...
Agreed... no mercy!
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Old 02-22-11, 03:14 PM   #9
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...She has the athletic ability to be faster, but somehow it's not coming together on the single even though she is a daily 5km bike commuter for the last 6 months.
I'm not sure commuting is going to make anyone faster just by itself. I know a number of people who commute way more than 5km and still get dropped on rides. They have plenty of endurance but just aren't fast. It's not because they aren't capable, they just aren't training correctly. To be faster you have to actually train to be faster. She can certainly do that on her commute but she has to make it a concerted effort. Glad you guys had a great first ride! Hope you have many more.

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Old 02-22-11, 04:08 PM   #10
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My wife rode her single for years and didn't get much better. It's another story on the tandem. She's now stronger, has more endurance, and has fun on rides up to 4 hours. I'm hoping to get her on some longer rides, but we'll have to see. My impression is that I can sort of take the peaks off it for her, so she can put out energy more steadily. Possibly the heavier bike and two of us pedaling together makes a smoother stroke that she can put more power into. Possibly the fact that we can climb together on the tandem and can do a lot of it has added a lot of strength. I don't really know, but the tandem sure has made a difference to her riding and to us as a couple. We're a little geeky about it and each have a coded HRM. Every once in a while one of us will call out their HR and the other will respond with theirs, so we keep the effort synched up. Even though I may be putting out twice her watts, we're both working just as hard.
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Old 02-22-11, 04:20 PM   #11
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Communication is key to tandem riding.
Wanna coast? . . . just say it out loud: COAST!
Wanna turn? Say it out loud and she does the actual signaling. Now isn't that easy?!
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Old 02-22-11, 04:26 PM   #12
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Our First ride is tonight after work! I'm so excited!
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Old 02-22-11, 07:05 PM   #13
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I'm not sure commuting is going to make anyone faster just by itself. I know a number of people who commute way more than 5km and still get dropped on rides. They have plenty of endurance but just aren't fast. It's not because they aren't capable, they just aren't training correctly. To be faster you have to actually train to be faster. She can certainly do that on her commute but she has to make it a concerted effort. Glad you guys had a great fist ride! Hope you have many more.
Thanks for the positive stoke... Your right of course that commuting isn't speed training. Since she went from essentially being a non-cyclist [but fit at other sports] I thought that some time on the bike getting her skills sorted and getting some miles in her legs might result in a speed increase at that very basic level. I rode with her to work at the end of 2010 and was impressed with her biking skills and how she used the road/signalled, etc.. She's becoming a skilled transportational cyclist, but a slow one! Ultimately I don't want to make cycling a "job" for her so unless she asks for help to train for speed I'm fine with the status quo now that we have the tandem as an option for rides where we need to achieve a minimum pace.

She's going to try our rando club's 50km populaire at the end of March. We'll try a 60km tandem ride before then....if it goes well we may tandem the 100km route instead...
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Old 02-22-11, 07:05 PM   #14
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Our First ride is tonight after work! I'm so excited!
I hope you have a great time...
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Old 02-22-11, 08:12 PM   #15
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Great first ride!
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Old 02-22-11, 08:43 PM   #16
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...She's going to try our rando club's 50km populaire at the end of March. We'll try a 60km tandem ride before then....if it goes well we may tandem the 100km route instead...
Be careful! She just might like it enough to join you in Paris for PBP one of these years.
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Old 02-23-11, 12:22 AM   #17
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This thread is like a rerun of our experiences over the past four-or-so months. The speed differential on singles was a health related one for us, but the tandems have done a great job in rekindling both our ehthusiasm and fitness.

Congratulations, vik, on a great debut ride. The only advice I would offer perhaps is to not be overly ambitious. Enjoyment (for both of you) is the key word here.
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Old 02-23-11, 08:55 AM   #18
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This thread is like a rerun of our experiences over the past four-or-so months. The speed differential on singles was a health related one for us, but the tandems have done a great job in rekindling both our ehthusiasm and fitness.

Congratulations, vik, on a great debut ride. The only advice I would offer perhaps is to not be overly ambitious. Enjoyment (for both of you) is the key word here.
Glad you guys are enjoying your tandem. Your posts helped make me take action! So glad I did.

Good advice about making sure she is having fun. My GF is a trooper. She's keen to ride more and faster. The only thing preventing that was the pacing issue. Our next ride is mostly along a MUP through a lightly developed area [not much climbing] with coffee stops along the way and brunch at the turn around. 30kms each way will be a step up, but given our greater speed not that much longer on the bike than she has already done.

I did pull the Brooks saddle from the back of the tandem. I've got 4 other Brooks saddles and none are as hard as these two - yikes! I'll keep breaking in mine and I've put hers on her new commuter bike so she can break it in 5kms at a time. She'll ride plastic for now and she can decided if/when she wants to go Brooks on the tandem again.
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Old 02-23-11, 01:36 PM   #19
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VIK, I have to say that the choice of saddle and the position of the bars has been critical to my wife's comfort. Brooks Leather saddle?? I gave that up for myself a long time ago. I coudn't imagine my wife tolerating one of those for 100 yards! If you are going to spend on anything...don't skimp on her saddle. Even with a shockpost, a stoker will get beat up more than on a single for a couple of reasons. One...she doesn't see bumps coming and no matter how diligent you are about calling them out, she will be seated for some of them. Two...more time spent in the saddle-not standing. It is also a fact that the ladies have different comfort factors, like friction areas that we don't have. This made, in at least our case, the position of the bars important. If they were too low, she would get too much seat intruding on her privates, and if they are too high, a sore butt! Being that my wife is a bit tall, it was a challenge to get the bars up high enough, because it is limited to the captains seat post height. I had to find an adjustable angle stem for this purpose. OVAL makes a really nice one.
The saddle that she always comes back to is an old Terry gel ladies saddle. This works for her, but saddles are very personal and it is best to try alot of them. I managed to buy some on ebay for pretty reasonable cost and the ones that didn't work out, were subsequently sold.
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Old 02-23-11, 02:10 PM   #20
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I'm happy for her to ride whatever saddle is comfortable for her. Personally I rode the rock hard Brooks for several hours without cycle shorts and it was no big deal - although I'd like it better a year from now! If she is comfy on plastic for hours at a time that's cool, but most people at her level who like plastic do it because they don't ride for a long time and plastic is often nicer out of the box for short durrations.
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Old 02-23-11, 02:50 PM   #21
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And I couldn't wait to get my Brooks onto our new Santana ... the saddle that came with it was terrible!! I'm not sold on the suspension seatpost I've got and have been thinking that going with an ordinary seatpost + the Brooks saddle might work better. The Brooks has its own suspension and give which might be enough.

Regarding coasting, that's something we're a little bit out of sinc on as well. I like to coast more often that Rowan does, especially around corners and into stops. If it were me on my single, I'd be coasting from 200 metres back but Rowan likes to pedal right up. And if one of us tries to coast unexpectedly ... that can actually be quite painful on the knees for the person who is still trying to pedal. So it's good to announce it.
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Old 02-23-11, 03:12 PM   #22
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And I couldn't wait to get my Brooks onto our new Santana ...
Although I started with a new [and sadly very hard] Brooks I feel the same way. Even rock hard it's kinder to my butt than any plastic saddle I tried in my 20yrs of pre-Brooks cycling!
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Old 02-23-11, 03:57 PM   #23
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I have been riding a Brooks saddle exclusively on my commuter for a couple of years now. Although it feels hard to the touch, it is the most comfortable saddle for me. I have even ridden it without padding in my shorts without a problem.

My wife tried various saddles without luck. She could not go past an hour or so on the bike without great discomfort. We put a Brooks saddle on the bike and she has never looked back. She rode several centuries with me last year and we plan to do some longer brevets this year.

As stated before, saddles are a personal thing. That said, we both love our Brooks.
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Old 02-23-11, 04:18 PM   #24
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My Butt hasn't touched anything but a Brooks for 15 years, going to order two more for the new tandem!

I wear jeans, and anything else I happen to be wearing and have no problems!
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Old 02-23-11, 08:10 PM   #25
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Although it feels hard to the touch, it is the most comfortable saddle for me.
They feel hard to the touch ... and a lot of people seem to have the impression that they will become soft when they break in, but that's not true. They will remain hard to the touch their whole lives. If they didn't, they wouldn't break in and hold the shape of your butt.

Brooks are comfortable because 1) once they are broken in, they are customised to your butt, and 2) although they are hard to the touch, they've got flex and give.


But regarding fitness levels ... I have found that riding the tandem helped increase my fitness level, and then going back to my single for the month of January increased my fitness level even more, and now that we're back on the tandem again, we're even stronger out there. So it can be beneficial to go back and forth between the two.
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