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  1. #1
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    Front-wheel wash

    It hasn't happened on the tandem, but I have gone down in a couple of other situations on a single, including on frost and on diesel spilled on a wet road.

    Has anyone come down on a tandem after losing the front-end? What happened and what were the consequences?
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  2. #2
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    It happened to us in 2009 and resulted in a 3rd degree separation of the captains AC joint in the left shoulder combined with the helmet being fractured clear through in 5 locations. Stoker suffered road rash on left side from calf to shoulder. Not even a nick on the bike .

  3. #3
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Descending a hill at 30-some mph (coasting) the chain somehow dropped/bounced from the small rear cog to between rear dropout and cog:
    Instant stop! Buckled front wheel. Pilot did his usual paratrooper roll over the handlebars and ended up with huge hematoma on right hip.
    Stoker is not able to roll and of course goes down with the bike.
    She had roadrash from head to ankle, including a black eye.
    Got new front wheel and some new handlebar tape and 3 days later were doing a 200-mile loop by the Grand Canyon.

    A humorous front sheel washout . .
    Riding our tandem near Globe, AZ and getting caught up in some unexpected road construction/destruction, we were forced to ride through some heavy mud.
    Mud was packed between brakes and frame . . . decided to stop but front wheel decided to slip 'n slide as did the captain's feet in the muck; we went down.
    No harm done except we were covered in mud . . . not a pretty sight!
    Yup, my stoker still trusts me!
    Pedal on TWOgether!
    Rudy and Kay/zonatandem

  4. #4
    sch
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    So far about 10K mi without a crash. In general the pilot's hips are protected by
    the stoker's bars and the stoker tends to get the worst of any fall. When we
    first started riding, I would sometimes pound on the pilots back to get him to
    slow down, now he is much more reasonable about downhill charges into curves.
    Both of us have been influenced by significant crashes on singles, me by going
    down at 36mph into a L turn and wondering if I was going to ever stop sliding
    (road rash only, two trashed wheels) and the pilot by being knocked down in
    a scrum by a squirrelly rider up ahead: clavicle and rib fractures, near facet jump of C5, partial shoulder paresis, resolving progressively after a cervical fusion). Gravel and sand scare the hell out of me, and now of the pilot as well, not good in view of the
    tonnages dumped on our roads with the snows earlier this year.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Homeyba's Avatar
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    I slide the front tire on my motorcycle quite often, it's very controllable. For whatever reason, it's not so controllable on the bicycle. Both my single and tandem are quite squirrely when the front tire looses grip so I don't push them so hard in the corners. I always leave myself a cushion because you never know what might happen. Plus I learned through experience that you shouldn't make your stoker cry. That's not a good thing. Nope, not a good thing at all.

    I have yet to end up on my head from loosing the front end on either my tandem or single. I have had five front flats on the tandem in excess of 50mph. That gets a little exciting but I've been able to get the bike stopped safely each time (once on a descent in the rain). The key for both the captain and stoker is to remain calm and not panic. The first reaction for many people is to tense up or grab a handful of brakes. Both are bad ideas. As far as injuries goes, I've seen people break bones at less than 5mph and walk away unscratched from 35+mph get offs. It's just a matter of circumstances surrounding when and where you go down.
    It doesn't get harder, you just go slower.

  6. #6
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    Yes... I do feel the extra burden of responsibility with my loved one on the back. I am a moderately risk-aversive 50-something, and I do concentrate a LOT on my riding as I do my driving (defensive and advanced driving courses early in my life help with this).

    Machka is not keen on fast descents (50+km/h) and that is reasonably fine, especially as we seem to be handling climbing much better these days, and we aren't losing out on the way up and down.

    So, thanks for both the caution (through recounting of incidents and injuries) and the encouragement (that outcomes can be controlled to a degree). I will continue to treat sand, gravel and dampness with the respect they are due.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  7. #7
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    The only crash we've ever had at a speed of more than 1-2 mph, was the first day we went tandem shopping. We were demoing bikes and there was a light rain falling. At the end a ride, we went up the little concrete ramp from the street to the sidewalk in front of the store and the front wheel went right out from under us. I'm assumed that it hydroplaned. We were doing maybe 7 mph, however, we went down pretty hard. My wife scraped her cheek and thigh, I wrenched my back-but of course didn't notice until a day or two later. We did buy a bike, but not the one that we crashed.

  8. #8
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    Homeyba dropped quite a pearl of wisdom when he said "you shouldn't make your stoker cry. That's not a good thing. Nope, not a good thing at all."

  9. #9
    Bikaholic blamp28's Avatar
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    My wife and I were only two miles into a ride when I steered through a little bit of dried mud on the MUP in a tight corner. That dried mud turned out to be ” of wet slippery mud with a thin crust and we went down on the left side. My first thoughts were for my wife since we had never dumped a tandem and I was worried that my mistake would cost her. Fortunately, she had her hands in the bar ends I recently installed to give her additional hand positions. We ride a Screamer recumbent tandem so her normal hand position would have been a disaster for her left hand. Fortunately, she only took a little bruising where the pedal nicked her leg. I had some road rash but nothing serious.

    The bike on the other hand took the worst of it and had a bent fork. When we slid, we went straight into a small berm on the edge of the trail and the result was a fork that lost about an inch of rake and pulled the bike to the right on level ground. I did not realize it was bent at first. The steering felt strange but the riser had turned as well as the headset. We spent the next 14 miles making adjustments and sorting it out. Just after mile 14, I stopped again and removed the front wheel while making some brake adjustments as the fronts were dragging. It was obviously not quite right but I decided to turn around for safety reasons. We ended up with less than half the planned 65 miles but we were safe.

    We were on one of our final training rides to prepare for the DALMAC tour and needed to get a replacement fork ASAP. It’s not incredibly easy to find a tandem rated 20” fork in short order but fortunately, a fellow Screamer owner one state away sold me a Screamer fork he had removed when he switched to a suspension fork. Three days later, I installed the fork and we were on a test ride.
    Trek Fuel XC MTB, Giant OCR Road Bike, Rans Screamer - Tandem

  10. #10
    Used to be Conspiratemus
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    Coming down the road from Angel Glacier in Jasper National Park, negotiated the 22 hairpins conservatively enough, did fine, got back onto the old 93A highway that rejoins the Icefield Parkway. Must have been a little vertiginous from all the bends, maybe a bit of "get-home-itis", but got distracted and dropped the front wheel off the edge of the pavement (narrow gravel shoulder, ditch to the side.) Gross error in judgment followed: not going very fast, edge wasn't very deep, thought I could wrench the front tire back up onto the pavement, figured the rear would follow. Front tire never bit, just skated along the edge until it washed out and down we went. Nobody hurt much except that stoker landed in a bush of wild roses (Alberta's provincial flower) and yes they have thorns. Stoker didn't cry though, nor did she revoke my captain's licence. Front wheel was bent but was able to straighten it enough to finish the tour to Calgary with a functioning front brake.

    Will NEVER try to do that again. That was plain dumb. 20 years later, can still see the pavement rushing up at me.

    Homeyba I'm impressed with your ability to survive a front flat at any speed. What do you do, just ride it out and stay off the front brake? The front end must feel dreadful, doesn't it fight you? I always thought this is something we should practice, riding with a deliberately flat tire, but stoker says No Way.
    "I did not know that!" -- J. Carson

  11. #11
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    We also have survived several high speed front flats without going down.
    Don't panic. Do not grab a handful of brakes!
    Always been able to ride it out although a couple of them felt like were riding a bronco in a rodeo.
    Stay loose on the bike and don't tighten up hold on the handlebars.
    Also done a couple spectaural rear flats . . . like when tire we were test riding blew off the rim and it wrapped tbe innerube into the freewheel . . . instant stop (again!) and showering the guy that was drafting us with pieces of flying rubbe.
    However, most things we worry about never happen . . .

  12. #12
    Senior Member dwmckee's Avatar
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    While making a right turn with my six year old stoker I had the front wheel skid out on some loose gravel. Had just slowed to about 6-7 mph for the turn when I saw the loose stones in my path. Not sure how but somehow yanked my foot out of the pedal and held the bike upright. I still remember the akward steering feel of sliding straight when turning right. We would have gone down hard.

    Also had a front flat on a panaracer tire but was going slow. The tire was a 32 and slid all over the place like I was on wet ice. Absolutely no steering and had to mostly kust balance my weight to compensate for the bike movement without falling. Again we stayed up somehow. Must have been the desperation.

    I an thankful we were going slow both times and was able to stay upright. I dread to think what would have been the outcome if we were going much faster.

    Both near falls were on our old Raleigh tandem and now we have a Comotion which has FAR superior feel and handling which I believe now gives a little more margin to handle things like that. There really is a difference in the feel of a cheap and an expensive bike.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Homeyba's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by conspiratemus1 View Post
    ...Homeyba I'm impressed with your ability to survive a front flat at any speed. What do you do, just ride it out and stay off the front brake? The front end must feel dreadful, doesn't it fight you? I always thought this is something we should practice, riding with a deliberately flat tire, but stoker says No Way.
    I suppose it comes from over 30years of racing motorcycles both on and off-road. Like I said above, it's all about not panicking. Yes, the front end does feel dreadful and it moves all over the place but the bike will generally go in a straight line so if you can keep just tight enough grip to keep the bike going straight it should stay on two wheels. Not a death grip, you have to let the front end move. A very light touch on the rear brake will help bring the bike to a stop still on it's wheels, or rim. It's helpful if the road is pretty straight too. Trying to negotiate a turn would be very difficult.
    It doesn't get harder, you just go slower.

  14. #14
    Senior Member WebsterBikeMan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Homeyba View Post
    It's helpful if the road is pretty straight too. Trying to negotiate a turn would be very difficult.
    Note to self: do not get front flat on steep downhill with switchbacks.

  15. #15
    Senior Member waynesulak's Avatar
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    What type of wheel?

    We too have survived a couple front flats going down hill. Top speed only 20-22 mph but that is plenty fast for us. Once on a gentle curve that required some steering. Gives a whole new meaning to having a supple tire! My stoker is very good at maintaining a neutral position and that helps a lot.

    I have only dumped the stoker once and it was pretty funny. Pulled in after 70 windy miles at a charity ride and we were both really tired. Pulled to a stop on very smooth asphalt and using the "proper method" I put left foot down - it slips and as we tilt left 30 degrees or so I am shocked as I am lifted off the ground in slow motion. I turn on the way up and see my stoker still clipped in at a 30-45 degree angle and leaning way back like a rodeo cowboy. I continue slowly up and she slowly down. She touches softly down changing the weight distribution and I flop straight left on my side. We (along with bystanders) were both laughing before we hit the ground. No skin lost just my perfect record. I now have shoes with some rubber tread for stopping.

    I am surprised locking the rear wheel managed to collapse the front wheel. What type of wheel collapsed?

    zonatandem wrote:

    Descending a hill at 30-some mph (coasting) the chain somehow dropped/bounced from the small rear cog to between rear dropout and cog:
    Instant stop! Buckled front wheel.

  16. #16
    Used to be Conspiratemus
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    Quote Originally Posted by Homeyba View Post
    I suppose it comes from over 30years of racing motorcycles both on and off-road. Like I said above, it's all about not panicking. Yes, the front end does feel dreadful and it moves all over the place but the bike will generally go in a straight line so if you can keep just tight enough grip to keep the bike going straight it should stay on two wheels. Not a death grip, you have to let the front end move. A very light touch on the rear brake will help bring the bike to a stop still on it's wheels, or rim. It's helpful if the road is pretty straight too. Trying to negotiate a turn would be very difficult.
    Thanks for that (and to zonatandem for chiming in.) I'm hoping by staring at that long enough I'll have the presence of mind to execute when the time comes. A turn would be hard, yes. Last summer a slow leak decided to announce itself during a tight turn -- I thought we'd hit an oil slick at first, but we stayed up. Meantime I'll keep inspecting the front tire very carefully, and keep "in tune" with it. If *anything* feels or sounds at all funny, stop and check.

    Great idea for a thread.
    "I did not know that!" -- J. Carson

  17. #17
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Had a pretty high speed (35 mph?) sudden front flat in a right-hander at the end of a steepish descent. Grabbed a serious handful of rear brake and skated on the limit of control. Wound up about 3' on the wrong side of the centerline before I got the speed down enough to get back on my side. Luckily no one was coming. Stoker said she could hear the rim on the pavement. She stayed absolutely still. We stayed up. I'd mentally practiced grabbing the rear brake in that situation many times, so it was an easy reflex. Long ago, I'd had a lot of practice riding motorcycles at the limit. Maybe that helped, I don't know. We were lucky, I know that.

  18. #18
    Senior Member mkane77g's Avatar
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    Ride a tandem long enough and most of these problems will surface sooner or later.

  19. #19
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Had another KA-POWIE! today. We were going under a freeway underpass at the bottom of a fast descent and the front tire blew right off the rim. Impressive noise. Rim was warm to the touch, no more. It looked like the tube split along one of its seams and that blew the tire off the rim. Old tube, maybe defective? Don't think it was a pinched tube. Put it in about 50 miles ago. Probably that little bit of added heat was more that it could take. Got it stopped fairly quickly, stayed up. Tire was perfect except for the damage caused by the rim running on the side of the tire that was off the rim. Rim was a bit trashed, warped, dings on the edge, and one spot kind of pooched out. Probably dropped onto the pooched out spot when it blew. Brakes were working perfectly, so nothing was wrong with the rim before. Plenty of wall thickness. One of those things. Bent the rim back to more or less OK with my chain tool, messed with the spokes until it would make it through a loosened up front brake, put on the spare tire (you carry a spare tire, right?), and we were on our way. Front brake was grabby on the bent rim, so we just took it easy and gave ourselves room. New rim ordered. Tire was only 50 miles old too, bummer. That's the third use of our spare this winter. Once for a loaner to a fellow tandem, twice for us.

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