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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 05-12-11, 04:55 PM   #1
Bent In El Paso
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Wheel Suckers

As a new tandem rider (my wife and I have been riding since July 2010), I have noticed that my back wheel is a magnet for riders. While this doesn't bother me if the rider lets me know he/she is on my wheel, I have found that most just hop on with no notification. My stoker is good about letting me know when someone is on my wheel unannounced.

Last week during the Shiner GASP many riders would hop on my wheel on downhills and on the flats (not many of those) then ride around on the climbs. I was generally OK with that and found most of the cyclists friendly and appreciative of the pull as we had a stiff head wind for most of the ride.

Where I became concerned was late in the ride where my stoker and I were tired as were the riders who would hop on our wheel. I know I was not piloting the bike as steady as earlier in the ride and did not feel comfortable having a rider close on my wheel where our combined fatigue was a recipe for trouble. When these riders would see the tandem, it was like they were pulled by a magnet to our wheel.

Is there a general consensus by the wealth of knowledge on this forum on how to handle this situation? I don't want to be rude to other riders. On the other hand, when we are tired, I just don't want the added responsibility of ensuring the safety of someone on my wheel, let alone our safety.
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Old 05-12-11, 05:12 PM   #2
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When we ride in large organized rides we put a sign on the rear bag the says"Its your turn to pull". It at least gets some laughs and some respect that we are doing the work.
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Old 05-12-11, 06:04 PM   #3
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You'll get lots of differing ideas here. Personally, I don't care. It's their responsibility to be paying attention if they are going to suck your wheel. If I do something and they aren't paying attention and crash its all on them.
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Old 05-12-11, 06:54 PM   #4
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How about a Yosemite Sam "Back Off" mudflap on the back of the bike somewhere.
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Old 05-12-11, 07:00 PM   #5
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Agree. I don't care much either, most of the time. If we had to stop hard, like to avoid a T-boning car, the inattentive rider behind could well hit us hard enough to take us down, yes. But most of the time if a following rider just touches our rear wheel it'll be him, not us, that goes flying, even if it's our "fault" for wandering or whatever. If you are tired enough that you are becoming erratic, that should stand as fair warning to the wheelsuckers to back off. I think if you are going to do mass rides with cyclists who aren't fast enough to leave you in the dust you have to expect you will be drawing tired single riders like a dead raccoon draws ravens. As we get older, we find ourselves farther back in the parade where the klutzes are.

The rider who latches onto you and sticks to you all day is another matter. Many single riders don't realize that there can be a combination of wind and upgrade where a tandem can draft a single rider (or two is even better) and the formation can stay together up the hill where otherwise the tandem would fall behind. A single rider should be willing to slip out in front and pull in situations like that, as payback for all the draft we give them, rather than just staying behind and complaining about every wrong turn we make. Fact is, some people just get under your skin and having them around anywhere erodes your patience. The least they can do then is take a pull. Honestly, if I can find something to thank such people for, I will.
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Old 05-12-11, 09:45 PM   #6
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A wheelsucker is responsible for his/her own safety.
If they zap your back wheel with their front tire, they'll likely go down.
Don't let drafters phase you, unless they get obnoxious.
You can always yell 'braking' . . .
Have NEVER had a single cyclist crash into us in over 36 years of tandeming.
Now cars and/or trucks . . . well that's another topic!
Just our experience.
Pedal on!
RUdy and Kay/zonatandem
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Old 05-12-11, 09:52 PM   #7
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I think I'd rather have another cyclist hit my back wheel than a car!
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Old 05-13-11, 04:23 AM   #8
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You'll get lots of differing ideas here. Personally, I don't care. It's their responsibility to be paying attention if they are going to suck your wheel. If I do something and they aren't paying attention and crash its all on them.
I agree with Homeyba, don't worry about the wheel suckers hitting you from behind.

I don't mind if somebody is just tired and asking to be pulled without complaining. However, if they're being obnoxious, make them pull, get them tired, and then drop em! If you're the strongest in a group, dictate the pace and get rid of the excess fat (if you don't want them around that is).
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Old 05-13-11, 05:50 AM   #9
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wheel suckers

We have had this from time to time, for some reason it's often been a recumbent back there. Normally doesn't bother me too much. Over the years, I've witnessed enough wheel touches to understand who hits the pavement. We have had a few very annoying ones though. Once had a recumbent follow us for 20 kilometers, or so, only to give us a "thanks for the pull, ha, ha, when he left". The most creepy one was very strange character who tracked us for several kilometers without saying a word, and then stopped with us when we stopped to let him loose. Cannot recall how we eventually dropped him, but he sure was an odd one.
ride safe!
Joe
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Old 05-13-11, 07:36 AM   #10
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Many of you recommend not to worry about them. It is their problem. I guess it is just me. When someone is on my wheel, I cannot relax. I feel, in part, I am responsible for his/her safety and that I need to focus on riding steady and safely. That is typically not a problem for me. I do a lot of club paceline rides and our friends like to ride behind the big steady tandem.

When it is a long/difficult ride that pushes us physically and mentally, I get to the point where I just don't feel comfortable with someone on my wheel. Besides being physically tired, I just don't want to deal with the mental aspect of looking out for the safety of those behind me. It is tough enough just focusing on keeping my stoker and myself safe. My mentality will not let me "not" worry about them. I don't want to see anyone hurt regardless of whose fault it is.

We had one rider on the Shiner who was persistent. It was towards the end of the ride and it was obvious that he was struggling. he would get on our wheel and we would slow down until he passed. We would speed up and he would get on our wheel again. We did this several times. I kept thinking he would get the idea, but he never did. We finally pushed forward until we got far enough ahead of him that he did not have the energy to catch up to us again. That method worked but it sure made that part of the ride unenjoyable for us.

I guess the best method is just to tell them I don't want them on my wheel. If it pisses them off too bad. Better pissed off than a possible trip to the hospital.
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Old 05-13-11, 07:49 AM   #11
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If you ride rallies on the tandem, you will collect wheel suckers and wheel sucker stories like yellowjackets on a banana skin.

Soome of my favorites:
1) Pulling a train of about 100 riders 10 miles then no-one letting me into the line when I needed a break... Like these guys were going to pull through in a paceline - they hadn't for the last 10 miles. Nowadays when we collect a big train, we'll attack a little instead of riding tempo. This tends to keep the group more manageable and at least you know that everyone is strong enough to pull - if they want to.

2) Dropping the chain on a botched granny shift and watching our erstwhile single "friends" ride away up the hill, without a backward glance.

3) Getting a pretty good push up a hill by a single who didn't want to go round; may offend some stokers but we actually appreciated it at the time.

About 1 in 100 suckers will ask for the privilege, so don't be surprised when they don't. Interestingly, I've come across a lot of single riders who get very upset if I draft them without asking (or even if I do ask). Especially annoying when they complain after drafting me for 3 miles then sprinting by in an attempt to drop me.

If there's a touch of wheels, the rear rider goes down. If you're riding tandem up front, you probably won't even feel it. If you draft, it's your responsibility to stay safe. Even when you are tired, you are probablya lot more stable on the tandem than the average single.

"Wow you guys sure break a lot of wind!"

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Old 05-13-11, 09:39 AM   #12
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a blinking light

Mount a blinking light on the rear rack or stoker's seat. Something bright with multiple blink patterns such as the Planet Bike Super Stealth Flash. If they can stare at that thing very long I'd be surprised!
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Old 05-13-11, 10:06 AM   #13
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Mount a blinking light on the rear rack or stoker's seat. Something bright with multiple blink patterns such as the Planet Bike Super Stealth Flash. If they can stare at that thing very long I'd be surprised!
has to be a DiNotte to really work, but boy those are hard to draft for long. The stoker shoo-fly wave is sometimes effective, as is slowing a lot or stopping (but that's a PIA and still not 100% as noted by other posters). You could also try conversation: "what part of NO don't you understand?"
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Old 05-13-11, 11:31 AM   #14
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I'd also suggest that you not worry about them. Drafting you is their choice, and when you're not smooth due to fatigue, it's their responsibility to pick up the warning signs and either pass or gamble with staying on your wheel.

However, you're certainly entitled to an enjoyable ride, and if people drafting you gives you stress, you should say something.

I think this would be one of those cases that white lies are okay. Just tell them you're new to the tandem and them drafting you is stressing you out. Or tell them your stoker doesn't like it. Whatever makes them understand that you're not being selfish or competitive, but them being back there is messing up your day. If they're at all considerate and understand your goal of a stress-free, enjoyable ride, they'd pass. If they don't, then they're a bung-hole and you definitely can stop worrying about their well-being.
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Old 05-13-11, 09:21 PM   #15
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A wheelsucker is responsible for his/her own safety.
This. Operating in a pack starts with a silent interview. Evaluate who you want to be near and who you want to avoid and go from there.

When I'm done with my pull, I sit up, move left, and drop a few MPH. Almost anybody gets the hint.

If you don't want someone on your wheel, drop them.
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Old 05-13-11, 09:56 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Bent In El Paso View Post
I guess it is just me. When someone is on my wheel, I cannot relax. I guess the best method is just to tell them I don't want them on my wheel. ..... If it pisses them off too bad. Better pissed off than a possible trip to the hospital.
Any decent Cat 3 can tell you how to shed a wheelsucker.

Your typical clueless club rider might not even realize what happened.
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Old 05-13-11, 10:43 PM   #17
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Snot rocket from the stoker. If the wheel sucker complains, say "oh, sorry, I didn't hear you back there...say something next time."
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Old 05-14-11, 02:23 AM   #18
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For me it is easy, nobody wants to draft the guy in the back
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Old 05-14-11, 05:42 PM   #19
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It's a desperate single that will draft two senior citizens on a tandem, but they are to be found in organized rides. It's a bit of a concern that these are generally not fast, experienced riders, but the likelihood of damage is very small. They need to realize that a tandem will be doing more shifting on rollers and an occasional double shift can be missed. Would be nice if they at least nodded their head or raised a finger when they finally drive by.
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Old 05-14-11, 05:51 PM   #20
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Drop 'em on the next downhill . . . W-h-o-o-o-sh!
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Old 05-14-11, 08:00 PM   #21
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. . . W-h-o-o-o-sh!
The one aspect of tandeming we've mastered.
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Old 05-14-11, 09:22 PM   #22
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The cyclists we've encountered either pass us, or pull up beside us and chat to us. So far we've never had anyone just come up behind and draft us.
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Old 05-14-11, 10:16 PM   #23
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...has to be a DiNotte to really work, but boy those are hard to draft for long.
A DiNotte, if it was pointed up just a little bit, would be verrrrry effective. The technique would be to leave it off, and if an unwanted wheelsucker materializes, the captain gives the command, the stoker casually reaches back, and lets them have it.
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Old 05-15-11, 09:39 AM   #24
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I guess it is just me.
You have answered your own question. It is your problem, not the wheel sucker. You have to get over it or stop riding. Maybe a sign will help. The fact is that everytime you will go out in an organized ride, you will get a sucker. It's the way it is. Just like the sun will come up in the morning and go away at night.
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Old 05-15-11, 11:12 AM   #25
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You don't have to be a slow rider or a klutz to take advantage of a tandem on rides like TOSRV or RAIN. Far from it. There have been a lot of 25+ mph double pacelines on TOSRV with tandems taking the first wheel on both sides. Most of the fast tandems that I have ridden with prefer to lead anyway, since it's difficult for a tandem to moderate speeds in a paceline with singles. I drafted a tandem for 60 miles on RAIN and kept up a running conversation with them while going 25 mph. They were glad for the company and I was glad for the tow! But, if your nervous about it, just say so. This isn't limited to tandems BTW, We've had up to 50 riders drafting us out of Portsmouth on TOSRV on our singles. The real problem in pacelines is recumbents. They take up a lot of room and provide no draft, so it's useless for them to pull. I don't know why they get in pacelines anyway since they have a tremendous aero advantage.
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