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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 08-03-11, 06:29 AM   #1
bjjoondo 
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Is it HARDER to ride a tandem?

The wife and I were discussing that it seems harder to ride the tandem, than single bikes. For me as pilot it seems like I can't get good "breathing" control, ie: I seem to breath thru my mouth more than my nose and I just can't seem to get enough air?? For her she says we seem to be "spinning" too much and feels we need to be using a higher gear. LOL, I'm in the lower gear cause I seem to be wearing out faster on the tandem.

I avg. 11-12 mph, she avgs. 6-8 mph on single bikes, we seem to avg. 10 mph on the tandem. She was asking me what she can do to help but I KNOW she's putting in max effort and when I ask her for POWER, up hills, etc., I can FEEL that she's kicking in hard. We really do enjoy riding the tandem and being able to "talk" to each other but being tandem virgins, we don't know what we need to do to "improve". Any thoughts, comments, suggestions would be greatly appreciated, thanks!
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Old 08-03-11, 06:41 AM   #2
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Just keep doing it.

A tandem has twice the weight and twice the power so, if everything else is equal, it should ride about the same.

Everything else is rarely equal. In fact, a common reason many teams ride a tandem is because, just like you, they are riders who are not very evenly matched but who want to ride together. I think that the more you ride together on the tandem the more those breathing and cadence issues will even out.
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Old 08-03-11, 09:19 AM   #3
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The wife and I were discussing that it seems harder to ride the tandem, than single bikes. For me as pilot it seems like I can't get good "breathing" control, ie: I seem to breath thru my mouth more than my nose and I just can't seem to get enough air?? For her she says we seem to be "spinning" too much and feels we need to be using a higher gear. LOL, I'm in the lower gear cause I seem to be wearing out faster on the tandem.

I avg. 11-12 mph, she avgs. 6-8 mph on single bikes, we seem to avg. 10 mph on the tandem. She was asking me what she can do to help but I KNOW she's putting in max effort and when I ask her for POWER, up hills, etc., I can FEEL that she's kicking in hard. We really do enjoy riding the tandem and being able to "talk" to each other but being tandem virgins, we don't know what we need to do to "improve". Any thoughts, comments, suggestions would be greatly appreciated, thanks!
Not necessarily harder, but different.
"Practice makes perfect" is an almost worn-out concept but it truly works with tandem riding. Here are a couple suggestions that might help:
*Try to find a place where you can ride on fairly level pavement for a couple miles. Then turn around and ride back.
This exercise will help the two of you to blend your mashing/spinning styles and get used to a cadence and perceived effort level into a team thing. You, as captain, will get used to communicating with your stoker; shifting; steering, etc. Your stoker will get used to not trying to steer, sitting neutral, and not unclipping when she feels a 'lean' that she didn't initiate.
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Old 08-03-11, 10:30 AM   #4
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Double weight double power may be over simplifying things - our tandem is heavy, but not as heavy as both our solo bikes together. It does offer the stoker much better slipstreaming than is poss on separate bikes. There is only one set of wheels and bearings carrying two people - the rolling resistance is surely higher. It's slower through corners as there is only one set of brakes for two people. Complicated.

Whatever - it's a great cycling ability equaliser - we love riding it, I hope you enjoy yours too.

My suggestion re your wife not liking your choice of gears is to fit shorter cranks for her, smaller circles, lower leverage - it will effectively give her a slightly higher gear than you. It's likely she has shorter legs and should have shorter cranks anyhow.

On a different tandeming problem - it's an outrageously expensive option - but a Rohloff hub is worth considering. Never again will you get stuck in too high gears stopped at traffic lights.

Finally - a thudbuster seatpost is good for stokers as they can't see the bumps coming.

Ross
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Old 08-03-11, 10:53 AM   #5
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We really like riding our da Vinci tandem....but I think the inability to easily stand up - to stretch, relieve pressure, get up a rise whatever, makes riding the tandem harder than single bikes.

David
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Old 08-03-11, 12:55 PM   #6
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It's different. I (captain) am slower on the tandem than on my single, so rides of the same length take more time, hence are more tiring for me, though much easier for Stoker. There also seemed to be a little more leg wear on this captain for the first few thousand miles until the team got synched up. Stoker and I are lucky in that we ride about the same cadence on our singles, so that was easy for us.

It's trickier to drive because of needing more room to maneuver and stop and also a little more tiring on the captain's shoulders and arms. It took us a lot of practice to be able to stand, but now we can stand together quite well. We worked at it.
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Old 08-03-11, 01:33 PM   #7
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I think that the biggest advantage of the tandem is in wind resistance. Essentially, the stoker is always drafting the captain, therefore you have half the frontal area and half the wind restistance that 2 singles would have. This becomes an advantage with speed; wind resistance increases exponentially with speed. At 10 mph, this is minimal. Be patient and enjoy the experience...you will learn to work together in time and there is great satisfaction in that. As far as stregnth, you are bringing more to the table and you need to make sure that you are not going to overpower your stoker. Make sure that she gradually puts in more work and you will see the speeds increase. Once you start to go faster, you will see the advantage of the lesser wind resistance. On my single, I can average 18 mph over long stretches with a fair amount of work. My wife can do about 14. On the tandem, we can cruise at 20 all day on the flats and rolling terrain. We have also gotten to the point where we can climb short stretches with all but the strongest of our single riding friends. Of course, it is much easier to ride with fellow tandems, rather than singles. This is because I find that I am always out of sink with the singles when climbing or accelerating. This is where the added mass of the tandem puts us at a dissadvantage.
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Old 08-03-11, 03:33 PM   #8
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Don't underestimate the extra work that your shoulders do when you start tandeming. In time you get a little stronger and less tense.

It's worth trying a bigger gear if you are spinning out - your stoker may pick up more power at lower cadence and your speed may go up as your work goes down and you share the work more evenly. It seems counterintuative but I've had it happen.
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Old 08-03-11, 04:03 PM   #9
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Tandems have a 30 to 40% greater aero load than the same captain on his road bike. So tandem aerodynamics are dominated by the captain (assuming the captain is bigger). In crosswind situations, tandems have a higher aero drag than two single bike who can echelon in the wind. Since the captain and stoker are dynamically connected via the timing chain, they can work perfectly together or fight each other which will not be intentional or obvious to the team.

My advice is relax and go with the flow. Do not overthink it. If either team member feels the cadence is too high or low try to make adjustments and find a middle ground. Captains should try to make their stoker as comfortable and secure as possible. The more the stoker relaxes the better the energy transfer, team work and fun.

Since captains see what is ahead, they typically put in the first increment of power. So as the ride progresses, if the captain always supplies the needed energy to maintain speed, it is a tougher day in the saddle. The only command I typically use is more power. She then increases power so that we better share added energy requirements.

That is not an important part of riding but if your stoker wants to contribute and share the power making, he/she has to be informed to get in the game early enough so that the captain does not have to take all the accelerations. YMMV.
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Old 08-03-11, 08:04 PM   #10
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A compromise pace between capt. and stoker will help you enjoy tandeming more. Eventually you come out with the right combination . . .
Been doing it since 1975 . . .
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Old 08-03-11, 08:39 PM   #11
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Double weight double power may be over simplifying things - our tandem is heavy, but not as heavy as both our solo bikes together. It does offer the stoker much better slipstreaming than is poss on separate bikes. There is only one set of wheels and bearings carrying two people - the rolling resistance is surely higher. It's slower through corners as there is only one set of brakes for two people. Complicated.

Whatever - it's a great cycling ability equaliser - we love riding it, I hope you enjoy yours too.

My suggestion re your wife not liking your choice of gears is to fit shorter cranks for her, smaller circles, lower leverage - it will effectively give her a slightly higher gear than you. It's likely she has shorter legs and should have shorter cranks anyhow.

On a different tandeming problem - it's an outrageously expensive option - but a Rohloff hub is worth considering. Never again will you get stuck in too high gears stopped at traffic lights.

Finally - a thudbuster seatpost is good for stokers as they can't see the bumps coming.

Ross

Ross, thanks, YES, we really do enjoy the tandem, it puts a smile on my face, even though I seem to run out of steam quite a bit faster than on a single bike. Lot's of good information here! You are quite right, I have a 31 inch inseam, she has a 26 inch inseam, our bike is a 18.5/14.5 set up, I'll look into the "shorter cranks" idea, just wish I knew HOW SHORT to change to any ideas?? Thanks to ALL, I'll take all the suggestions I can get!
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Old 08-03-11, 08:44 PM   #12
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A compromise pace between capt. and stoker will help you enjoy tandeming more. Eventually you come out with the right combination . . .
Been doing it since 1975 . . .
You two will "forget" more than we will probably ever know about being tandem team! I know she's giving it her all, maybe it's just "time to get more coordinated" that we need. She's a GREAT stroker, we rode motorcycles 2-up for 25 years so she's really good at not causing me any handling problems, etc. LOL, I think she's stronger on the tandem, maybe that's why she wan't me to "gear up"! :O Thanks for the advise, it's appreciated.
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Old 08-04-11, 07:04 AM   #13
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I think standard cranks are 175mm. I used these on the front as all my other bikes have them. I chose 170mm for the rear - I can ride them OK, but very rarely do. If anything I would have gone a little shorter still - 165mm?

Oh - while I'm happily spending your money - carbon bars on the rear also for soften up the stoker's ride.



hth
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Old 08-04-11, 07:17 AM   #14
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in my opinion, you do not need to start changing out cranks or anything else, we are running 175 cranks on both ends and have no problem. My suggestion is to RIDE! If the stoker is spinning to fast shift up a gear. Riding time and talking to each other will help the situation.
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Old 08-04-11, 07:21 AM   #15
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As good a place as any to ask this question. I'm interested in tandeming, but my worry is that it will be not as fun for the stoker (I guess that is the right term?) as riding separate bikes.
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Old 08-04-11, 07:41 AM   #16
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Just keep doing it.

A tandem has twice the weight and twice the power so, if everything else is equal, it should ride about the same.

Everything else is rarely equal. In fact, a common reason many teams ride a tandem is because, just like you, they are riders who are not very evenly matched but who want to ride together. I think that the more you ride together on the tandem the more those breathing and cadence issues will even out.
I agree, just keep doing it. Practice makes perfect. We are fairly new to the tandem too. It did seem "harder" at first. Just relax, and let it happen. It will start to click and the next thing you know, you'll be cruising along having a good ole time.
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Old 08-04-11, 07:51 AM   #17
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As good a place as any to ask this question. I'm interested in tandeming, but my worry is that it will be not as fun for the stoker (I guess that is the right term?) as riding separate bikes.
Most posters here will probably say the opposite, but the best way to find out is to try one for a day or two
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Old 08-04-11, 08:01 AM   #18
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As good a place as any to ask this question. I'm interested in tandeming, but my worry is that it will be not as fun for the stoker (I guess that is the right term?) as riding separate bikes.
Here's my 2 cents as a noob tandem team, IF you have a great relationship and TRUST with your "stroker", (no matter, wife/husband/SO/boy/girlfrend, etc.) and YOU as the capt. can handle being able to say, I'm Sorry a lot, LOL, then I think, from what my wife (stroker/navigator) says, is that it's actually a lot of FUN riding a tandem. If your a "ME" person, it's gona be hard cause you've got to constantly THINK about what the stroker needs to know during the ride, ie: bumps, turns, shifting, etc. When they call tandem riders a "TEAM", they really mean it, otherwise I think you'd both hate the experiance. For us we really dig being on a tandem, hope this helps. FYI, YMMV, JMHO.
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Old 08-04-11, 08:48 AM   #19
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Here's my 2 cents as a noob tandem team, IF you have a great relationship and TRUST with your "stroker", (no matter, wife/husband/SO/boy/girlfrend, etc.) and YOU as the capt. can handle being able to say, I'm Sorry a lot, LOL, then I think, from what my wife (stroker/navigator) says, is that it's actually a lot of FUN riding a tandem. If you're a "ME" person, it's gona be hard cause you've got to constantly THINK about what the stroker needs to know during the ride, ie: bumps, turns, shifting, etc. When they call tandem riders a "TEAM", they really mean it, otherwise I think you'd both hate the experiance. For us we really dig being on a tandem, hope this helps. FYI, YMMV, JMHO.
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If "The Stoker Makes No Mistakes" is the captain's mantra. "No problem, try again" is the stoker's.
My bride/stoker is amazing. We ride along, sharing the joy of TWOgetherness and laughing when the captain forgets to call "bump!". We learn twogether, laugh twogether, sweat twogether and look forward two the next ride.
If you haven't already read it, take a look at "The Method":

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Give yourselves lots of time to practice -- and enjoy!
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Old 08-04-11, 09:03 AM   #20
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We were relatively new to cycling when we got our tandem. One thing we realized was we "coasted" more on our solos (around corners for example) and tried to peddle all the time on the tandem which was wearing us both out quickly. We have since learned to peddle more of the time on the solos and coast or take quick butt breaks more often on the tandem.
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Old 08-04-11, 11:31 AM   #21
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Tandems have a 30 to 40% greater aero load than the same captain on his road bike. ....
That is not expected, but could explain a lot if true. Also the comment about the captain seeing the need for power first does create a bit of "conflict" in the pedal stroke.

One other factor, as is single bikes, is the quality of the components such as wheels, bearings, weight, etc. Getting a tandem of a quality equal to one's road bike might be beyond one's budget as in my case, so a heavier bike with lower quality components carries it's own penalty.

My wife is currently a D rider due to injuries. When she was a C+ rider we could handle a 40 mi B ride with power to spare. Now we would struggle.

When we first started she would complain if the cadence was much above 75. "Too fast" she would yell. As I worked on her pedal stroke (She was a masher) and got her to pedal in circles, her cadence went up. We can now hold 85 rpm no problem. She still get' a bit antsy above 95 for any lenght of time.
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Old 08-04-11, 03:54 PM   #22
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It does seem to be harder starting off the line if you're used to the acceleration of a lightweight single bike. I suppose that except for some experienced male-male racing teams the stoker would usually not as strong as the captain.
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Old 08-04-11, 09:19 PM   #23
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We're just slightly post-newbie with about 7000 tandem miles under our belts. No wind, on the flat you can't help but be faster unless there is really an unusual difference in cadence. Serious climbs are hard work whether on a single or tandem, but it's harder on the tandem in our experience since you don't have as much flexibility in position and cadence as you do on a single. A serious climb would be 2000+ feet in 10 miles. Rollers are what can really kill the captain on a long ride. It's easy to skip that last downshift as you might on a single and grunt out the last couple of hundred feet, but the stoker, even a strong rider, may not be putting in that extra effort; this can wear the captain out very quickly. A kissing cousin killer is a sudden uptick that leaves the team in too high a gear with both captain and stoker expending a lot of effort.

Anyway, it all gets better; you're never alone; and the downhills are something special.
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Old 08-05-11, 03:52 AM   #24
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....but I think the inability to easily stand up - to stretch, relieve pressure, get up a rise whatever, makes riding the tandem harder than single bikes.

David
Give this guy a beer...

We don't stand and pedal, but will take butt breaks. When riding the tandems off-road, it is easier on the fanny because of the moving around and unloading to get over stuff.

As one of our friends stated, and this is from a team that we ride both on-road and off-road with, "on the road you sit there forever just pedaling without moving around...makes your butt sore after a couple of hours".

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Old 08-05-11, 05:42 AM   #25
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In order to keep from getting a sore butt from sitting to long we will stand and coast with the right pedal down, sit down and then do the same thing with the left pedal down, we usually do this when we take a drink of water. I watch the odometer on my computer and try to do it every 4 miles. It makes a significant difference and truly helps eliminate butt pain. I will also stand and pedal on a regular basis. We still have not developed the ability to stand and pedal at the same time. I have only been able to do that with one of my daughters, we could both stand up and hammer.

Wayne




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Give this guy a beer...

We don't stand and pedal, but will take butt breaks. When riding the tandems off-road, it is easier on the fanny because of the moving around and unloading to get over stuff.

As one of our friends stated, and this is from a team that we ride both on-road and off-road with, "on the road you sit there forever just pedaling without moving around...makes your butt sore after a couple of hours".

PK
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