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  1. #1
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    tips on learning to ride tandem with your spouse without divorce

    Any suggestions out there / in here for learning how to ride our new tandem with my wife (stoker) without getting in to a matrimonial nightmare. We both ride bikes but neither of us have ever ridden a tandem.
    thanks

  2. #2
    Senior Member DCwom's Avatar
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    Communication and compromise. First you need to drop any expectations about compensating for each other, you're a team and must work as a team. In the end you may find that you just can't (or don't want to) ride together for any number of reasons. For us we ride our tandem 100% of the time, you may find that a mix of singles and tandem riding might work better depending on your riding styles.

    Probably our main compromise is gearing/cadence on hills, we've worked it out where she gets the preferred cadence on the hills and I get it on the flats inevitably she contributes more on hill climbing while I contribute more on the flats.

    As the captain of our team I must remember that my stoker is giving up a lot of control to sit back there. Likewise as captain I've got a lot of responsibility to provide a smooth and safe ride while driving what sometime feels like a truck.
    Last edited by DCwom; 02-22-12 at 06:32 AM.

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    Just remember she is always right and the stoker makes no mistakes.
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    Senior Member Bent In El Paso's Avatar
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    Always listen to your stoker. If she asks to slow down, then slow down. If she wants to stop, then stop. Don't take any risks she is not comfortable with. Talk to her about your plans. Let her know when there is a bump coming in the road. Give her responsibilities while riding such as keeping an eye on the road behind the bike, handling the water and food, etc... If the stoker knows the captain views her as an equal part of the team, she will enjoy the ride much more.

    Enjoy the ride!!
    Fred

    Behind every good captain is a great stoker!

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    Riding a tandem a team will either work together or they will not work. It has been said that a tandem will show what type of relationship you have. As others have said, the stoker is putting alot of trust into the captain and the captain should remember that a stoker does no wrong.

  6. #6
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Congrats on getting a tandem!
    Congrats on asking questions!!!
    Been *happily* married for 57 years and been riding as a duo for 37 years.

    First, as pilot, ride the tandem solo . . . get used to the different feel/handling.

    Learn how to mount tandem properly.
    Pilot mounts tandem first; stands with both feet FLAT on the ground and butt resting on top tub while holding/applying both brakes.
    Then stoker mounts tandem; gets seated and gets both feet on the pedals.
    Pilot clips in one foot.
    On count of one/two/three both folks push off as captain releases brakes and pedal!
    Sounds simple, but could a tad tricky/wobbly the first few times.
    COMMUNICATE!
    Captain must tell stoker (out loud) whatever he plans to do; like:
    Coast, brake, slowing, pedal, shifting.
    Captain alkso voices commands like left turn, right turn, slowing . . . but he keeps hands on the bars and the stoker gives appropriate hand signal.
    As stoker cannot see what's up ahead too well, pilot must communicate bumps/rough road/hazards to give her adequate warning.
    For bad bumps stoker can put a bit more weight on her handlebars and less on butt so as to minimize road shock to her anatomy.

    Eventually, after a few rides, you'll really get the hang of it!

    Stopping can be accomplished just as on a single, but pilot must hold brake(s) and wait for stoker to dismount first.
    After stoker dismounts, she walks away from the bike and says "off". Then captain can dismount; this avoids an unintended karate kick by captain to the stoker!
    Practice makes perfect and eventually you'll teach other folks how to enjoy riding TWOgether!
    Pedal on!
    Rudy and Kay/zonatandem

  7. #7
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    What Rudy and the others have said with a couple of comments. When stoker wants to coast, coast, about every 15 minutes we coast and stand stretching one leg then when she says ready we rotate and stretch the other leg. This is when we usually take a drink. We also stop and have a GU every 45 minutes or so. When she says she is ready to head home, we head home, no discussion!

    We do not like the way Rudy described starting and stopping, I know Bill of Santana says it is the correct way,it did not work for us.

    Here is what works best for us: I get on the bike and have the right pedals down (cranks in phase) I straddle the top tube, she gets on, I clip my right foot in and then she clips her right foot in. We then rotate our right pedals into the 1:00 o'clock position and I say ready, she responds and we push off together. I clip my left foot in as soon as i can and then rotate the left pedal down and she clips in and off we go. It sounds more complicated than it actually is but it's safer for us.

    You will have to develop your own technique for mounting and dismounting. it would probably be a good idea to practice stopping and starting in an isolated area.

    And did anyone say COMMUNICATE!

    Wayne
    Last edited by DubT; 02-22-12 at 10:36 AM.

  8. #8
    Senior Member waynesulak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zonatandem View Post
    Congrats on getting a tandem!
    Congrats on asking questions!!!
    Been *happily* married for 57 years and been riding as a duo for 37 years.

    First, as pilot, ride the tandem solo . . . get used to the different feel/handling.

    Learn how to mount tandem properly.
    Pilot mounts tandem first; stands with both feet FLAT on the ground and butt resting on top tub while holding/applying both brakes.
    Then stoker mounts tandem; gets seated and gets both feet on the pedals.
    Pilot clips in one foot.
    On count of one/two/three both folks push off as captain releases brakes and pedal!
    Sounds simple, but could a tad tricky/wobbly the first few times.
    COMMUNICATE!
    Captain must tell stoker (out loud) whatever he plans to do; like:
    Coast, brake, slowing, pedal, shifting.
    Captain alkso voices commands like left turn, right turn, slowing . . . but he keeps hands on the bars and the stoker gives appropriate hand signal.
    As stoker cannot see what's up ahead too well, pilot must communicate bumps/rough road/hazards to give her adequate warning.
    For bad bumps stoker can put a bit more weight on her handlebars and less on butt so as to minimize road shock to her anatomy.

    Eventually, after a few rides, you'll really get the hang of it!

    Stopping can be accomplished just as on a single, but pilot must hold brake(s) and wait for stoker to dismount first.
    After stoker dismounts, she walks away from the bike and says "off". Then captain can dismount; this avoids an unintended karate kick by captain to the stoker!
    Practice makes perfect and eventually you'll teach other folks how to enjoy riding TWOgether!
    Pedal on!
    Rudy and Kay/zonatandem
    Great summary I will add:

    I second the method of stoker clipping in before captain and out after captain.

    In addition to the stoker notifying captain when she is off ALWAYS check to make sure the stoker is on/off before getting on/off the tandem. Better safe than sorry.

    Many captains exit the tandem by swinging their leg forward over the handle bars rather than behind over the stoker handle bars. This is actually easier as the front bars are narrower than the stoker bars and often lower than the captain's saddle.

    Pay attention to the pedals, they will tell you a lot about what your stoker is doing and tell the stoker what the captain is doing.

    When often discuss before each ride the type of ride we going on. Hard work out vs easy ride and long vs short. Sometimes we change in mid ride but it is a joint decision.

    Have fun!

    Wayne

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by DubT View Post
    Here is what works best for us: I get on the bike and have the right pedals down (cranks in phase) I straddle the top tube, she gets on, I clip my right foot in and then she clips her right foot in. We then rotate our right pedals into the 1:00 o'clock position and I say ready, she responds and we push off together. I clip my left foot in as soon as i can and then rotate the left pedal down and she clips in and off we go. It sounds more complicated than it actually is but it's safer for us.
    Using the method you describe dictates the tandem be fitted such that the stoker be able to touch the ground when stopped. I do not claim to be an expert, but I don't believe (though I could be wrong) most tandems are fitted that way. In the case of my 1984 Davidson tandem, I accommodated fitting my wife by putting shortened cranks on the bike. There is no way she could touch the ground on that bike with the seat tube length as it is.
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  10. #10
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Wayne gives another great way of starting off on the tandem.
    BTW, we were riding TWOgether before Santana came up with its mounting mantra.
    Put in practice what you've read here and you'll both be fine!
    Yes, keep your stoker *happy*!
    Pedal on!
    Rudy and Kay/zonatandem

  11. #11
    Senior Member rdtompki's Avatar
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    Find a place to practice absent of all traffic - large parking will do the trick or an industrial park on Sunday. When we first test rode a tandem I was afraid I'd never be able to steer the thing in a straight line, but in reality it's more stable than a single. Before you ever get on a tandem talk through how things will work. Starting/stopping/turning are extremely important of course. Communicate. Captain needs to know when stoker is reaching for a water bottle or adjusting a mirror at least in the beginning. Stoker needs to stay centered. It can be a truly great experience; understanding each others' roles/responsibilities and communicating will go a long way.

    Standing and U-turns will take additional practice once you get past the basics.

    Oh, and take it easy on the downhills at first. I'm sure you've been passed by many tandems on downhills, but when you're actually on one you'll be amazed at how fast they accelerate. Take it easy until you both get comfortable.
    Rick T
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  12. #12
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    It took us a while before I (captain) felt comfortable only putting down one foot at a traffic light. Until then I unclipped both feet. Normally, stoker remains clipped in. As a corollary to "the stoker is always right", it is said that the captain didn't dump the bike if there was no blood. Because it happens when one is learning.

    Getting effort balanced can be difficult and can cause stress. We use HRMs and periodically call out our HRs. Frequently one of us is doing 140 and the other 115, and who's doing which varies. After a couple of hours that seems to be less of a problem as we develop a mental sync.

    Learning to stand can be difficult, but is necessary for butt and leg breaks. For your first stand, pick a flat straight stretch with no cars at all. Take the lane, put it in a big gear and see how it goes.

    Exactly who pushes on the pedals when can also be a stress source. Feel each other through the timing chain and both adjust your pedaling so that you can't feel the other person's pedaling at all. You may have to compromise. Many teams also have to compromise on cadence.

    As others have said, it's all about the team. That's what's different, and that's why we do it. Enjoy!

  13. #13
    Senior Member MNBikeCommuter's Avatar
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    I've ridden with about ten different stokers, each with his or her own preferences. For me, it comes down to two things:

    1) The captain has the last word.
    2) If the stoker ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.

    I do my darnedest to honor 2, but sometimes 1 just has to take priority from, e.g., a safety perspective. You'll certainly work out the kinks with time in the saddles following the advice others have given. Enjoy!

  14. #14
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    These folks are right on! I read several threads like this before we rented and went on our first few tandem voyages. It REALLY helped. So this is just a thanks to those who share, it REALLY does help.
    Some folks call me Harold.

  15. #15
    What??? Only 2 wheels? jimmuller's Avatar
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    Great thread.

    We've been riding our tandem only since early October but we've done about 500 miles since then thanks to the non-existent New England winter. I agree with most of the stuff here but not all, and we have a few principles of our own.

    I read somewhere that one of the captain's jobs is to keep the stoker happy, and one of the stoker's jobs is to tell the captain what he did wrong. This is Rule #1. Rule #2 is See Rule #1. The compensation is that I get to call stops and when to return home. If I get tired to the point of being careless or lose concentration, we can both be hurt.

    When we started she was scared of any speed above zero (thanks to an incident on a rented solo MTB) but wanted to join me on rides. My challenge has been to push the experience without hitting her limit. When she says slow down, I slow down. We may talk about it later, then push a little harder or into tougher traffic or over a steeper hill next time. That process has kept her comfortable and wanting more. Now we are doing just about anything I'd do solo.

    We never had much trouble starting. I straddle the bike and hold it up with my feet apart enough for the pedals to be free. She climbs on, puts her feet into the clips (we use traditional clips and straps), pulls the right pedal 45deg above horizontal. I put my right foot in, wait for traffic to clear if necessary, say something like "ready?", and we push off. After a few pedal strokes to gain speed I'll pause pedaling and slip my left foot into its clip. One amazing thing for me is how stable the bike is compared to a solo bike, even at very low speed. Once I realized this, starting became trivial.

    I try to call out all turns and stops, especially left turns which may require negotiating traffic, or stop signs which she can't see coming.

    I don't call out coasting or pedalling. She detects that through the pedals much more quickly than I could call it, and her response is so immediate that my pedals usually feel like a solo bike. Anyway, around here the land is so hilly that pedaling, cadence, gearing, coasting, bike speed, etc. can change every 10 seconds.

    When we stop she prefers right pedal down. I have to remind myself of that. Stopping is easy but I have to not to let the bike tip over so far that I can't hold it up. We usually plan on her not dismounting but we have to discuss it at some stops. After she gets off she has to remember to move out of the way or I'll kick her when I swing my leg over. (I should try the over-the-front-bar technique. I'm not as, hooom, bendable as I used to be.)

    I call out bumps if I see them (which is hard in winter shadows) and stop pedaling. She prefers right pedal down whereas I use pedals horizontal, right pedal back. (There are technical reasons for this.) We have agreed to work on her bump suspension technique.

    Finally, cadence. I prefer a slightly higher cadence. The One Thing that bothers her is to lose a pedal with her foot. I have to avoid too high a cadence, especially jumping too fast too quickly. That means I absotively posilutely announce front downshifts.

    This note ended up longer than I wanted.
    Real cyclists use toe clips.
    jimmuller

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by trekfx7.9 View Post
    Any suggestions out there / in here for learning how to ride our new tandem with my wife (stoker) without getting in to a matrimonial nightmare. We both ride bikes but neither of us have ever ridden a tandem.
    thanks
    GasX

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    Quote Originally Posted by DubT View Post
    Here is what works best for us: I get on the bike and have the right pedals down (cranks in phase) I straddle the top tube, she gets on, I clip my right foot in and then she clips her right foot in. We then rotate our right pedals into the 1:00 o'clock position and I say ready, she responds and we push off together. I clip my left foot in as soon as i can and then rotate the left pedal down and she clips in and off we go. It sounds more complicated than it actually is but it's safer for us.
    Wayne
    We are another team that does it the way DubT describes. I've wondered why some teams, like us, prefer this method. Here is my thinking so far:
    1) We were both more or less equivalently avid/experienced single bikers for a long time before tandeming together. I suspect that it takes more stoker confidence in biking to do it our way, and more confidence in (or capitulation to) captain to do it the other way.
    2) My stoker is 5'10" and weighs 150 lbs (I'm 5'9" and 170), and we BOTH generally prefer that she NOT have to rely on my balance and strength to keep her off the ground. We do leave her fully clipped in at the occasional stop light but only by mutual agreement/advance communication.
    I concur with all of the advice given about communicating: especially when starting out, err on the side of communicating too much - every gear change, every turn, every slow-down/speed-up, etc. After our many years of tandeming, she now anticipates almost every move I might make, and so I call out stuff way less than I did at first.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Bent In El Paso's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimmuller View Post
    When we started she was scared of any speed above zero (thanks to an incident on a rented solo MTB) but wanted to join me on rides. My challenge has been to push the experience without hitting her limit. When she says slow down, I slow down. We may talk about it later, then push a little harder or into tougher traffic or over a steeper hill next time. That process has kept her comfortable and wanting more. Now we are doing just about anything I'd do solo.
    We went through the same thing initially. My stoker was nervous with speed, especially around corners. I would often notice her working against me in the corners by leaning the opposite direction. Over time, she has become much more comfortable on the bike. Now it is often her pushing me to up the speed.
    Fred

    Behind every good captain is a great stoker!

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  19. #19
    Senior Member waynesulak's Avatar
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    Not to get into a "proper method" thread but I will say that I have held up my son at 6' and 200+ non-rider and I am 5'8" and 150. No problem if you hold the bike with your thighs and hip not the bars. Size is not a big issue since I weigh a lot more and spread my legs farther apart than any home trainer.

    On the other hand there are a lot of teams that start both ways. Starting is like in phase and out of phase pedaling - Whatever works. go for it.

    Wayne

  20. #20
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Another few tips:
    Stoker does NOT try to steer . . . it can greatly affect the pilot's steering.
    Do not feed pilot beans (the musical fruit variety) the night before a long tandem ride.
    When stoker gets off the tandem and walks away, be sure someone has a hold of the tandem and park it/lean it somewhere! Have seen both riders walk away . . . OOPS!
    Pedal on!
    Rudy anbd Kay/zonatandem

  21. #21
    Senior Member swc7916's Avatar
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    I'm sure that many - if not most - of us learned to ride a tandem without lessons, advice, or forums to ask. Just get on the d***ed bike and ride it! You'll figure it out.
    2011 Rodriguez Rohloff tandem
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  22. #22
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    One advantage to learning to start with the stoker clipped in is on steep hills the stoker adds power immediately to allow the captain time to get in the saddle and clip in. We started with the one legged method and them switched to stoker clipped in for this reason. On steep inclined starts it is hard to hop along fast enough to get clipped in in time. When you are first starting out in may be better to use mountain bike pedals and cleats as there is more traction for standing. We now use speed play pedals and the cleats don't cause issues now that we are experienced. You might find clip less pedals are actually easier then toe clips and straps and again I would recommend mountain pedals (spd or eggbeaters).

  23. #23
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by akexpress View Post
    One advantage to learning to start with the stoker clipped in is on steep hills the stoker adds power immediately to allow the captain time to get in the saddle and clip in. We started with the one legged method and them switched to stoker clipped in for this reason. On steep inclined starts it is hard to hop along fast enough to get clipped in in time. When you are first starting out in may be better to use mountain bike pedals and cleats as there is more traction for standing. We now use speed play pedals and the cleats don't cause issues now that we are experienced. You might find clip less pedals are actually easier then toe clips and straps and again I would recommend mountain pedals (spd or eggbeaters).
    Agree. We use clipless one-sided road pedals for Stoker and clipless MTB pedals for captain, because it can be very important for captain to clip in quickly. We happen to prefer SPDs and Sidi Dominators. Do shift down before stopping. I hear about it if it's hard for Stoker has to bring the pedals around that first stroke. If it's unusual, I comment on the starting gear: "Just push down and coast" or "Big gear, sorry" or "Low gear and uphill, I'll try to be quick." I clip in while the pedals are moving unless it's a downhill start.

    Captain's shorts need to be in good condition. Very embarrassing to get hung up on the saddle when levering up into it while Stoker is still trying to move the pedals.

  24. #24
    Senior Member rdtompki's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
    .... Captain's shorts need to be in good condition. Very embarrassing to get hung up on the saddle when levering up into it while Stoker is still trying to move the pedals.
    Ought to be one of the top ten rules of captaining. Even with the daVinci I've really got to get with it on a steep uphill start. Snag-o-shorts could be devastating.
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  25. #25
    Senior Member swc7916's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
    Very embarrassing to get hung up on the saddle when levering up into it while Stoker is still trying to move the pedals.
    This is a good one! I was hoping that I wasn't the only one to have this happen to them. The couple of times that this has happened to me we have almost gone down.
    2011 Rodriguez Rohloff tandem
    2008 Rodriguez Rainier Lite sport/touring

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