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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 05-29-12, 08:36 PM   #1
maggie M
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Can we do this?

Hello, I have a friend who is in good shape to ride but he is blind. I ride myself. He brought up the idea about us riding a tandem. Can you guys give me some advice on how we might go about this? He is approx 5'10-6' or so and I am 5'2". I would have to be in the front since he cannot see. Could we find such an animal that we could ride together? Of course I would want to start used. He has ridden them before but I have never done it myself but hope it can work out because it would greatly benefit the both of us. Thank you!
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Old 05-29-12, 09:08 PM   #2
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as a blind stoker myself I don't see why not. There are a lot of us out here and where there's a will there's a way. I am taller than my wife but we don't have any problems riding together.
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Old 05-29-12, 09:48 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by maggie M View Post
Hello, I have a friend who is in good shape to ride but he is blind. I ride myself. He brought up the idea about us riding a tandem. Can you guys give me some advice on how we might go about this? He is approx 5'10-6' or so and I am 5'2". I would have to be in the front since he cannot see. Could we find such an animal that we could ride together? Of course I would want to start used. He has ridden them before but I have never done it myself but hope it can work out because it would greatly benefit the both of us. Thank you!
There are custom routes you could go, but I'd look into the Rans series of recumbent tandems (for example) http://www.rans.com/bicycles/tandem.html . There is also another tandem design where the stoker (person in the rear) steers & brakes and the captain (person in the front) provides the power. This is often seen in a half up-right & half recumbent tandem, for example Bilenky. http://www.bilenky.com/Home.html The advantage of that style is that it allows for a shorter person to be in back, and yet be the captain.

Last edited by CaptainHaddock; 05-29-12 at 10:16 PM. Reason: found the bike I wanted to talk about
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Old 05-29-12, 10:00 PM   #4
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Suggest finding used Co-Motion Periscope. Several models available; check out Co-Mo's website for more info.
The 'Scope is ultra size adaptable!
It features a seatpost-within-a-seatpost for ultimate height adjustment. Stem/bars can be adjusted by utilizing an adjustable pilot stem (Co-Motion sells those) and adjustable stoker stem (pretty well standard on many tandems).
Have a local couple that switch captaining positions. He is 6'2", she is about 5'2".
Not only are they able to fit as adults properly, she also rides as captain with each of her kids!
They did have to get the Periscope model with 26" wheels instead of 700c wheels to allow her proper standover room as captain.
Another possible choice could be a Bike Friday tandem. Features small 20" wheels and is quite adapatable but not as well so as the 'Scope in our opinion/experience.
Go for it!
Pedal on TWOgether!
Rudy and Kay/zonatandem
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Old 05-29-12, 10:14 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by zonatandem View Post
They did have to get the Periscope model with 26" wheels instead of 700c wheels to allow her proper standover room as captain.
Another possible choice could be a Bike Friday tandem. Features small 20" wheels and is quite adapatable but not as well so as the 'Scope in our opinion/experience.
Rudy touches on an important part about fit for smaller riders. The simple fact is, that if you do decide to go the "traditional frame" route, you will need to look for a smaller wheelset (650c / 26" / 24" / 20" are the common smaller sizes) to allow the frame to fit your body first and foremost. Your mantra through this process should always be "fit fit fit" as a bike that does not fit, is a bike that you will not ride!
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Old 05-31-12, 01:03 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by maggie M View Post
Hello, I have a friend who is in good shape to ride but he is blind. I ride myself. He brought up the idea about us riding a tandem. Can you guys give me some advice on how we might go about this? He is approx 5'10-6' or so and I am 5'2". I would have to be in the front since he cannot see. Could we find such an animal that we could ride together? Of course I would want to start used. He has ridden them before but I have never done it myself but hope it can work out because it would greatly benefit the both of us. Thank you!
I'm 5'2" and my husband (riding_blind, who posted above) is blind. He's taller than I am (not hard, as I'm sure you're familiar with *g*), and while we did have an...interesting...time finding a tandem that fit us, it absolutely can be done. At first we had a small frame Santana with 26" wheels. We liked it, but it didn't quite fit us right, so we sold it and got a custom sized Co-Motion Primera. We love it. Obviously, since you're planning on going the used route, custom sizing isn't an option right now, but that option DOES exist. I'm with Zona here--a Periscope could definitely be your best bet for right now.

As for riding a tandem together, it's all about communication. Funnily, riding_blind and I probably don't talk as much as other tandem couples do while on the bike, but we do communicate regarding the terrain, traffic, directions, starting/stopping/car back, etc. He shifts, so he'll let me know when he's dropping or upping the chain ring, and I tell him what the terrain's like. I brake, so I tell him when we're going to have to stop at a light or something like that. Every tandem couple on here will give you different advice regarding stopping and starting, but from our experience, it's easier when we clip in at basically the same time and then clip out at the same time (a lot of tandem couples, since the captain is usually male, will have the stoker fully clip in and get seated, and the captain is holding up the bike by himself).

As for CaptainHaddock's suggestions regarding a recumbent or a tandem where the captain provides all the power...as the captain for a blind stoker I don't think either of those are necessary. If your friend is capable of riding a halfbike with the exception of not being able to see, there's absolutely no reason why you can't ride a regular tandem and ride one just like other tandem riders do. Also? You don't necessarily have to go with a smaller wheel size. Our first tandem had 26" wheels, but our current tandem has 700c wheels and I clear the top tube just fine (granted, I have to be careful sometimes with my cleats regarding the paint job, but that's just because I'm a bit clumsy *g*).

Like my husband said, where there's a will, there's a way. Every tandem couple is different. :-)
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Old 06-01-12, 10:17 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by tandemchick View Post
Also? You don't necessarily have to go with a smaller wheel size. Our first tandem had 26" wheels, but our current tandem has 700c wheels and I clear the top tube just fine (granted, I have to be careful sometimes with my cleats regarding the paint job, but that's just because I'm a bit clumsy *g*). Like my husband said, where there's a will, there's a way. Every tandem couple is different. :-)
I should state that I'm a short rider 5'4", who rides both a stock 700c and a custom 650c frame.

While I'm not going to deny that you *can* make a larger wheelset sized frame work for smaller riders, my point is that it is much much harder to create a great fit while doing so. I might even go so far as to argue that your case proves the point, you went with a custom frame to get the right fit and you still have compromises. The simple fact is, to achieve the kind of geometry that make for a comfortable & smart handling bicycle while using larger wheels forces the frame builder to make compromises. Compromises that ultimately create problems. It is simply more practical to achieve a great/comfortable fit, to avoid compromises, using a smaller wheelsize. There is simply no advantage to be had with a larger wheelset frame.
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Old 06-01-12, 01:25 PM   #8
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I should state that I'm a short rider 5'4", who rides both a stock 700c and a custom 650c frame.

While I'm not going to deny that you *can* make a larger wheelset sized frame work for smaller riders, my point is that it is much much harder to create a great fit while doing so. I might even go so far as to argue that your case proves the point, you went with a custom frame to get the right fit and you still have compromises. The simple fact is, to achieve the kind of geometry that make for a comfortable & smart handling bicycle while using larger wheels forces the frame builder to make compromises. Compromises that ultimately create problems. It is simply more practical to achieve a great/comfortable fit, to avoid compromises, using a smaller wheelsize. There is simply no advantage to be had with a larger wheelset frame.
FWIW, the custom frame wasn't *just* because of height. I have a very short torso and my wing span isn't the greatest. My captain's compartment is super short (conversely, riding_blind has a pretty long reach, so his compartment is pretty long). I have an odd build to my own frame, which required a different sort of build to our bike's frame. Even though the OP is 5'2", she may have a much more standard build, or a longer reach, etc. It is harder to fit a shorter captain, to be sure, but my point is that it can be done, and with whatever wheel size you choose. It's just up to the tandem owners to decide what's important and what isn't, and how much cash they want to part with.
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Old 06-01-12, 01:39 PM   #9
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Having to deal with short rider designs myself I feel the design of a tandem for a short captain is more even difficult than a single bike. It can be done with 700c wheels but there are inevitable trade offs. The smaller wheels minimize those trade offs but some think at the cost of having a slightly slower tandem. I am not sure smaller wheels are slower.

Santana has a modified top tube on its standard small 700c and 650C tandems. There are also some older Santanas out there that are designed for pretty small riders. This would not address the taller stoker issue but they might be an option.
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