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  1. #1
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    Captain Set-Up & Tire Size/Tread

    So, we have had our tandem for about a month and at this point have about 400miles on the bike. We are just getting used to riding as a team and learning and overcoming some individual (bad) riding habits!

    Question 1 - Do captains have their area set up similar to their single road bikes? My tandem captain is finding shoulder tension/neck pain/upper back discomfort and fatigue. We keep tweaking his heights and angles however I thought I would ask here to see what other captains have found work best for them. Not much of an issue on the single bike however very noticible early in the ride on the tandem.

    Question 2 - We have some thick tires currently on the bike. 700x35! Origianlly we thought it would be a good thing and offer a bit more stability to us as new tandem riders. Now however we are realize a constant additional effort and wonder how much is tire related. On our singles we just ride basic schwalbe tires, nothing fancy. We are not looking to create a go-fast tandem or lighten the bike up by an incredible amount. Typically we tow a buggy with two kids with a combined weight of 58lbs. I was surprised though when we went out the other day without towing the buggy and I did not notice much difference at all. The bike itself just has almost a drag too it! It is steel so we expect additional weight however I did not realize we were expending so much energy to just keep the bike going. The bike itself weighs in at a hefty 57lbs with the pedals and seats included (one of which is a Brooks B17!) So do other tandem riders notice the extra effort just by riding tandem? Is it the bike itself being steel? Would switching our tires create a noticble difference?


  2. #2
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Oh yeah, with those tires you'll notice a difference. If you like Schwalbe, try 25c or 28c Durano folders. You can pump them to 115-120. More weight shouldn't make a bike hard to drive on the flat, as you noticed when not towing the trailer. I think tires make a big difference.

    This captain likes the bars about even with the saddle, though my road bikes have 3"-4" of drop. Otherwise position is the same. What you're feeling is normal. Captaining a tandem is more work, definitely. You'll get stronger. The other thing is that steering a tandem is some different. Don't try to be too precise to start with. Be satisfied if the sum of all motions is in the approximately correct direction. Don't correct every little thing. As you get better as a team, it'll get more precise by itself.

  3. #3
    Senior Member rdtompki's Avatar
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    +1 to CFB's comments. In additional to the tires and extra weight of the tandem there are additional considerations with a tandem. Tandems speed up/slow down faster than singles. New captains don't tend to downshift soon enough on transitions to climbs or short rollers (may not even downshift enough); this can be very fatiguing as the captains applies the make-up effort. New stokers may not be quiet enough and each back seat weight shift requires some extra correction. Cross winds can be very tiring as the sail area of the tandem may require quite a bit of steering input.

    Regarding handlebar drop, that seems to be very individual, but I'm inclined to agree that slightly more upright position tends to give more leverage when necessary. You still want to be able to stretch out comfortably, but that's also very individual.

    If you and captain are under 50, feel free to grunt your way up hills and rollers 'cause you recover so darn fast, but us older folk need to be more sensible It's all good. Sounds like you're on your way to become a good team. Welcome!
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  4. #4
    Senior Member waynesulak's Avatar
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    I agree with the tires being an issue however you don't have to go smaller if you don't want to - just get faster tires. If you like Schwalbe then Kojak or Marathon Racer in your preferred width will add a lot of speed. Fatter tires can carry the same load with less pressure and soften the ride. Quality fat tires are not slow it is just hard to find high quality fat tires.

    Weight is only a big issue going up hill and then an extra 20-30 ibs over your combined weight on singles is a an issue. You didn't mention hills so maybe weight is not a problem.

    I am a captain and my tandem setup is as close as possible to my single set up. As we rode more miles on the tandem it became as easy to ride as my single. It is now unusual for me to use more upper body strength on the tandem. Sometimes tandem have wider handle bars than the captain's single and that can cause pain between the shoulder blades. Some captains do like wider bars but I use 40cm bars on both singles and tandem.

    Every team is different. Try new things to see what works for your team.

    Oh yeah out team age is 109 and grunt up hills all the time. We go as fast as we can but we do not pull a trailer.

    Have fun
    Last edited by waynesulak; 09-22-12 at 07:54 PM.

  5. #5
    Senior Member CaptainHaddock's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by VastCrew View Post
    Question 1 - Do captains have their area set up similar to their single road bikes? My tandem captain is finding shoulder tension/neck pain/upper back discomfort and fatigue. We keep tweaking his heights and angles however I thought I would ask here to see what other captains have found work best for them. Not much of an issue on the single bike however very noticible early in the ride on the tandem.

    Question 2 - We have some thick tires currently on the bike. 700x35! Origianlly we thought it would be a good thing and offer a bit more stability to us as new tandem riders. Now however we are realize a constant additional effort and wonder how much is tire related. On our singles we just ride basic schwalbe tires, nothing fancy. We are not looking to create a go-fast tandem or lighten the bike up by an incredible amount. Typically we tow a buggy with two kids with a combined weight of 58lbs. I was surprised though when we went out the other day without towing the buggy and I did not notice much difference at all. The bike itself just has almost a drag too it! It is steel so we expect additional weight however I did not realize we were expending so much energy to just keep the bike going. The bike itself weighs in at a hefty 57lbs with the pedals and seats included (one of which is a Brooks B17!) So do other tandem riders notice the extra effort just by riding tandem? Is it the bike itself being steel? Would switching our tires create a noticble difference?
    For my wife and I, we've had our respective positions set up to mirror that of our singles. There are some areas where we've made changes to these fits due to the fact that the tandems' geometry is different than that of our singles. Then with regard to our tire choices, we only ride wide cross tires when we're riding cross / variable conditions. Otherwise we ride gatorskin 28's.
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    Thanks for the feedback! I think we will try to stick with a little larger tire for the tandem, maybe 28's. We have some wonderful road grates around here that run perpendicular on the shoulders. Our road tires can easily fit in those! Locally we know where they are located but when we travel a bit further then our local area we are always on extra alert!

    Our tandem geometry is different from our singles as well. So his setup if fairly similar but I was hoping that it would become a bit more comfortable by now. I am not a very quiet stoker at all. I am constantly turning to check on the kids and sometimes leaning to get a look ahead and yes sometimes I have been taking pictures. I give warning or even ask sometimes!!! Usually our terrain itself is a challenge as well. Close to home is constant rolling hills, a recovery ride is not much of an option around here. Even in low gears you are going to work! A couple weekends ago we were riding in Maine and had a headwind the entire time and then when we got to the coast it was head and crosswinds! Kennebunk was not a friend to the tandem. Stop and go to get thru town took 30 minutes and the wind!!! Pretty sure he will not ride that route again for a long time So in all fairness to my captain he has never had an easy ride on the tandem, new heavy bike, with hills & kids and sometime wind!

    We are a mid-30's team but please give us permission to grunt up hills!!!

  7. #7
    PMK
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    FWIW, I would say we run similar but not same positions from bike to bike. The road tandem has one setup, the off-road tandem another, and the single mtb's another. Some dimensions are similar or the same, while others are not.

    In some situations, It takes a noticeable increased effort for the captain in regards to handlebar efforts. Additionally, as stable as my stoker can be, if she decides to look around, it requires more effort from to keep the bike on course. For us, even the smallest changes are noticed. We ride with Camelbacks and carry spare water in bottles. Just the change of her removing a hand from the bars, and catching a drink from her Camelback induces a steering input. Other more dramatic movements are greater inputs.

    As for the trailer...we have pulled our granddaughter in the trailer before, just easy slow rides for short distances behind the off-road tandem on paved bike paths. The other night we did a group training road ride pulling the grandkid and trailer (Burley model SOLO with 40 psi in the tires). The effort was different than no trailer. Our speed was similar but slower, the cadence was down about 6/8 rpm from normal and no gear change brought us back to our sweetspot of 98/102 rpm for this type of riding. I also did not realize, how much of a parachute / drag chute the Burley single trailer was. We set it up running the mesh only front since it was warm. Overall efforts were there, but speed was down about 1 to 1 1/2 MPH for the duration of the ride. All in all a good ride but noticeably different. I'm sure the aerodynamics would be better with the windscreen down, but the kid enjoyed the ride until she fell a sleep about an hour into the ride.

    Also, every time my stoker had a look back, she never mentioned her plans. That movement would be a huge input to the left and require some serious effort on the bars to stay the course.

    It will get easier, just help him out by keeping movement subtle, and try not to look around to much.

    PK
    Last edited by PMK; 09-23-12 at 06:46 AM.
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  8. #8
    Senior Member waynesulak's Avatar
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    On stoker moving around I believe that there are a couple factors that enter into how much a specific movement by the stoker will effect the stability and steering of the tandem.

    First the steering geometry of the bike is a factor but you cannot change that easily so there is no benefit talking about that until you buy your next tandem.

    Second when a captain or stoker turns to look back on the bike the effect is much more of a problem if they lean on the handlebars. For example if I have my left hand on the brake hoods and turn to look back over my left shoulder my weight will naturally fall on the outer portion of the bar and tend to steer the bike a great deal. On the other hand if I take my left hand off the the bar while turning over my left shoulder to look back then my weight cannot fall on the bar. I must instead balance my weight on the saddle and feet that are still pedaling. Since there is no weight on the outer portion of the handle bar there is little effect on steering. Some advise placing the hand away from the turn on the bars or close to the center of the bars but always ride with little weight on your hands when turning around or reaching for a bottle. With no weight on your hands you can turn around all you want and your weight will not move to the outside. With your weight over the center of the bike even if you are shaking the bike it will not make your captain steer to compensate for the movement.

    If you ride a single bike try pick a safe spot and practice turning to look behind you. It will quickly be evident that not leaning on the handle bars will allow you to turn and easily maintain your current direction while leaning on the bars causes the bike turn. Translated to the tandem if the stoker is "turning" the bike by leaning on the bars the captain must compensate to keep the team going straight.
    Last edited by waynesulak; 09-23-12 at 10:36 AM.

  9. #9
    Senior Member CaptainHaddock's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by VastCrew View Post
    We are a mid-30's team but please give us permission to grunt up hills!!!
    We too are a thirtysomething team, and I don't think we don't grunt too much, but then again we only pull a 20Lbs. dog in our Burly Nomad.
    http://img525.imageshack.us/img525/7564/tandemsstravalogo.jpg
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    Truthfully I do not notice much difference when I ride with only one child verses riding with both together. I think extra weight is just extra weight!!! At times I ride the bike seat on the back of my bike and both my kids ride in it (one at a time obvisiously) fairly comfortably. My 4yr old is about 37lbs and the 1yr old has just cleared the 20lb mark. I feel the additional weight but it usually doesn't seem a 17lb difference.

    Next year we are hoping to have the (then) 5 year old on a WeeHoo and the 2 year old on the rear bike seat. The engineer husband will have a little challenge to allow the setup to work but then the big guy can contribute some on the back.

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    Truthfully I do not think the amout of weight has that great of impact. I don't notice a huge difference when I ride with my kids individually. The 4 year old is about 37lbs and the 1.5 year old just cleared the 20lb mark. I notice a slight difference but it does not seem like a 17lb difference when I am riding.. I do notice a significant difference on my single though when I ride child free. I was really expecting a significant differnce and a fairly quick ride without towing the buggy with the tandem. Shortly into our ride I was checking the computer for a shortcut which we found and then promptly got lost. So our original 78 mile ride was going to be shortened to 42 and I was rather amused afterwards when our shortcut resulted in a 81 mile day

  12. #12
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Handlebar setup for captain on tandem is 1 inch higher than on his racing single bike.
    Stoker has not owned a single for decades as we were averaging 10,000+ miles annually on tandem here in Arizona.
    Now at ages 80/77 we have cut our mileage down by 50%
    Tire width has increased from 23mm to 25mm in the last 9 years. We primarily run Maxxis ReFuse folding tires 120 PSI. Now trying out a Panaracer Pasella Tour Guard (folding) 700x25 on rear of tandem and using 110 PSI as the 115PSi rated on tire is a bit too harsh on stoker's derriere. So far the Pasela is holding up as well as the Maxxis.
    Great flat protection even here with lots road debris + cactus thorns.
    Had one flat (leaky patch) in 2011 between tandem and single bike in 5,600 miles.
    Higher PSi and narrower tires can make a big difference.
    Depending on total weight (tandem/riders/trailer/kids) a 28mm high pressure tire may work out.
    Agree that stoker's input can affect tandem's handling.
    Sudden twists/turns of stoker and stoker trying to actually steer the tandem from the rear can be near-disasterous in certain situations like heavy traffic or descents.
    Much of this you will learn from actual experience.
    Been tandeming since 1975 so it is second nature to us.
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  13. #13
    Senior Member CaptainHaddock's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by VastCrew View Post
    So our original 78 mile ride was going to be shortened to 42 and I was rather amused afterwards when our shortcut resulted in a 81 mile day
    Well you've got us trumped in total distance, I think our biggest ride has been about 50 miles, so you don't worry none about your skills / abilities.
    http://img525.imageshack.us/img525/7564/tandemsstravalogo.jpg
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    Not sure why my above post posted twice! I was typing then deleted some and my entire post disappeared so I typed again and now I have 2 (similar) posts! I tried to delete one but am not able to?

    We were hoping to try a short ride this evening with the handlebars a bit higher but it was very windy here! I'm afraid we would not have been able to tell if it was much better if we just battled the wind the entire way!

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    Quote Originally Posted by waynesulak View Post
    On stoker moving around I believe that there are a couple factors that enter into how much a specific movement by the stoker will effect the stability and steering of the tandem.

    First the steering geometry of the bike is a factor but you cannot change that easily so there is no benefit talking about that until you buy your next tandem.

    Second when a captain or stoker turns to look back on the bike the effect is much more of a problem if they lean on the handlebars. For example if I have my left hand on the brake hoods and turn to look back over my left shoulder my weight will naturally fall on the outer portion of the bar and tend to steer the bike a great deal. On the other hand if I take my left hand off the the bar while turning over my left shoulder to look back then my weight cannot fall on the bar. I must instead balance my weight on the saddle and feet that are still pedaling. Since there is no weight on the outer portion of the handle bar there is little effect on steering. Some advise placing the hand away from the turn on the bars or close to the center of the bars but always ride with little weight on your hands when turning around or reaching for a bottle. With no weight on your hands you can turn around all you want and your weight will not move to the outside. With your weight over the center of the bike even if you are shaking the bike it will not make your captain steer to compensate for the movement.

    If you ride a single bike try pick a safe spot and practice turning to look behind you. It will quickly be evident that not leaning on the handle bars will allow you to turn and easily maintain your current direction while leaning on the bars causes the bike turn. Translated to the tandem if the stoker is "turning" the bike by leaning on the bars the captain must compensate to keep the team going straight.
    I suspect you folks have hit on a grain of truth or two...
    1) Quieting down stoker movement is worth doing or at least attempting, and
    2) When the Captian really needs to look around (beyond the scope of his rear view mirror(s) or his helment mirror) it makes a big difference if he first moves both hands to the area just to each side of the stem, re-checks/re-steadies his cadence, and then turns to look...including perhaps leading with a hand off the bar on the same side as the turn-to side.

    Thinking this could be right up there with "Bump" and "Push"

  16. #16
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    Tell us more about your tandem and yourselves. Size? Weight? etc.? Our 1980's steel tandem was a real "noodle" with "tandem snake" (moving side to side rather than tracking a straight line) was a real issue. My shoulders always hurt more than on my single. Shifting cranks to Out of Phase help a lot. Our next bike was a very stiff Cannondale. Bars and stem were too low which caused some pain. Current bike is post 2009 Cannondale which is much more comfortable than either of the previous bikes.
    Captain will be happier if bars are raised a bit and if the bars are the right width--should be same as shoulders. Some builders shorten the captain top tube a bit for a more upright position as well.
    All the comments about tires and stoker movement noted above also have a strong effect on handling.

  17. #17
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    From personal experience, when I'm riding any of our tandems, my heart rate runs about 15-20% higher than when I'm on my single bikes, which gives me some great workout opportunities. We live in a pretty hilly area and getting up hills on the tandem is a lot of work compared to the single, but it is doable. As others have stated, you'll get stronger over time and that will help a lot.

    Like others, I try to keep the captain's riding position very similar to my single bikes to the extent possible. All of my bikes, tandems included, have some small differences in setup and feel to them.

    As far as tires are concerned, the width of a tire makes little difference in performance and there are some that argue that larger tires allow them to go faster. The sidewall design and tread of the tire make more of a difference than the actual width. I always go with the largest tire my frame and fenders will allow. I know that our fat 650B tires allow us to keep pedalling when others are standing up going over bumps and rough road surfaces. We give up little, if anything, to the guys running the super narrow 700C tire/wheel combinations. I strongly suggest staying with the size tires you currently have and perhaps putting on a set of Panaracer Pasela Tourguard tires instead. I'm using those exact tires on my 1968 Carlton Super Race and they are very nice tires. They'll roll a lot better because the tread is considerably smoother than what you currently have, plus you'll not have to worry as much with grates, railroad track crossings, etc.

    EDIT: Since you bought the tandem used, have you serviced the hubs and bottom brackets? Some of the issues you have could be related to gummed up grease. I know that my bikes always feel a LOT better after I've worked on the hubs and BBs.
    Last edited by photogravity; 10-05-12 at 05:41 AM.
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    Tell us more about your tandem and yourselves. Size? Weight? etc.? Our 1980's steel tandem was a real "noodle" with "tandem snake" (moving side to side rather than tracking a straight line) was a real issue. My shoulders always hurt more than on my single. Shifting cranks to Out of Phase help a lot. Our next bike was a very stiff Cannondale. Bars and stem were too low which caused some pain. Current bike is post 2009 Cannondale which is much more comfortable than either of the previous bikes.
    Captain will be happier if bars are raised a bit and if the bars are the right width--should be same as shoulders. Some builders shorten the captain top tube a bit for a more upright position as well.
    All the comments about tires and stoker movement noted above also have a strong effect on handling.

    We picked up this tandem used. It is a steel Bilenky that was designed for loaded touring. We opted for the comfort and durability of a steel bike since we ride with our 2 children with us either towed behind in a buggy or if only 1 child on the back in a topeak seat. We figured our situation is pretty similar to riding "loaded" and possibly one day we may do some touring.

    Captain is 6'2" around 195lbs, Stoker is 5'2" around 145lbs.

    Haven't really noticed a noodley feel, bike feels pretty solid. On straight flats the bike rides pretty straight with little captain intervention. Riding thru some tight town streets he mentioned in manuevers like a bus. Then again a tandem bike towing a trailer is pretty bus like

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    Thanks for posting Photogravity, I knew you had beasty tires on your Bilenky and was hoping you would chime in! Glad to hear that we can just keep the same tire size and go for a better tread. We talked at the bike shop about getting new tires and another customer started talking to us about wheels and spoke counts and everything just got sidetracked from there! Currently we have raised the captain bars however we have not gotten any ride time in on the tandem the past couple weeks!

    Even riding stoker I have found the bike very comfortable. I think it is a combination of the frame being steel and the tire size. I'm not even sure the thudbuster is a necessary piece of equipment! It bothers me that I'm so comfortable and he is finding so much more stress and fatigue. My heartrate is very similar to riding my single towing the buggy with the 2 kids. His heartrate we have not yet monitored. We have talked about riding out of sync as well wondering if that may help. The thought being that he can concentrate more on actually handling the bike and I can power more just on the pedaling aspect? Or even slightly adjusting the pedals so the stoker cranks are just slightly ahead of of the captain cranks possibly taking the brunt of the pedal stroke? Do not want to make too many changes right away. Possibly next season on days that we will be riding back to back making some adjustments and playing around with the pedal position a bit?

    That is a great idea about the hubs and BB, I think on our next hanging around the house watching football afternoon we will attempt this!

    Now what about that Jack Taylor???

  20. #20
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    I'm with you in that I'd try changing one thing at a time to see what a particular change yields. We tried setting up one or our tandems with the pedals 90 out of sync and didn't much care for it, so we changed it back to in sync. There are some who like their tandem set up that way, but we just couldn't get used to it. Maybe if we rode it more set up that way we might have become acclimated to the setup.

    As your bike sits now, I think one of the best things you can do is change out the tires. The tread on the existing tires just looks like it's not very conducive to rolling very well and a tire with smoother tread may serve to make the bike easier to ride. If you get a tire with a thinner sidewall, like the Pasela, you might find the bike even more supple than it currently is, believe it or not.

    I'm not going to hijack your thread with a post about the Jack Taylor! In time, I'll make the big reveal.
    --
    Ridding the world of derailleurs, one bicycle at a time.

    46 Hercules Roadster, 49 Hercules Kestrel, 50 Norman Rapide, 51 Hercules Lion, 52 Hercules Windsor, 56 Hercules Royal Prince, 61 Fiorelli Tandem, 67 Carlton Super Race (IGH), 70 Schwinn Collegiate (IGH), 71 Hercules, 71 STF Hercules, 72 Peugeot PX-8 (IGH), 76 Raleigh Sports, 77 STF Raleigh Sports, 77 Jack Taylor Tandem, Early-80's Mike Appel SC, 84 Davidson Tandem, Late-80's Alpine, 10 Bilenky "BQ" Signature Tandem

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