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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 03-04-13, 11:48 AM   #1
NVLong4n1
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Communicating with your Stoker

I'm new to riding a Tandem. When riding in a group on a single bike people use hand signals when slowing or there is something in the road. Also we will say car back if there is a car back, etc. What are the different verbal or hand signals between the captain and stoker. For example if you are going to shift up or down what do you say to the stoker. If you are going to turn left or right do you say anything? How about when you start braking?

Thanks,
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Old 03-04-13, 12:05 PM   #2
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A fist pounding on my back means "slow down please."

A sudden slowing when climbing means, "You said something to hurt my feelings."
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Old 03-04-13, 12:31 PM   #3
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"Coasting" when coasting. But current stoker is much better at dealing with that than previous stoker, if I neglect to say anything.
"Bump!" when any obvious bump is present. The way that works is I miss 3/4 of the actual bumps, and half the time when I call out bump, it turns out not to be one (mainly, going onto bridges), but it's better than nothing.
Conversation otherwise. "We're coming up on a stop sign", "Railroad crossing here", "I'm gonna pull around over there", etc.
Current stoker can see over my shoulder fairly well, previous stoker couldn't at all, and that makes some difference in what needs to be communicated.
Turns, shifting- I don't normally say anything. On the turns, the stoker is watching for them, too (this is rando rides, and she has her own cue sheet to help navigate).
"Hey Stephen, can we pull over here and adjust layers" or "Speed up, I want to talk to ___ up there" or whatever when she needs to work things differently.
"Gear, please!"- former stoker, when I was in too high or too low of a gear. Current stoker's usually okay with whatever I'm doing (I'm a masher.)
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Old 03-04-13, 12:31 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by JamieElenbaas View Post
A fist pounding on my back means "slow down please."

A sudden slowing when climbing means, "You said something to hurt my feelings."
Agree, I guess we have a few basic commands, one used often is "hold on".

PK
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Old 03-04-13, 01:46 PM   #5
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If you get used to riding solo bikes in groups, try to remember not to signal each hazard in the road to your stoker as you divert around it - there is not much she can do. I've been guilty of this a few times and been justifiably laughed at by my stoker
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Old 03-04-13, 03:13 PM   #6
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I don't call coasting because I start slowing my pedaling a couple revs before stopping altogether. The transfer chain tells the tale. I do use "bump" for little stuff, and the equestrian "POST" command for "big bump, get up off the saddle". She knows when to expect me to shift due to pedal revs, and turn calls are not necessary either, unless it's a hard or sudden turn, or she's already told me she's sitting up, (hands off the bars).

I'm lucky in that I taught my stoker how to ride, and then how to ride a tandem. Consequently, we both ride at the same cadence, corner in the same fashion, and enjoy the same things about riding. She sits very neutral on the bike, and follows me perfectly. When we're both in shape and cooking, it's a sweet thing! She'll get up into the hook of the drops, bury her helmet into the small of my back, flame on, and fly! There's no downhill too fast or corner too hard. She's absolutely fearless and rides with almost no verbal communication necessary.

When it is necessary, though, I try to keep my commands short, concise, and unique. I don't describe road hazards, but rather, tell her what to do about them. And she knows certain things to expect automatically. Like the shifting, or when we've been coasting, (which we always do with pedals level), and I bring my left pedal down. Means we're about to stop.

You'll develop your own communication needs and vocab. When you're new at it, try to remember to de-brief after every ride for a while. Talk about what went right and/or wrong, what was confusing and what wasn't even necessary to say.

Ride today as long as it's fun, and then go home. That way, your brain's memory of cycling is "That's fun! Let's do it again tomorrow!"
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Old 03-04-13, 03:30 PM   #7
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We talk quite a bit:

Up! (shifting up) Down! (shifting down)

Big Up! (shifting the FD up) Big Down! (shifting the FD down)

Bump! (As others have said, I get about 2/3 true positives and about 1/3 false positives. I get teased by my stoker for the false ones.)

Turning Right (or Left)

Funny... with all of our talking, I don't have to say "coast" or "pedal". We can both feel it through the pedals.

We agreed a while ago on a 35mph top speed, so there's no need for a "too fast". However, lately I've noticed that she sometimes starts pedaling if someone passes us when we're at 35. I guess it's her competitive spirit showing through

Some un-rehearsed communication occasionally comes from the back: "I thought you said this was a short hill!"

There's something else that is a real advantage of riding tandem. "Wow... what a nice day, honey." Or, "WooHoo! We're flying!" When that comes from your honey, who's right behind you, pedaling her brains out along with you, there's nothing better.

Last edited by mwandaw; 03-04-13 at 03:36 PM.
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Old 03-04-13, 05:27 PM   #8
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Up! means stand up, there's a serious bump or a pinch flat opportunity
Granny ring! means ease off, we're dropping down a ring
Middle ring! means ease off and slow the pedaling, we're going up a ring. Middle to big and back doesn't need a warning.
Right signal! means stick out your right arm, and opposite for left
1, 2, 3, up! we count for standing
Accelerating! means pedal like hell, we're attacking, bridging, or just dropping these irritating fools.

I think that's all the warnings Captain gives.

Stoker:
Eating!
Drinking! as a warning that she's about to do same.

Otherwise, stoker doesn't give warnings. She just closes her eyes when we go too fast for her. Everything else is conversation, ride planning, etc.
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Old 03-04-13, 06:23 PM   #9
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hehe! Well, so far, "up" means shifting up, just standing up, and to us it means I'm standing to pedal and she can do whatever she likes. Our call for both standing is "double up", and we stand on the next left power stroke.

Like the man said, "Ain't no *proper method*!"
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Old 03-04-13, 07:11 PM   #10
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The more we ride, the less we need to verbally communicate. I often announce when we are dropping down to the small ring, but not always. Doesn't seem to cause her a problem. I do let her know when we are going to stop as she cannot really see over me when approaching stop signs etc. I'm suppose to say "coast" and "pedal," but I often forget and she seems to sense what we're doing thru the pedals anyway. I call bumps if they are large, but she rarely complains if I don't thanks to the Thud Buster.

I think working these out as a team is one of the more interesting parts of tandem riding.
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Old 03-04-13, 08:47 PM   #11
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"Holy S***, did you see that?" means a cougar just crossed in front of us.
"Holy S***, do you see that?" means a bear is in front of us and needs some encouragement to move along.

Other than that, my captain assumes I can see what is going on and there isn't much instruction passing back and forth.
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Old 03-04-13, 10:12 PM   #12
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I like it when my stokers says, "Oh, what a cool _______ !" Every time I have to ask, "Where?" She forgets I can't see where she's looking cause, after all, she can see where I'm looking! Gotta love `em!
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Old 03-04-13, 11:51 PM   #13
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I was riding with a local tandem couple a while back and as they went around a corner, the stoker was saying "Five...four..." She saw me looking at her and sort of laughed and said "Oh, just something we do!" Needless to say, that made me all the more curious. I eventually found out from another friend that what was going on was that she was just telling the captain what gear he was in as he couldn't see for himself. But I've not needed that myself.
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Old 03-05-13, 07:07 AM   #14
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...she was just telling the captain what gear he was in as he couldn't see for himself.
That's where a Shimano Flight Deck computer comes in handy. Or the MUCH cheaper Shimano inline gear indicators, provided you don't have the new Shimano levers that run the gear cables under the tape.
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Old 03-05-13, 07:18 PM   #15
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...she was just telling the captain what gear he was in as he couldn't see for himself...
Since we have the stoker in charge of shifting, that's never an issue.
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Old 03-05-13, 11:08 PM   #16
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Captain announces everything of importance as stoker can not see what he sees or know what he is thinking of doing.
Bump, braking, shifting, coasting, pedal.
He also announces left turn, right turn, slowing and stoker makes the appropriate signal.
Proper communication enhances the TWOgether experience!
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Old 03-06-13, 02:34 AM   #17
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I will call out for a significant bump if I see it in time but can't avoid it. Will call out for her to stand up if I want to stand. For us it works a lot better if we stand simultaneously or her first. I don't like the feel of the bike with me standing and her not. Don't call out for shifts, corners, etc. In the end it is a matter of riding and doing what works for you. No real right or wrong.
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Old 03-06-13, 06:42 AM   #18
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After a while most of our communication is through the pedals and understanding of riding style. The one thing I haven't seen mentioned is "FACE!" We ride on rail trails a fair amount and sometimes there are low hanging vines or tree branches that you want to duck under. When I see a potential face issue I call out face! and pat my helmet several times on the top to signal I'm ducking down.
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Old 03-06-13, 01:15 PM   #19
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If riding our normal loop, not much at all. Just the occasional "watch out for those damn deer". Our morning loop is done at 4:30 a.m. 3-4 times a week, 8 months out of the year.

On rides other than our normal loop.

"3,2,1 pedal" Starting out
"Coast 1 2..."
"Big Shift" (any FD shifting, she doesn't care if it is up or down)
"Bump"
"Big Bump", sometimes followed by "Sorry about that!"
"Lift" (means lift off of the seat, normally for RR tracks)
"Stopping"
"Turning"

Jack
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Old 03-06-13, 01:27 PM   #20
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OK - Sorry for the flippant first reply. Our actual communications are:

"And... We're... Off" is the countdown to starting
"And... We're ...UP" is the countdown to standing to pedal
"And... We're... DOWN" is the count down to sitting after standing
"BUMP" = a bump big enough to stop pedaling and stand

The tough one that we have not figured out is "Help! I need more power." Sometimes the stoker gets kind of distracted on a long gradual grade and doesn't realize that the captain is turning himself inside out trying to maintain momentum. I have a hell of a time breaking the taboo...
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Old 03-06-13, 01:51 PM   #21
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If riding our normal loop, not much at all. Just the occasional "watch out for those damn deer". Our morning loop is done at 4:30 a.m. 3-4 times a week, 8 months out of the year.

On rides other than our normal loop.

"3,2,1 pedal" Starting out
"Coast 1 2..."
"Big Shift" (any FD shifting, she doesn't care if it is up or down)
"Bump"
"Big Bump", sometimes followed by "Sorry about that!"
"Lift" (means lift off of the seat, normally for RR tracks)
"Stopping"
"Turning"

Jack
Speaking of deer....have you seen this video of mtb biker and deer?

http://reviews.mtbr.com/viral-video-...mountain-biker
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Old 03-06-13, 02:27 PM   #22
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I announce:
Starting...when I have one foot clipped and am about to push off
shifting....she knows which way I'm going
braking or stopping
bump
drinking, eating
turning and direction
Are you pedaling back there?? just kidding
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