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  1. #1
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    Training Tandem Style

    How do you all go about training? Do it all on the tandem? Train individually on half-bikes? Other approaches?

    We would like to ride the periodic Century and at some point try some tandem touring. Some of the supported tours sound very cool and the credit card touring thread gives all kinds of ideas. And so far about 30 miles of relatively flat is our comfort zone for distance.

    I have done most of my riding on half bikes with a riding buddy. This worked really well because sometimes I could chase him and sometimes he could chase me. This motivational trick kept us pushing our own limits and expanding those limits in a fun way rather than making it a lot of work. Then there is the occasional "let's catch and hook that guy", I have been known to go way faster than I should while chasing squirrels

    In this experience I have learned a lot about physical capability and HR and find my HRM a key resource. But while I may feel great riding with a 140 BPM all day and peak sometimes up at 170 BPM, my stoker seems to ride at more of a 115 BPM pace (I use the same model wireless bike computer for the tandem as I use on my half bike so we both have heads but only one HRM sensor). Thus I suspect we have different and conflicting ideas of what constitutes a full effort. I might mention that one of her favorite attributes of the tandem is she can always keep up with me.

    So how do you sync up expectations and training?
    If the team is only as strong as the weakest link, how do you build that link up constructively?
    And if your riding buddy is behind you what do you chase?

  2. #2
    Senior Member waynesulak's Avatar
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    We train primarily on the tandem but my stoker was working out with a heart rate monitor before riding her single or tandem. That said I think that she has a heart rate zone only attained when we are chasing a single.

    Everyone is different so what will help your stoker train is difficult for anyone here to know. Some are competitive, some need a long term goal, some like long slow distance of touring or brevet pace. My only suggestion is to try every type of ride and if she likes one go down that path. The goal is to promote a desire to improve.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by vrooom3440 View Post
    In this experience I have learned a lot about physical capability and HR and find my HRM a key resource. But while I may feel great riding with a 140 BPM all day and peak sometimes up at 170 BPM, my stoker seems to ride at more of a 115 BPM pace (I use the same model wireless bike computer for the tandem as I use on my half bike so we both have heads but only one HRM sensor). Thus I suspect we have different and conflicting ideas of what constitutes a full effort. I might mention that one of her favorite attributes of the tandem is she can always keep up with me.
    I don't see what the problem is. As long as you both keep the same cadence, you each can provide differing amounts of power.

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    I do most of my training on the tandem. If you think your stoker could or should be working harder you will probably need to be rather thoughtful on how you might change that.

  5. #5
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Ah . . . It is said that a tandem is a relationship accelerator. Wherever it's going, it's get there faster on a tandem.

    The answer to your question will be different for every relationship. You (plural, English is so clumsy) have to solve your own puzzle. My stoker knocks herself out powering the bike. She doesn't put out a lot of power, but she works at least as hard as I do. That's because we both have the same goal: to get the bike up the road as fast as possible and have as much fun as possible doing it. Fast is fun for us. Not for everyone, but for us it is. Not that we're fast: we're not. But we're fast enough to play well with others. We are different enough in our power that we can't ride singles together, so tandem it is. Besides, it's more fun.

    We each have a HRM transmitter belt. She has my HR and her HR on her bars. I have only my HR. I don't want to know her HR. She syncs her HR to mine, more or less. She has enough experience now to tell when she should lead my HR and when she should lag it, so that we both come out equally tired at the end of the ride. But mostly she matches it. Most couples don't have such similar working HRs, but we just happen to. We've each tested to find our lactate threshold heart rates, separately, so that's how we know.

    Stoker only rides her single on the trainer, for doing drills when we can't get out on the tandem. I mostly do the same. The tandem is our outdoor bike. We put on a few thousand miles a year on it. We do group rides, events, solo rides, loaded touring, credit card touring, whatever we want. It's a major focus, source of quality time together, and source of health for us. Our favorite thing is group rides with friends, concluding with some social time after the ride.

  6. #6
    Senior Member waynesulak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
    Ah . . . She doesn't put out a lot of power, but she works at least as hard as I do. That's because we both have the same goal: to get the bike up the road as fast as possible and have as much fun as possible doing it. .....
    Amen. I like Wikipedia's definition of Team: A team comprises a group of people or animals linked in a common purpose.

    The key for us is shared effort. Sure any team will have a power difference between its members. A good team working together as one will not have a difference in effort between its members. They are linked together in common purpose. Even if you fail to obtain your goal there is a special feeling knowing that you worked hard together.

    I understand that spending time together with one person putting out most of the effort can still be fun. I have enjoyed it with my kids when they were growing up. To me it is just a lot more rewarding with both people paddling the canoe.
    Last edited by waynesulak; 02-05-14 at 06:38 AM.

  7. #7
    Senior Member PedalPink's Avatar
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    It's an interesting question and one my captain and I are reviewing now. For many years, we just rode and did not train. We are focused on randonneuring after getting hooked on long distance rides at the National 24 Hour Challenge. Most of our long rides have been on one of our tandems, although we both continue to ride single bikes on shorter rides. We did a lot of miles, averaging 6000-7000 miles a year, but we didn't feel we were improving. And I noticed that I was actually getting slower when I did ride a single bike. In 2012 we had to reduce cycling significantly, and last year when we returned to cycling we struggled on shorter brevets (200-300km, we didn't try to complete a longer ride).

    This year we are following a structured training plan, and most of the training is on single bikes indoors. He is using a CompuTrainer and I am using a Wahoo KICKR to record power, cadence and heart rate. Although our cadence has become very similar over the years, our fitness levels are very different. My husband is much stronger than me, and he can put out a lot more power at a lot lower heart rate. So we've measured our FTP and are using TrainerRoad and The Sufferfest videos to do a couple of indoor training rides a week. We have occasionally put the tandem on one of the trainers, typically for the Saturday bike club group indoor rides (our friends are unused to seeing us on single bikes, so they enjoy seeing us on a tandem on the indoor rides!) When the snow melts, we'll resume long, outdoor weekend rides on the tandem to build our endurance but plan to continue a couple indoor high intensity rides on the trainers.

    It's too soon to say, but I have already increased my FTP in January. We have some early tests with a 200k March 1 and our first gravel race later in March. I think we'll have a better idea of how this training program is working for us after those events.

    I do highly recommend TrainerRoad. I particularly like how all of the workouts are customized to your level of fitness based on the FTP. And for me, the real time display that the target is X and I'm below it motivates me to put in more effort. We just completed the indoor "race" Tour of Sufferlandria which was nine days, eleven videos - it was actually fun!

  8. #8
    Senior Member diabloridr's Avatar
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    Effective training on the tandem is difficult, since most teams need to compromise and compromise is the enemy of successful training.

    Most of our training is done on our singles where we can structure our training as we each see fit. Most of my riding is done solo, but I stay motivated by chasing Strava segments. Perhaps 10 to 20% of my riding is with groups.

    We reserve the tandem for a single weekly ride. This ride is typically our long ride for the week (50 to 80 miles), so we concentrate more on maintaining a steady pace rather than any sort of interval sessions.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Team Fab's Avatar
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    Dont forget you can change crank arm length as well to help with different preferred cadence,

    Also, Devinci independent pedaling.

  10. #10
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    picasabackground.jpg
    Been riding 'in tandem' since 1975.
    When we moved to Arizona from Michigan in 1978 we upped our yearly riding miles significantly.
    Able to ride year round, we averaged 10,000 miles year and riding six days a week. We are now on tandem #5 .
    We never really 'trained', but rode 200 miles a week for decades; did loads of centuries and multi day tours and tandem rallies and even did a few time trials.
    We never used any gizmos like heart monitors or power meter; used a cyclometer and then later a simple bike computer to give distance/speed.
    Now at ages 81 and 78 we usually get in 4 tandem rides a week. Rudy still rides 6 days a week (got to justify that single bike!).
    We no longer hammer at 20+ mph and no longer do centuries or attend tandem rallies but enjoy getting out just the same.
    We've covered 240,000+ miles as a tandem duo and 'been there, done that!'
    Our suggestion is to ride often, climb lots and enjoy the ride TWOgether!
    Pedal on!
    Rudy and Kay/zonatandem

  11. #11
    Half Fast mwandaw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by carbonfiberboy View Post
    ...the answer to your question will be different for every relationship. Ya'll (plural, non-southern english is so clumsy) have to solve ya'll's own puzzle.
    fify
    Last edited by mwandaw; 02-06-14 at 08:35 AM.
    Not slow, not fast, but Half Fast!

  12. #12
    Senior Member Looigi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dean V View Post
    ... If you think your stoker could or should be working harder you will probably need to be rather thoughtful on how you might change that.
    Double that if you think the problem is your stoker weighs too much.
    Ride more. Fret less.

  13. #13
    Half Fast mwandaw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vrooom3440 View Post
    ...I suspect we have different and conflicting ideas of what constitutes a full effort...
    This phrase in the original post caught my eye. A tandem is by nature a team effort, and a team will never be effective (or have fun) if its members have different goals.

    I suggest that you talk together about what makes tandem riding fun for each of you. Is it a heart-pounding, full-effort race to be the absolute fastest? Is it an enthusiastic workout? How about sight-seeing with a little exercise mixed in, or maybe a relaxing cruise through the great outdoors?

    In order to really enjoy the tandem experience, the two of you will need to agree on a riding philosophy. You may end up riding with your buddy to get the thrill of an all-out effort, and then some other time adjusting your attitude in order to enjoy a more relaxed ride on the tandem.

    My wife was originally from the "sight-seeing with a little exercise" school of thought. Eventually we went on a club ride just to try it. When we were dusted by some fast tandem teams, she was motivated to up the ante. We ended up buying a more high-performance tandem, and now she's more of an "enthusiastic workout" rider. In fact, now when someone passes us or starts drafting us, I usually feel a "turbo-boost" from the stoker's compartment. That makes me grin :-)

    I suggest that the two of you agree on a riding philosophy, and then adjust your attitudes to that philosophy so you can enjoy riding together. You'll have a lot more fun. You can always expose her to new, more sporty rides to see how she reacts, but if she's not impressed, when you're on the tandem, just ride the way the two of you have agreed to ride, and maybe take some time to smell the roses.
    Last edited by mwandaw; 02-07-14 at 11:52 AM.
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  14. #14
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    Thanks for the great responses

    I pondered just how to phrase the question quite a bit before I posted it, tried to capture just what was and was not an issue. As pointed out by Carbonfiberboy, I believe there is much truth to the adage that wherever your relationship is going, it will get there faster on a tandem. It would be very easy to crater here.

    Power is not my concern, I will probably always put out more power. Cadence is not my concern either, we do the same cadence and there are really no complaints. Speed is not really a concern, there will always be somebody faster (we got passed by a couple hand-cycles last ride but they *were* doing close to 20 MPH). A few of you hit right on target: it is more about effort. I have always had my own theory here, but the HRM numbers put data to the theory and back it up. My stoker spends a lot of thought cycles on health and exercise but never seems to have much to show for it in results. I live more for the moment and am probably in better physical shape. And the only practical explanation I can come up with is that when I try I try harder. This is a problem to be handled very delicately...

    It is reassuring that my intuition is not entirely off base and some teams do prefer to train on singles.
    I can also understand entirely teams who just ride, we might be there too if we did not have to work for a living ;-)
    I really liked mwandaw's comment about exposing and inspiring. That has some potential.
    I am a little surprised none have suggested pairing up with another tandem pair for training 2-up buddy style?

    We have talked about riding Centuries and trying touring and the interest is there... just need to either figure out how to bridge the gap between the 30 mile flat ride we can do today and being capable of handling 100 miles with climbing, or forget about that stuff and just enjoy the occasional 30 mile ride from Folsom to lunch in Old Sacramento and ride the train back to Folsom (those are fun).

    We will be riding the Rice Valley Tandem Rally this weekend... have not yet committed if we are doing the safe 40 mile ride or pushing ourselves for the 60 mile ride. May depend on how hard it is raining. If you see a lime green Co-Motion Pimera... say Hi on your way by

  15. #15
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vrooom3440 View Post
    Thanks for the great responses

    I pondered just how to phrase the question quite a bit before I posted it, tried to capture just what was and was not an issue. As pointed out by Carbonfiberboy, I believe there is much truth to the adage that wherever your relationship is going, it will get there faster on a tandem. It would be very easy to crater here.

    Power is not my concern, I will probably always put out more power. Cadence is not my concern either, we do the same cadence and there are really no complaints. Speed is not really a concern, there will always be somebody faster (we got passed by a couple hand-cycles last ride but they *were* doing close to 20 MPH). A few of you hit right on target: it is more about effort. I have always had my own theory here, but the HRM numbers put data to the theory and back it up. My stoker spends a lot of thought cycles on health and exercise but never seems to have much to show for it in results. I live more for the moment and am probably in better physical shape. And the only practical explanation I can come up with is that when I try I try harder. This is a problem to be handled very delicately...

    It is reassuring that my intuition is not entirely off base and some teams do prefer to train on singles.
    I can also understand entirely teams who just ride, we might be there too if we did not have to work for a living ;-)
    I really liked mwandaw's comment about exposing and inspiring. That has some potential.
    I am a little surprised none have suggested pairing up with another tandem pair for training 2-up buddy style?

    We have talked about riding Centuries and trying touring and the interest is there... just need to either figure out how to bridge the gap between the 30 mile flat ride we can do today and being capable of handling 100 miles with climbing, or forget about that stuff and just enjoy the occasional 30 mile ride from Folsom to lunch in Old Sacramento and ride the train back to Folsom (those are fun).

    We will be riding the Rice Valley Tandem Rally this weekend... have not yet committed if we are doing the safe 40 mile ride or pushing ourselves for the 60 mile ride. May depend on how hard it is raining. If you see a lime green Co-Motion Pimera... say Hi on your way by
    We do train with some other tandems. That can be a help or can cause problems. If another tandem is faster than you, what's ya'lls response? Frustation or inspiration? It can go both ways and can cause intra-team friction. Tandems have dropped out of our small group over this. They're happier not having to compare themselves to another team.

    I'm extremely lucky in that I've enjoyed training every since I was a boy, have gotten some experience at it, and thus my stoker will allow me to be her coach. But I can't screw up. Captain's burden. We bought our tandem in '07, started riding more seriously in '09, got strong enough to really have fun in '11, started touring in '12. She does drills on her trainer, me on my rollers. We lift weights and do spin class at the gym together and do a group ride every weekend. For the last few weeks, we've been doing one both days. In spring and summer, we also go out on the tandem midweek. I just signed us up for the STP one-day. We have a 200k brevet coming up March 15. We shall see how all that goes. Shattered or elated?

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