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Old 07-12-18, 12:30 PM
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Originally Posted by 124Spider View Post
We're running up against a problem we really hadn't anticipated, and I'm hoping we don't have to reinvent this wheel; any help would be much appreciated.

We're really enjoying the tandem, and my wife is working hard to up her game to contribute more than 1/3 of the total power. Obviously, I don't really need a lot of help for level or downhill portions, but uphill on a tandem is not a lot of fun (and I'm a guy who enjoys charging up a hill on my half-bike), so I can use all the help she can give on the uphill portions.

When I'm going up a hill (or, indeed, when I'm working hard even on level ground) my cadence can go quite high, well into the 90s. On a long ride where I'm putting in a fairly maximal effort on my half-bike, I'll average 85-88rpm; when riding by herself, my wife will be in the low-to-mid 70s.

She's happy to spin as fast as I want, but she literally is doing all she can do to move her pedals at 98rpm; she cannot apply significant force to the pedal at cadence above 90. And I need the high cadence to comfortably put down high power.

We'll be experimenting on local long, fairly steep hills to see if perhaps we can comfortably slog up a hill at 85rpm (I don't mind going slowly, as long as it's fast enough to not fall over); we think that she'll be able to contribute meaningfully at that cadence.

Any other suggestions?


We have been riding tandems beginning in 1980 and I thought it was this year that we truly clicked in a tandem race. My wife and I are both trackies and race road and track with focus on timed events such as road time trials and pursuit and team events such as team pursuit at the track.

Over the last 10 years, we have both done a lot of motor work on the track chasing a motor cycle around on fixed gear bikes. Motor efforts are a great way to develop leg speed both by riding behind the motor in the draft and attacking the motor to put in more power at higher speed.

At the other extreme of the spectrum is low cadence work. We both do a lot of low cadence work riding a road or TT bike in a large gear on flat terrain and maintain the cadence below 60 rpm. This drill builds muscle fiber recruitment, strength and neurology.

For your wife, her problem at higher cadence probably is underpinned by lack of strength and neurology. Something to try is to do some low cadence work on her road bike to build strength and get the feeling of applying torque throughout the pedal stroke. When on the tandem at higher cadences, she may find that her neurology is able to fire the muscles to keep up and produce more power. You can do low cadence work with her on the tandem.

In 1980, we got our first tandem and the pedals were 90 degrees out of phase. We learned to ride it that way and we have not changed ever since. Although I changed the configuration to stoker leading by 90 degrees. That way she cannot ride my power. This keeps the stoker in the game at all times. We ride with pedal power meters so that we each have power. My stoker focuses on power production. In our last race, she rode tempo power with VO2 power on the climbs for 55Km. I provided whatever power was necessary above that. So give the stoker something to do other than worry about keeping up with your cadence or fretting about her lack of power or whatever may be in her head. Make her experience totally positive.

With respect to high cadence and effectiveness, there is a certain amount of energy required to lift the weight of ones leg as the pedal rises. The faster one spins per MPH the more energy one uses to lift the legs. That means lower cadence uses less energy per mile. However, low cadence and high torque can cause fatigue and for long tours or stage races, higher cadence generally produces less fatigue. A couple of years ago, Team Sky was trying to slow down Froome’s TT cadence because they thought he would be faster at a lower cadence. You may want to take a play out of the Sky playbook.

So we are back to the tandem dilemma. Syncing up the teams cadence so that a couple can enjoy a day of cycling together. It only took us from 1980 to our race last month to finally sync up and have a great week of chainless cycling. And we produced a lot of speed without a lot of power. So getting a tandem team totally in synch pays speed dividends. Hopefully, you will synch up sooner than we did. Although, I think the 10,000 hour rule applies. Stick with it.
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