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Sharing The Road With Tandems

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Sharing The Road With Tandems

Old 09-28-15, 02:06 PM
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Fastfwd01
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Sharing The Road With Tandems

I'll try asking this here and see how the responses go. What are things to watch out for while riding alongside tandems that might not be obvious to someone who doesn't ride a tandem or ride with anyone on one regularly?

I ask because I was involved in an event over the weekend that apparently specifically had registration for tandems and I noticed possibly a few more than usual for the types of events that I participate in. The biggest issue that I actually encountered was a couple on a tandem who were in front of me for a while and the wife was sitting upright with her hands off the bars just sort of along for the ride and taking pictures of the scenery and what else I have no idea. I was possibly a little annoyed by it and did probably the last thing I should have done.

There was a big downhill section with a right turn at the bottom of the hill. It worked out that I wound up coming to the corner with the tandem and I gave what I believed to be a really wide berth passing around them. Well, I gave such a wide berth that I was in the oncoming traffic lane probably halfway and there was a police vehicle up the road in that oncoming traffic lane that was generally holding traffic off the ride. I braked a bit to try to start slowing down to just get back over the centerline after we were pretty far through the corner and got yelled at by the tandem rider to not cut him off and about how wide the turning radius is on a tandem. I realize he was trying not to run into me and it was a mutual concern. I have a new carbon bike and I think he knew this and it was probably a close call. I responded instantly to his warning and there was no contact. I was appreciative of the warning. I would not want a brand new broken bike frame.

They were still *****ing about it a few miles down the road and the wife ended up running her mouth about how much of an '*******' I ride like and her husband finally told her to not escalate it any further and I'm glad he did because I was getting tired of hearing about it. There were other riders that made sure it was known that she cursed me, etc. and I appreciated the community policing of the incident This is somewhat typical of my life for any incident to get blown out of proportion, but that is another story.

Now, it might be generally a bad idea to pass anyone in a corner in what is supposed to be a noncompetitive ride much less a tandem, but I do wonder if perhaps tandem riders might extend a courtesy themselves to take corners at a speed that they can make a turn within a more reasonable radius? I couldn't say in this instance if there was fault on the part of the tandem rider because I wasn't in a position to observe how they executed the corner, but I suspect from observing the wife on the back prior to this incident seeming to be totally detached from participation in operating the bike that there might be reason to question if they pulled off the corner on their part as well as they should have. Again, all the more reason I should never have chosen to pass them in the corner and it's something I will try not to do in the future.

Are there perhaps other instances where riding alongside a tandem might introduce issues to be on the lookout for?
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Old 09-28-15, 02:27 PM
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Not sure that I picture the situation exactly but I wonder why you would elect to pass any bike in a corner unless this was a competition or unless the other rider was aware that you were going to do this. It would have been much better if you had passed them prior to or immediately after the corner. Tandems carry more speed down hills and sweep wider in turns than single bikes.
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Old 09-28-15, 02:38 PM
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It was nothing to do with it being a tandem. You just need to be very cautious about passing riders you don't know through a corner at speed.
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Old 09-28-15, 03:11 PM
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Originally Posted by oldacura View Post
Not sure that I picture the situation exactly but I wonder why you would elect to pass any bike in a corner unless this was a competition or unless the other rider was aware that you were going to do this. It would have been much better if you had passed them prior to or immediately after the corner. Tandems carry more speed down hills and sweep wider in turns than single bikes.
Apparently it didn't carry more speed than I did down the hill. I seem to notice that people will power up hills (sometimes it's just my lack of climbing strength I admit) and then totally coast downhill and I try to maintain a more even effort at least while I'm still fresh at the beginning of a ride. This usually equates to people passing me going up inclines and then I pass them going down. I get tired of being behind people and having to scrub off my speed because they insist on loafing on downhill sections.

Granted that a tandem might not be able to stop on a dime like my bike can or be as maneuverable. I concede that it was a poor choice on my part to not choose to pass anywhere else, but the corner was where I caught up to them with the downhill momentum and I just wanted to get around them. I gave them a really wide berth around the corner. So much so that the biggest problem was my attempt to correct from getting too far into the oncoming lane. It was a bad idea all around on my part. There was law enforcement that was directing traffic, etc. and no oncoming traffic. I could clearly see that ahead of time.

Originally Posted by Dean V View Post
It was nothing to do with it being a tandem. You just need to be very cautious about passing riders you don't know through a corner at speed.
I agree it was not the best idea to pass in the corner. I will definitely try to be more cautious in the future.

I do still believe I gave more than ample room and question if the other rider(s) were executing the corner themselves as well as they should have, but it's not like it would have mattered if there was a crash.

So, is there anything else to be mindful of while riding around tandems that might help me to avoid issues like this in the future?
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Old 09-28-15, 03:21 PM
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It wasn't us, or was it? We typically try to bomb the downhills; however, they are fairly short in most parts of Oklahoma.
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Old 09-28-15, 05:28 PM
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If I'm reading your post correctly, the other tandem was not riding unpredictably, they were merely not riding at a speed or taking a line you believe they should.

Regardless, it is the responsibility of the overtaking rider(s) to do so safely. The fact you had to brake unexpectedly to avoid a collision tells me you failed to do so and would have been 100% at fault if a collision had occurred.

Nothing really tandem-specific about this question aside from the fact that tandems have different handling and momentum characteristics compared to singles - which should be considered when riding at close quarters.
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Old 09-28-15, 06:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Fastfwd01 View Post
.....

So, is there anything else to be mindful of while riding around tandems that might help me to avoid issues like this in the future?
You have a good handle on the situation you were in so no need to continue that discussion.

The biggest issue we run into with single bikes mixing in with our tandem are people in singles insisting on getting directly in front of us then slowing down at intersections or to gawk at something. Tandems take longer distances to stop so you should be aware when you are in front of a tandem to not put them in position that they will plow into you because you braked abruptly or then have to execute an emergency maneuver to get around you.

We usually try and keep our distance from other riders and will back off or take a different line when behind a single, however, it is not uncommon for un- or lesser experienced riders to treat a tandem as though it had the maneuverability or stopping characteristics of a single and crowd our "space".
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Old 09-28-15, 06:37 PM
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Do you pull in front of a semi truck and hit the brakes in your car or try to pass them on the outside of a corner on a downhill?

You did the cycling equivalent of just that.

A tandem is harder to turn and harder to stop than you on your fancy carbon race bike.

Those of driving tandems take care to not tailgate and give a wide berth and don't appreciate people jumping in front of us at the last second.
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Old 09-28-15, 06:38 PM
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This post has gotta be a snark. The guy does pretty much every stupid, dangerous, and anti-social thing he can do. All he's worried about is that his new carbon bike might asplode.

It feels weird to make any other sort of comment.

1) Hold your line.

2) Respect every other bike on the road. Respect tandems twice as much. Respect cars 100 times more than you respect tandems.

3) Never go over the yellow line, unless you can see far ahead. Especially don't go over it on what must have been a blind corner. Especially don't corner with your wheels on your side of the line but with your head on the other side.

4) Never, ever pass a tandem at the top of a hill or the top of a descent.

5) Yeah, when some idiot endangers me and my wife, you bet they're going to hear about it. If I find them at a rest stop, they're going to hear about it some more. There has to be some negative reinforcement for endangering other riders. This guy obviously didn't get nearly enough or he wouldn't be posting here. Instead, he thinks his behavior was fine and is laying his endangerment of himself and other riders on the tandem's stoker, who did nothing wrong. The tandem's captain took the line through the corner he thought was correct. The OP should have simply followed his line.

6) And another thing, if you are on a ride where you suspect tandems might be present, stay to the right on descents! If you want to pass another bike, first look behind you. Tandems are much faster than singles when descending. See 4). They may be startlingly faster.

7) OTOH, tandems are frequently slower climbers than singles, though their average speed may be as fast or faster than singles. If you're going to pass a tandem, make sure you'll be able to stay ahead of them. See 4). Tandem wheels are much sought after on group rides. However, again see 4). If you're going to draft them, stay behind them or else get up the road.
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Old 09-28-15, 06:52 PM
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And don't forget whenever you see a couple on a tandem with the woman on the back to yell out "she's not pedaling!" They've never heard that before and it gets them every time. The woman will most likely cuss you out and that's part of the fun. (that was for Machka)

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Old 09-28-15, 07:47 PM
  #11  
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Originally Posted by diabloridr View Post
If I'm reading your post correctly, the other tandem was not riding unpredictably, they were merely not riding at a speed or taking a line you believe they should.

Regardless, it is the responsibility of the overtaking rider(s) to do so safely. The fact you had to brake unexpectedly to avoid a collision tells me you failed to do so and would have been 100% at fault if a collision had occurred.

Nothing really tandem-specific about this question aside from the fact that tandems have different handling and momentum characteristics compared to singles - which should be considered when riding at close quarters.
I did NOT have to brake to avoid a collision to be clear. I did brake to correct what seemed to me at the time like an overly wide berth given to the tandem. In retrospect it did likely constitute breaking my 'line' through the corner, but we're talking about what at least seemed to me to be far enough through the exit of the 'corner' for me to bring it back albeit not as smoothly as I might have intended to execute it from my end.

Originally Posted by Alcanbrad View Post
You have a good handle on the situation you were in so no need to continue that discussion.

The biggest issue we run into with single bikes mixing in with our tandem are people in singles insisting on getting directly in front of us then slowing down at intersections or to gawk at something. Tandems take longer distances to stop so you should be aware when you are in front of a tandem to not put them in position that they will plow into you because you braked abruptly or then have to execute an emergency maneuver to get around you.

We usually try and keep our distance from other riders and will back off or take a different line when behind a single, however, it is not uncommon for un- or lesser experienced riders to treat a tandem as though it had the maneuverability or stopping characteristics of a single and crowd our "space".
I appreciate your response and tone in responding. Why so many people on here seem to feel the need to be as snarky as humanly possible is beyond me.

Originally Posted by andr0id View Post
Do you pull in front of a semi truck and hit the brakes in your car or try to pass them on the outside of a corner on a downhill?

You did the cycling equivalent of just that.

A tandem is harder to turn and harder to stop than you on your fancy carbon race bike.

Those of driving tandems take care to not tailgate and give a wide berth and don't appreciate people jumping in front of us at the last second.
Yeah, I get it... I was trying to pass really wide in consideration of that... I wouldn't classify it as 'jumping in front' of anyone, but it could have been executed better on my part or even better not at all in retrospect.

Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
This post has gotta be a snark. The guy does pretty much every stupid, dangerous, and anti-social thing he can do. All he's worried about is that his new carbon bike might asplode.

It feels weird to make any other sort of comment.

1) Hold your line.

2) Respect every other bike on the road. Respect tandems twice as much. Respect cars 100 times more than you respect tandems.

3) Never go over the yellow line, unless you can see far ahead. Especially don't go over it on what must have been a blind corner. Especially don't corner with your wheels on your side of the line but with your head on the other side.

4) Never, ever pass a tandem at the top of a hill or the top of a descent.

5) Yeah, when some idiot endangers me and my wife, you bet they're going to hear about it. If I find them at a rest stop, they're going to hear about it some more. There has to be some negative reinforcement for endangering other riders. This guy obviously didn't get nearly enough or he wouldn't be posting here. Instead, he thinks his behavior was fine and is laying his endangerment of himself and other riders on the tandem's stoker, who did nothing wrong. The tandem's captain took the line through the corner he thought was correct. The OP should have simply followed his line.

6) And another thing, if you are on a ride where you suspect tandems might be present, stay to the right on descents! If you want to pass another bike, first look behind you. Tandems are much faster than singles when descending. See 4). They may be startlingly faster.

7) OTOH, tandems are frequently slower climbers than singles, though their average speed may be as fast or faster than singles. If you're going to pass a tandem, make sure you'll be able to stay ahead of them. See 4). Tandem wheels are much sought after on group rides. However, again see 4). If you're going to draft them, stay behind them or else get up the road.
I'm going to mostly try to just ignore your comments. You seem to have the story pretty twisted in your mind and I really couldn't care much less if that's how you want to believe it happened. That goes for any of the rest of you who insist on demonizing me over this incident.

I hope you get your big chance to catch me at a rest stop and set me straight some day. See how that works out for you, k?
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Old 09-28-15, 08:05 PM
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The only time we've had a moving accident on our tandem was due to a single bike passing us on the right while on a shoulder, then he tried to ride up onto the pavement from the shoulder where there was a 1" lip. He went down at about 15 mph. I braked hard but couldn't get the bike stopped upright and hit him. My stoker hit her head but was okay. The jackwagon broke his leg and his carbon bike. Karma.
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Old 09-28-15, 08:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Fastfwd01 View Post
<snip>
I'm going to mostly try to just ignore your comments. You seem to have the story pretty twisted in your mind and I really couldn't care much less if that's how you want to believe it happened. That goes for any of the rest of you who insist on demonizing me over this incident.

I hope you get your big chance to catch me at a rest stop and set me straight some day. See how that works out for you, k?
What I'm sayin', right? On a fairly recent group ride there was a newbie tandem captain who endangered other riders and himself and his stoker, to the point of blowing through a stop sign with a left-turning car coming from the opposite direction, which he could't see because he was passing a truck on the right. Same thing. That captain still believes he did nothing wrong. One of the bikes he almost hit was captained by the most experienced tandem captain I know, who tried to talk to him. Nothin' doin'. There's a pattern here.

You wanted to know how to ride with tandems. I just told you. Assume I'm the captain of every tandem you encounter and stay away. In meat space, I'm even meaner than I portray. Bye now.
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Old 09-28-15, 08:46 PM
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Fight! fight!
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Old 09-28-15, 09:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
What I'm sayin', right? On a fairly recent group ride there was a newbie tandem captain who endangered other riders and himself and his stoker, to the point of blowing through a stop sign with a left-turning car coming from the opposite direction, which he could't see because he was passing a truck on the right. Same thing. That captain still believes he did nothing wrong. One of the bikes he almost hit was captained by the most experienced tandem captain I know, who tried to talk to him. Nothin' doin'. There's a pattern here.

You wanted to know how to ride with tandems. I just told you. Assume I'm the captain of every tandem you encounter and stay away. In meat space, I'm even meaner than I portray. Bye now.
I'm not going to continue repeating my concession of it being a lesson learned on my part. Yes, I still do question if there was any fault on the part of the tandem duo in the execution of the corner with consideration of there being so many other riders present, but I concede further that it really wouldn't make any difference if there was a crash to point fingers. This was billed as the biggest ride in Arkansas and there were several thousand riders participating. I was really trying to be conscientious and courteous to other riders as much as possible.

I can totally assure you and everyone else that the woman on the back of the tandem sitting upright taking pictures and whatever else she was doing that wasn't concentrating on the ride prior to the incident at the corner did very much contribute to the incident. She was irritating me to the point that I wanted around them bad enough to try to pass them in a corner.

I would encourage you to reconsider thinking you need to jump anyone at a rest stop or otherwise over an incident like this. You can almost be guaranteed that I for one have had a bad day and don't need anyone setting me off over something like this. Escalating it isn't exactly showing concern for your safety and/or the safety of your wife and others.

I think I get the picture too that tandems are a huge pain in the ass to tolerate and most of the people who ride them seem to have a really bad attitude about it. I will definitely make every attempt to get past them and hope to never see them again just like these two I passed over the weekend and never saw again. I will likely not pass them in a corner again no matter how much room there seems to be to do so.
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Old 09-28-15, 10:13 PM
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I dunno, don't write off all tandem teams as being sour grapes just because of this thread.

Yes we need more room to maneuver and stop, but it comes with the territory. It behooves everyone to pay attention when riding, especially in a large organized ride. I've had several close calls while riding, but you learn to deal with it.

There are jerks all around. Last year at the Bridge pedal in Portland, we were coming off the last bridge to the finish, and ahead of us, a couple cyclists got too close to each other, and started yelling insults at each other. Once we were down onto the street, they dropped their bikes on the road, and started throwing punches. I really couldn't believe it. Sorry you had to deal with that stoker, not everyone is that way.
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Old 09-28-15, 11:06 PM
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Answer to original question

FF01, thanks for asking the question, and thank you for using this experience to learn a lesson, it sounds to me like you are trying to gain some information and this may improve your riding.

A tandem is much slower in changing direction. As a captain, the line that I select is not easily changed. Any counter steering on the part of the stoker can really mess up where I am intending the bike to go. This is one reason that I tend to go just a bit slower on the turns than is possible. I captain a triplet as well, and it is difficult to make abrupt changes in the direction of travel because of all the weight that is tending not to change. As the stokers get heavier, it is harder for the captain to influence the bike by using "body english".

My personal experience is that I tend to shift less often than on my single because it takes time and effort to communicate shifting to my stokers (easing up on the pedals). This makes for slower changes in speed.

Braking distance has already been stated by several others. It's very true!

My stoker has a tendency to look around and admire the view around us (my back side ain't that pretty), so I apologize if that bothers some single riders. In a non-competitive event, please expect this to be fairly common.

Sorry that your experience was less than stellar, I hope that this is an isolated instance for you.

Enjoy cycling!

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Old 09-29-15, 05:44 AM
  #18  
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Stokers are quite literally "along for the ride" and have to deal with the feelings of no control, and in the case of an overtaking rider they see them before the captain does. In this scenario I can see where the stoker might get more agitated than the captain. As for what to do around tandems? Its the same as any other cyclist that you are unfamiliar with, give space & respect when passing. Also remember that a tandem has roughly twice the mass as a single (sometimes more ), in a collision mass usually wins.
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Old 09-29-15, 07:41 AM
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I think it's pretty much all been said. It's pretty simple riding around any other cyclists, whether they're on a tandem or not; hold your line, don't chop their line, ride predictably, and it's your obligation passing another rider to do so safely.

It's the same whether the other bike is a tandem, or a single.

However, I think there are a couple of assumptions throughout the thread that I don't think are necessarily true. First, I question the assumption that tandems stop slower than singles. Granted, you've got more mass to stop, but you've also got a longer wheel base, and often wider tires for a bigger contact patch. The longer wheel base and the distribution of weight allows you get real braking force from the rear wheel, unlike a single where almost no braking force comes from the rear in a panic stop. From experience I know an experienced tandem team, with top end brakes and pads, can stop as fast, or faster, than some singles.

Second, tandems don't necessarily corner wider than singles. At the limit, the longer wheel base would lead to a wider arc. However, most people on singles and tandems don't corner anywhere near the limit. We can corner quicker and tighter than many singles simply because we're comfortable with cornering more aggressively than they are.

Which comes back to my point that you can't generalize between tandems and singles. The line any bike is going to take through a turn is going to depend on the person steering it. If you're going to pass someone in a turn, it's your responsibility not to chop their line, and to pass safely.
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Old 09-29-15, 07:41 AM
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Originally Posted by TCW2 View Post
It wasn't us, or was it? We typically try to bomb the downhills; however, they are fairly short in most parts of Oklahoma.
What part of Oklahoma are you in? We are in Tulsa.
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Old 09-29-15, 09:11 AM
  #21  
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So you were behind a couple riding in a very casual manner and you passed them on a corner - bad decision.
Couple on tandem hogging the whole lane for a corner, and not backing off for you to get around them - more bad decisions.
Merlin is right, tandem or single doesn't matter here. What can you do to avoid getting caught up in the other riders bad decisions, which you don't control.
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Old 09-29-15, 11:35 AM
  #22  
StephenH
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The main thing I notice in riding with single bikes is that they accelerate less going down the hills, so try to avoid riding in front of a tandem, or blocking off the whole lane if you have a group of bikes. But that's got nothing to do with your post. You seem to have gotten plenty of grief from the other riders and posters above, so enough about that.

If the stoker's waving her hands around and not paying attention, that's fine, the captain needs to slow down and ride appropriately in that case.
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Old 09-29-15, 11:50 AM
  #23  
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This is one reason we don't ride in events. The other is we don't feel a need to.
Mostly we ride by ourselves, but sometimes a group will be passing us and I will try to latch on the back.
My wife doesn't like it because of the speed changes involved in riding with a group and really doesn't like it if we pass or move further up the group.
So far the most part I just avoid it.
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Old 09-29-15, 12:36 PM
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I think what is often lost is just a matter of courtesy. And common sense. Not unlike trucks, a longer wheelbase of a tandem requires a wider turn, particularly right hand turns. The sharper the turn, the wider the line. I've had half bikes (singles) cut inside me, which forces me to take an even wider line (which can certainly imperil both my wife/stoker/navigator and myself, especially on two lane roads). The lines that a captain marks are sometimes a function of the turn angle vs. speed. Other times, we're simply trying to avoid sand, gravel, and/or holes. As for brakes, tandem brakes can match the stopping power of singles at lower speeds. Past 20, and it's much more problematic. The contact patch vs. the inertia of 300lb-team-+-bike becomes a mathematical mismatch for stopping distances. Whether it's truck vs. car, car vs. bike, or tandem vs. single, the law of gross tonnage ALWAYS wins.

And if you draft a tandem, you also better be prepared to pull a tandem. I've lost track of the number of times where we've been "used". Kinda tends to tick us off.
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Old 09-29-15, 12:57 PM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by jnbrown View Post
This is one reason we don't ride in events. The other is we don't feel a need to.
Mostly we ride by ourselves, but sometimes a group will be passing us and I will try to latch on the back.
My wife doesn't like it because of the speed changes involved in riding with a group and really doesn't like it if we pass or move further up the group.
So far the most part I just avoid it.
Same here. After the one time we went down on a charity ride, stoker really, really, doesn't like a crown.
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