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Captain and stoker different riding abilities

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Captain and stoker different riding abilities

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Old 05-27-18, 05:39 PM
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SwarfRat
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Captain and stoker different riding abilities

Hi, I'm a newbie to tandeming. How do 2 people of different strength levels work together and communicate? I have been a single rider for many years but I am lower on the strength scale. My wife is a life long runner and has been riding for 4 or 5 years. On a bike she is a beast! I have never seen her walk up a hill pushing her bike. She powers thru everything. We recently started riding a tandem and its fun when we are working together, she powers us up every hill, on the flats everywhere. One of the issues we are having is I can't keep her pace on the tandem. She powers thru all of the gears. I have to have her coast down hills because she pedals so hard we swerve with each pedal stroke. Many times it seems like she has 2 speeds. On or off.

I am by no means with out fault or error as the captain. I'm asking for help with communicating to her how to control the power and pedal smoothly .

thanks
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Old 05-27-18, 05:50 PM
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Well, one option (albeit a pricey one) is to get a DaVinci tandem. We have been riding tandems for 30+ years. That said, I lift weights with my legs and am stronger on the bike than my stoker, who does not lift weights and is less athletic. Our DaVinci is our third tandem. The DaVinci design has independent coasting ("ICS"), which allows each rider to pedal at a different pace or for one to pedal while the other coasts. That might work for you. The ICS has other advantages, such as making sharp turns or going up or down raised areas, because the captain does not have to worry about clearing the stoker's pedals. The stoker can handle that independently. Some people like ICS and others don't. You'll find some threads on the DaVinci line if you look. If you are lucky enough to live near a tandem bike shop, see if you can test a DaVinci tandem.
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Old 05-27-18, 06:33 PM
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I wonder if having your wife captain might help?
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Old 05-27-18, 07:00 PM
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We were in a similar situation when we started tandeming with me being the stronger and faster pedaler. My wife constantly asked me to lower my cadence which was hard for me to do. We discovered that if she asked for a higher gear it achieved the desired result. It was better for her to ask for a higher gear for her rather than for me to pedal slower. The human mind works in strange ways (or I am a stubborn old fogey).

As we rode more and she became more experienced, her cadence naturally increased.

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Old 05-27-18, 07:33 PM
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Another way to compensate for differences in preferred cadence is by changing the crankarm lengths. I.e. if the person who prefers a higher cadence switches to longer cranks such as 175 or 180mm their cadence will naturally drop a bit since their feet are moving in a larger circle and take longer to make a complete loop. Their partner could switch to shorter cranks such as 160 or 165mm and that will naturally speed up their cadence with their feet moving in a smaller circle making it easier to go around more frequently.
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Old 05-28-18, 02:27 PM
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Yes, she should certainly captain if she can fit the captain's cockpit and has the upper body strength to balance and control the bike. She'd probably be more fun to ride with if she could control the gears and brakes.

A tandem is a device for practicing communism: "from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs." Do what you can do and just keep at it. The fastest way to get fit is to ride tandem with a stronger rider.

OTOH, if she's moving the bike as a stoker, she has to learn to get smooth. Ideally the captain shouldn't even know they have a stoker back there. It should be just like handling a single bike except that everything happens more slowly. So she needs to learn how to stoke. Stoking is not at all the same as riding a single. When one is stoking one just goes with the bike without initiating anything. You don't have to "have her coast." You just stop pedaling and hammer that back pedal until she figures out to feel your pedaling. Stoker should stop pedaling the instant Captain does so. She'll learn your cues. She should feel your pedaling harder and do so also. Same with pedaling easier. The idea is for the two riders to learn to sync up with each other and ride like one individual. It's a tandem team and it's a team effort. No stars. Both work for the same goal which is fun and a long life together. You can show her this post. I've been tandeming with my wife for 9 years and ride with several other tandem teams. It's the same for everyone: the reason they ride tandem is because they are unequal riders.
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Old 05-28-18, 04:55 PM
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Originally Posted by SwarfRat View Post
I am by no means with out fault or error as the captain. I'm asking for help with communicating to her how to control the power and pedal smoothly .
Yours is a tough one. I think you have received excellent replies considering the difficulty of the assignment. The need to communicate, verbally, is one that has been kind of implied in some replies but I am here to highlight this aspect in particular. My stoker and I have worked out a consistent set of one syllable commands to communicate just about everything needed to ride safely in traffic on our commutes and errands. Even club rides. My stoker is also very, very strong, and blind as well. Her kind of power could easily get us into trouble if it were applied to the pedals at the wrong time. And it easily could be since she can't see the timed out traffic light we were sprinting for, or the jaywalker who has stepped off the curb right in front of us. I don't see how ICS can help a tandem perform. My stoker can feel through the timing chain what I am doing. I will say 'stopping', when I plan to stop pedaling (not necessarily stopping the bike) but in a panic situation I might not have time. The extra pedal stroke, even as the brakes are being applied might be enough to lengthen the stopping distance into disaster. Maybe not, we hope not to find out the hard way. We evolved out commands over time. With a standard timing chain some commands are simply not necessary. I usually do not give a command to start pedaling after a period of time coasting. I don't have to. I simply start pedaling and she feels it AND she feels the cadence I want. You are the Captain. For good or for ill, your cadence has to be the accepted one. Measures like lengthening your cranks and shortening hers can go only so far. At the end of the day your stoker has to have enough trust in you to accept your take on things.

When I met my stoker I had never been on a tandem before. I had a lot of bicycle commuting experience but my commute was 6 miles one way in NYC traffic. Emphasis less on speed and more on survival. My SO on the other hand had been Powerlifting since she was 18 years old. She was insanely strong then and now. Much stronger than me. But men's physiology is such that after a relatively short time training, most men can and should quickly reach the ability of even the most well trained woman. And so I did. Just saying, you might want to put some time in a gym under some iron like an earlier poster mentioned they do. I think we need more details of your situation. In order to sort this out we should know the parameters of what we are discussing. Recently me and mine have been learning how to control a recumbent tandem. This is a high performance craft with both riders steeply reclined. My control of the craft is severely compromised from the kinds of things I am able to do on a regular DF (diamond frame) tandem. I feel my stokers power pulses much more acutely than on the DF. Is it that she is stronger in this position or is it my perception that this is so because I am less in control now ... ... I think the latter actually. On your DF tandem you are in much the same position as I am on the recumbent. I, however, have a command. The only two syllable command in our vocabulary: 'ease up'. I find myself issuing the 'ease up' command a lot on the recumbent. Of course it is obeyed. After 12 years riding together there is a lot of mutual trust and respect built up. But if she were constantly held to heel and never given the opportunity to crank away for all she's worth, knowing that I can handle the power and keep the craft safe it wouldn't be much fun. So I've got to get this recumbent thing sorted or resign my Commission. At least on the recumbent. But it won't come to that. I will figure this out. So will you. But we are here to help. Good luck.
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Old 05-28-18, 07:14 PM
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Originally Posted by SwarfRat View Post
Hi, I'm a newbie to tandeming. How do 2 people of different strength levels work together and communicate? I have been a single rider for many years but I am lower on the strength scale. My wife is a life long runner and has been riding for 4 or 5 years. On a bike she is a beast! I have never seen her walk up a hill pushing her bike. She powers thru everything. We recently started riding a tandem and its fun when we are working together, she powers us up every hill, on the flats everywhere. One of the issues we are having is I can't keep her pace on the tandem. She powers thru all of the gears. I have to have her coast down hills because she pedals so hard we swerve with each pedal stroke. Many times it seems like she has 2 speeds. On or off.

I am by no means with out fault or error as the captain. I'm asking for help with communicating to her how to control the power and pedal smoothly .

thanks
Originally Posted by jethro00 View Post
Well, one option (albeit a pricey one) is to get a DaVinci tandem. We have been riding tandems for 30+ years. That said, I lift weights with my legs and am stronger on the bike than my stoker, who does not lift weights and is less athletic. Our DaVinci is our third tandem. The DaVinci design has independent coasting ("ICS"), which allows each rider to pedal at a different pace or for one to pedal while the other coasts. That might work for you. The ICS has other advantages, such as making sharp turns or going up or down raised areas, because the captain does not have to worry about clearing the stoker's pedals. The stoker can handle that independently. Some people like ICS and others don't. You'll find some threads on the DaVinci line if you look. If you are lucky enough to live near a tandem bike shop, see if you can test a DaVinci tandem.

Jethro, thanks for the input. Early In our tandem research I read about the ICS and I thought it was the berries, then I saw the price, now it's just a dream.
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Old 05-28-18, 07:37 PM
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Thank you all for the kindness and suggestions. I have considered and mentioned that my wife take the captain spot. She is fearful and down at want that big of a responsibility. I don't recall who mentioned that she should have upper body strength if she is taking the front seat. Her upper body strength is terrible. So probbly putting her up front would make another problem

What aditional info do you need fron me to figure some things out?

We are both 6' tall. I'm about 210, she is 170.

if it matters, we are running a late 80's Santana Soverign. 3x9 gearing. Gaterskin tires. Both of us ride clipless SDS. I have shimano tiagra brake shifters and a bar end shifter applies the Ariva drim brake all mounted on drop bars. Stokers bars arw the figure 8 touring bars. She loves them. Brooks saddles front and back.

I think we may get an intercom to help with the talking back and forth. Half the time she can't her me.
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Old 05-28-18, 08:00 PM
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I don't know if I can be helpful at all, but just thought I'd throw in my (our) experience with riding tandem. I (female) am the captain and my spouse (male) is the stoker. We both workout regularly (besides riding we do regular weight training, running, elliptical, HIIT, etc) and we have both ridden single bikes for many years. We are, however, pretty new to tandeming. He is also a far stronger (read: faster) rider than I am.

Before we started riding a tandem, we had conversations about how we'd communicate our needs while riding or even after the fact to avoid potential problems in the future. In every day life, we communicate pretty well (meaning, we're not ones to fight about little things, and rarely is there something we can't work out quickly) and I think this helps in our tandem riding. We've both learned to laugh off those oops moments (they happen, like it or not) and we both try to be accommodating to the others' needs. Yes, I as captain am ultimately in control of the bike, but he is the very important power to our "engine." When he's tired, I feel him become sluggish and he can tell when I'm ready to pick things up just by my movements.

Some of the things we do to help minimize issues when riding are to determine our distance/destination before we leave so that one isn't upset or thrown off by the ride. We also both accept that it's okay if the other is having an off day and we need to cut things short -- and the other doesn't get mad about it. I try my best to be consistent about what/when I say things regarding what's happening, e.g. "stopping," "bump," "coast," and so on. Even over the short amount of time we've been riding tandem he has already started to intuitively pick up on things before I even say anything.

I guess what I'm saying in all of this rambling is that you as a couple and tandem team will likely need to figure out what works best for you and how to communicate with each other during rides, and I'm sure it is different for different duos, so I don't know that there is a right or wrong answer for you. I think having the conversation about speed and cadence is an important one, but it's probably best to have it during a down time when no one will feel as though they are being attacked or blamed. Since it's still a new activity together, there's bound to be a learning curve for both sides and I see nothing wrong with chatting about this and coming to some sort of decision as to how to communicate needs/wants during a ride.
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Old 05-28-18, 08:37 PM
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Originally Posted by SwarfRat View Post
Thank you all for the kindness and suggestions. I have considered and mentioned that my wife take the captain spot. She is fearful and down at want that big of a responsibility. I don't recall who mentioned that she should have upper body strength if she is taking the front seat. Her upper body strength is terrible. So probbly putting her up front would make another problem

What aditional info do you need fron me to figure some things out?

We are both 6' tall. I'm about 210, she is 170.

if it matters, we are running a late 80's Santana Soverign. 3x9 gearing. Gaterskin tires. Both of us ride clipless SDS. I have shimano tiagra brake shifters and a bar end shifter applies the Ariva drim brake all mounted on drop bars. Stokers bars arw the figure 8 touring bars. She loves them. Brooks saddles front and back.

I think we may get an intercom to help with the talking back and forth. Half the time she can't her me.
If you often can't hear each other, that's not helping at all! Some sort of communications gear is a good idea.
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Old 05-28-18, 10:54 PM
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Originally Posted by SwarfRat View Post
One of the issues we are having is I can't keep her pace on the tandem. She powers thru all of the gears.

thanks
One small thing that may help is to advance your crank slightly relative to hers, such that you are into your power stroke before she begins hers.
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Old 05-29-18, 02:12 AM
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I'm new at tandems, but I don't think that your issue demands any more communication than what tandem riding always demands.

For us, there is no such thing as too much communication; we talk constantly. We are the opposite of your "problem," in that I'm almost a foot taller than my wife, and hence much stronger; heck, that's why we got a tandem in the first place, so we could ride together despite our different strengths.

We work very hard on communicating; when one of us wants to coast, that person says so; when I need more help up a hill, I say so. That's such a small part of the communicating we have to do to make this works smoothly that it's pretty easy (compared, say, to my remembering always to tell her when I'm shifting).

Mark
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Old 05-30-18, 07:44 AM
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SwarfRat, apart from the good suggestions that have been offered, a discussion with your stoker while not riding may be helpful. What are her (and your) goals and priorities for tandem riding? Part of the fun is working together as a team. If her top priority is a maximum workout or maximum ego gratification or being competitive on every ride, that weighs in favor of riding separate bikes if she is a lot stronger than you. Part of tandem riding is learning to work together with the strengths and weaknesses you each have to accomplish something fun as a team. So, your upper body strength compared to hers means you are the captain. Her superior leg strength comes in handy going up hills. But, unless she prioritizes her maximum workout over what is best for the team, she should learn to dial it down at times to a pace you can sustain and enjoy. She can still ride her half bike on other days and max out her workout and leave you way behind. We have been riding tandems over 30 years. I am a lot stronger than my stoker and she is still fearful at times (okay, a lot of times in traffic). We ride almost every day and love it. Part of the fun is how well we perform as a team, allowing for each other's weaknesses and taking advantage of each other's strengths.
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Old 05-30-18, 09:05 PM
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Everyone has been wonderful with the advice and sharing their own specific experiences. I really appreciate it so much. I know that one word "commands", are vital especially at any kind of pace. Are there commands that are standard through out the tandem community, since at some events you may ride with a different captain / stoker? Where would a person locate said commands?

My wife works nights so she has time to run and ride her "Half bike" while I'm at work. We try to get at least one tandem ride in on the weekend. Normally the ride for me is to get out and see places and usually surprise myself that I didn't wimp out. I actually hate working out, but I'm really trying to get in better shape and take care of myself. In my early 20s while in the service while stationed in Japan, I rode up Mt. Fuji, as far as the blacktop went. 11 hours, then, probably 11 days now.

My wife on the other hand sets a goal and won't stop till it's done. She is training for a marathon in Nov. She will run it with my son and daughter . When we are on the tandem she is very encouraging and doesn't complain...unless I drop her. I try not to do it very often. She has said her desire for our rides is to do something fitness related with me. And see the beauty of the country. She tries to not let a ride shorter than planned bother her but after almost 30 years nothing needs said, I just know.

I know I'm rambling, please forgive me.

So what we are going to, off the bike, come up with simple commands and the reason for using them. Probably purchase a wireless intercom, I have my eye on one at Precision Tandems. Any one have any experience with that one? My wife also suggested that we do a couple of rides on the singles where she stays with me at my cadence so she can work on controlling all that power. Does anyone have a way to explain how to pedal without exerting loads of power and in turn causing a lot of side to side movement? The only way I could move the bike like she does, would be to stand in the pedals. I've tried telling her to pedal smooth circles, but that doesn't make sense to her.

thank you all. You are appreciated.
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Old 05-31-18, 06:57 AM
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My first thought when I was reading your original post was that she needs to spend some time smoothing out her power stroke (draw circles with her feet) so the tandem tracks a straight line down the road even when you are moving slowly.

She's got lots of power so it's 'just' a matter of smoothing out the delivery.

Also a higher cadence, >90rpm, will naturally smooth out one's powerstroke. It's more difficult to stomp during the power half of the stroke if you are moving your legs fast.
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Old 05-31-18, 08:33 AM
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SwarfRat, the tandem sounds like the right thing to achieve what you are trying to do. Instead of riding 2 half bikes to learn how to slow her down, think about some tandem rides that from the get go will be slow and easy the whole ride. Do that for a while to build some consistency and team work. You will not magically get into great shape overnight. Make sure your saddle and bars are comfortable. The tandem will get you in better shape over time if you are both patient with expectations about your progress and your stoker learns how to stop the wobble from the rear. The key long term is for you to look forward to every ride. It sounds like you're not there yet, but well on your way to getting there. And, when you get there, at some point, you're going to really appreciate that you can ask your stoker to turn on the "beast" mode.
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Old 05-31-18, 09:49 AM
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Originally Posted by jethro00 View Post
SwarfRat, apart from the good suggestions that have been offered, a discussion with your stoker while not riding may be helpful. What are her (and your) goals and priorities for tandem riding? Part of the fun is working together as a team. If her top priority is a maximum workout or maximum ego gratification or being competitive on every ride, that weighs in favor of riding separate bikes if she is a lot stronger than you. Part of tandem riding is learning to work together with the strengths and weaknesses you each have to accomplish something fun as a team. So, your upper body strength compared to hers means you are the captain. Her superior leg strength comes in handy going up hills. But, unless she prioritizes her maximum workout over what is best for the team, she should learn to dial it down at times to a pace you can sustain and enjoy. She can still ride her half bike on other days and max out her workout and leave you way behind. We have been riding tandems over 30 years. I am a lot stronger than my stoker and she is still fearful at times (okay, a lot of times in traffic). We ride almost every day and love it. Part of the fun is how well we perform as a team, allowing for each other's weaknesses and taking advantage of each other's strengths.
I'm much stronger than my stoker and I prefer to ride the tandem for my maximum workouts. The tandem is absolutely killer hard on my legs, plus it takes us considerably more time to do a route on the tandem than I would on my single. So not only do I push harder on the tandem, but for a longer time, too. I prefer to do almost all my training rides on the tandem. That helps us as a couple and also helps us both achieve maximum fitness.

Therefore my experience says that the OP's stoker will adapt well to tandeming if she can get smooth and stoke the bike rather than trying to captain it from the back. That's going to take some off-the-bike conversations.

In terms of sharing the load, our team has a system for that. I happen to be the stronger rider and the one with the best sense of how hard to go when. Stoker and I both use heart rate monitors and we both know our lactate threshold through testing for it. I see my heart rate (HR). Stoker sees my HR and hers because she has 2 HR receivers, one tuned to my chest strap an one tuned to hers. I don't see her HR, which is intended as a kindness. OP's team could use the same system reversed with the captain seeing his and stoker's HR. When captain sees stoker's HR go up, he increases effort, modulating his HR according to his experience of how hard he can go and still finish the ride. This way both team members get the workout they need while still functioning as a team. It takes some practice to get this just right, but it's a great system which has served us well for years.
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Old 06-01-18, 10:09 AM
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Originally Posted by SwarfRat View Post
My wife also suggested that we do a couple of rides on the singles where she stays with me at my cadence so she can work on controlling all that power. Does anyone have a way to explain how to pedal without exerting loads of power and in turn causing a lot of side to side movement? The only way I could move the bike like she does, would be to stand in the pedals. I've tried telling her to pedal smooth circles, but that doesn't make sense to her.

thank you all. You are appreciated.
There's been good suggestions about tandem techniques and communication. Your concern about power imbalance can be solved through improved pedaling technique. A lot of new riders don't give much thought about cadence, body position, saddle height, smooth power delivery, etc. For example, it's hard to ride fast and avoid injuries if your saddle is too high or you stick your knees out.

A good place to learn is at a good spin class. I don't mean these spin classes with loud music, mood lighting, and converted fitness instructors. I mean a class with properly fitted bikes, power meters (eg. CycleOps indoor trainer), and qualified ride leaders. At my local spin studio, they record the proper bike settings for each student, which can be replicated for each class. The CycleOps with power meters make it easy to determine each student's fitness level, and allow everyone to train around their individual power targets. This means that a beginner can train in the same class as an elite racer. Since all the ride leaders are national or Olympic-level racers, they know about proper pedaling and group riding techniques. They can tell you if you're too tense, stomping on the pedals, sticking your knees out, etc. I've learned so much about interval training, bike position, changing cadences, 1-leg drills (for smoother pedaling stroke), and using my core muscles. It's probably been my best investment in biking.
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Old 06-01-18, 11:25 AM
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Originally Posted by SwarfRat View Post
<snip> Does anyone have a way to explain how to pedal without exerting loads of power and in turn causing a lot of side to side movement? The only way I could move the bike like she does, would be to stand in the pedals. I've tried telling her to pedal smooth circles, but that doesn't make sense to her.

thank you all. You are appreciated.
Do you have trainers or rollers? There are three very simple (in concept) bike exercises which will make a huge difference. The first two must be done on singles.

1) You must have a cadence function on the computer for this one. Warm up on the bike for ~15 minutes. Then put the bike in a very low gear and pedal continuously for at least 15 minutes at as high a cadence as you can reach without bouncing on the saddle. Goal cadence is 115-120. If you can't pedal that fast, keep trying once or twice a week until you can. Gear must be very low so that you're breathing deep but not hard, so like zone 2. Pedal with feet flat, no pressure on the shoe sole, and wiggle your toes. Pedal with the shoe upper. When I'm in shape I can hit ~114 for 45 minutes straight. I used to be faster.

2) Again, warm up first. Then unclip one foot and pedal with only the other foot. Prop the lazy foot in the frame triangle to get it out of the way. This is called one-legged pedaling (OLP). The drill is: pedal for 2 minutes with each foot at 50-55 cadence, then both legs together 2 minutes at 90 cadence, then OLP each leg at 80-85 cadence, then 2 minutes together at 90. Repeat until the legs don't work anymore. The absolute requirement in this exercise is the the chain must remain under load continuously while doing OLP. Never a slack chain. You'll feel it trying to go slack near the top of the backstroke. Don't let it. This is way harder than it sounds. If you can't hold it for 2 minutes, hold it for 1 minute or whatever. Heart rate during OLP will be quite low because of only one leg working. It will hurt like holy hell but it will teach you how to pedal.

3) This can be done on the tandem. On maybe a 4% hill, put the bike in a big gear so that you're pedaling hard at 50-55 cadence. Do it with legs only, no upper body movement at all and as little prying on the bars as you can manage. Just legs. It's kinda the same as OLP but easier on the legs, more aerobic because of both legs working. If there are slope changes on the hill, shift to hold that same low cadence at that same high effort. Do 10 minutes repeats if you can and have enough hill.

If you don't have trainers or rollers, both those single bike exercises can be done on a shallow hill. You need the shallow hill to keep a constant resistance for the chain to fight against. Shallower hill for the fastpedal than for the OLP. You can do OLP on the tandem by unclipping opposite feet, but it's really too easy that way.

These exercises will not only help you on the tandem, they will also help your stoker with her fitness goals. Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Watch videos of top female tri-athletes on the bike leg. Absolutely still bodies.
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Old 06-01-18, 04:27 PM
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Originally Posted by SwarfRat View Post
So what we are going to, off the bike, come up with simple commands and the reason for using them. Probably purchase a wireless intercom, I have my eye on one at Precision Tandems. Any one have any experience with that one? My wife also suggested that we do a couple of rides on the singles where she stays with me at my cadence so she can work on controlling all that power. Does anyone have a way to explain how to pedal without exerting loads of power and in turn causing a lot of side to side movement? The only way I could move the bike like she does, would be to stand in the pedals. I've tried telling her to pedal smooth circles, but that doesn't make sense to her.

thank you all. You are appreciated.
On a DF tandem me and mine get along without an intercom fairly well. I can usually hear her no matter what because she is talking at my ear. She can usually hear me because her sense of hearing is beyond phenomenal. In heavy traffic when I think she might miss a cue I look over my shoulder and aim my voice back there a bit. On the recumbent an intercom is looking like a necessity. I've done some research. The Terrano X (?) looks interesting. But there is this: we both have iphones and I've been thinking that there must be a way to use them as an ersatz intercom for what we paid for them. I've looked at intercom apps and they look like more trouble than they are worth. Then I wondered why don't we just make a phone call at the start of the ride?! That or an audio 'face time' session'. We never use all the allotment in either our voice minutes of data plan so why not eat some of that up on the weekends? I've bought us each a pair of Air Shokz 'bone conduction' headphones. These send the sound from the iphone to the bones in your face so your ears are not blocked by earbuds or headphones. They have a microphone as well. 'J' has been using her headphones quite a bit off the tandem but we have yet to actually use them like an intercom. Maybe this weekend. You can spend jaw dropping amounts of money on bone conduction headphones but the ones we got were $69.00.
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Old 06-02-18, 02:20 AM
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Originally Posted by SwarfRat View Post
Everyone has been wonderful with the advice and sharing their own specific experiences. I really appreciate it so much. I know that one word "commands", are vital especially at any kind of pace. Are there commands that are standard through out the tandem community, since at some events you may ride with a different captain / stoker? Where would a person locate said commands?
This is a great question, but I for one have never seen such a list. You'd be surprised at how rarely teams get broken up. About the closest thing to that is if the same Captain rides with various family members as stokers. I came up with the commands we use myself. There aren't many. I mentioned a couple in my last post. As I mentioned I don't have a command for starting out. I just start pedaling. Do you start with your wife already seated and clipped in? That is pretty much the accepted way with few exceptions. Since my wife can't see, I may, as a courtesy, say something like 'ready?' if its a been a long light that's about to turn green, but 'ready' is not an official command. 'Power' is an official command but doesn't seem to be one that your team needs, lol. That 'power' command has gotten us through many a stale green, turning into yellow. Sometimes 'power' is followed up with 'ease up' after the need for speed is over, but sometimes not. I have a 'foot' command so I can clip in my left foot once we are airborne. 'Stopping' would work just as well but it adds information. 'Gears' is another. Any front shift, up or down, could be signaled by a 'gears' command. I don't usually announce rear shifts. Front shifts I usually take at somewhat reduced power so I announce them, she knows to back off at such times. I have discovered that cars react to my stoker signaling turns better than when I do it. Anyway I get to keep both hands on the bars. 'Signal left' or 'Signal right'. She doesn't like to be banked over with only one hand on the bars so I issue a 'Cancel' command just before I heel over. All the time she is signaling she is telling me that she is doing so. All this only took a couple of months to work out believe it or not.

Posts #16 and #17 in this thread have some good insights for you. I would go a step further and wonder if you had more experience at Captaining whether you would find your stokers power output so extreme. If your bars are the 44cm or 46cm common to most Captain compartments you don't have a whole lot of leverage to work with. I'm not telling you anything you don't already know if I observe that your bride isn't exactly a wee little thing. Even if she just sat there you would notice. I am starting to wonder if perhaps your preferred cadence is on the low side. >90rpm as was suggested in another post might be too much too soon, but 80rpm is pretty reasonable and it is hard to imagine much lunging going on at that cadence. If your cadence is smooth AND rapid, it should serve to modify the additional input of your stoker through the dead spots in their power stroke.

Upper body strength is nice to have as Captain but it isn't essential. Especially with a sighted stoker but there is one team I know with a 5'3" wife Captain who has a blind 6'3" husband stoker. I don't know how she does it but there you are. Technically, your spouse 'could' Captain, but lets keep that entre nous. I think its great that she doesn't really want to. You've got a window of time to build up some street cred, but not a huge amount of time. We're pulling for you.

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Old 06-02-18, 06:51 AM
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Originally Posted by SwarfRat View Post
So what we are going to, off the bike, come up with simple commands and the reason for using them. Probably purchase a wireless intercom, I have my eye on one at Precision Tandems. Any one have any experience with that one?
My wife and I got the Terrano X system a couple of years ago, and like it very much. It allows us to ride in single file (or even fairly far apart) and still chat. When we got our tandem, it proved very useful also, as communication is so very important. And it allows me to listen to music while doing a solo ride. And answer the phone when necessary.

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Old 06-04-18, 12:03 PM
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You should be able to hear each other without equipment. If she can't hear you, turn your head back when you talk.

Some commands that might help:

shift up
shift down
coast
pedal
brake

I also use:
signal left
signal right
stopping

I wear a glasses-mounted rear view mirror. I have asked my wife to use a mirror on her handlebar, but for some reason, she refuses to try.

I don't see why your wife's strength is a problem. Isn't the point of a tandem is that the sum of your strengths propels the bike? Perhaps the problem is the preferences for different cadences. I think the way to work it out is to take her requests for shifting to whatever she wants unless or until it's intolerable and then shift to your preference. In time, you should be able to tolerate each other's chosen cadences.
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Old 06-11-18, 12:58 AM
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Perhaps you and your wife need to practice on smoothing out your pedal stroke and spinning at a higher cadence? My power output on a flat road with a steady pace is over twice my wifes but she is able to contribute and doesnt feel the pedal surge. The only time she has issues is on a standing sprint where Im pushing very hard and have a more uneven pedal stroke.

you cant really pedal with equal force all the way around the pedal stroke but you can with effort learn to pedal more evenly.

What at is your cadence? We typically pedal at around 85 rpm, and most say to use 85-95 to be more efficient. Faster cadences tend to be smoother, I think.

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