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Long Rides on a Tandem

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Old 06-27-18, 01:08 PM
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@Carbonfiberboy, once again, your remarks are extremely helpful to me, so thank you very much. Now I wonder if I should tell my wife what you said.

Why do you think stoking builds strength better than, uh, singling? Here's a theory: on the tandem, she has more freedom to adjust her effort to her liking rather than responding directly to terrain. This gives her rest when she needs it and the chance for an "interval" when she wants it. Does that make sense? She has remarked that tandeming leaves her with more energy at the end of the ride, and that part is something for me to rejoice over. It is why I got the tandem. More surprisingly, though, tandeming wears me out more than riding a single bike.
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Old 06-27-18, 01:15 PM
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Originally Posted by noglider View Post
[MENTION=78894]Why do you think stoking builds strength better than, uh, singling?
My wife generally prefers her single to the tandem because she says that I pedal too fast and never coast, which is a lot harder than when she rides her single and can cruise along at a low cadence coasting every few pedal strokes. It's way slower but she doesn't care about speed or distance so it's irrelevant to her.
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Old 06-27-18, 01:20 PM
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Originally Posted by kingston View Post
My point doesn't really have anything to do with the strength of the team. I was riding with a solo RAAM finisher and his wife, so it was a pretty strong team. As soon as it got steep, I wasn't able to keep up with them downhill anymore and needed a big uphill to catch up. If I happened to be with them at the start of a big uphill, it was hard to ride as slow as they had to go, and if they got ahead of me on a downhill with no uphill for me to catch up, I didn't see them until the next control.
Believe me. There are strong tandem teams. It's a myth that tandems always climb slower than singles. Tandems climb at a power output that is the sum of the team. If you have 2 300w riders, they climb faster than a 300w single rider because of being more aero. Thing is, most tandems are tandems because one of the riders is considerably weaker than the other. That's how they get that reputation. I've ridden with national AG champs on my single and they are very fast on the climbs. I can stay with tandems while descending on my single as long as they can't hit 50. At 6", it's 60 watts. At 6', it's 600 watts. Only a slight exaggeration. Fortunately, good tandems are so smooth that 6" is OK. A good trick is to come over the top abeam of the tandem, then accelerate for all you're worth as you drop into the vortex.

Our tandem is not strong, yet we once did 15 miles of .5% downhill at 30 mph on the wheel of that champ tandem. Most fun I ever had on a bike. At one point I was tiring and told stoker we were going to drop off. Stoker said, "No we're not!" and pounded the pedals. We didn't.

Our tandem can hang with singles on descending rollers because we drop like rocks - dual aero bars on our bike. But it's not really fun for either them or us, so we let them go a bit and try to time it to just come near them at the tops of the rollers.
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Old 06-27-18, 01:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
At 6", it's 60 watts. At 6', it's 600 watts. Only a slight exaggeration.
What does this mean?

@kingston, don't you want to use your wife's cadence preference? As I'm 50% massiver than my wife, I will, of course, set the cadence, but when she says shift up or coast, I do.
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Old 06-27-18, 01:55 PM
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Originally Posted by noglider View Post
...don't you want to use your wife's cadence preference? As I'm 50% massiver than my wife, I will, of course, set the cadence, but when she says shift up or coast, I do.
In theory I prefer to use my wife's preferences, but in practice it's not always that easy. I ride hundreds of miles a week in the season, and my legs are used to spinning a certain way and they are definitely not used to coasting. I try to remember to gear up to drop my cadence to her preference, but it naturally drifts up when I'm not paying attention and she gets tired of asking me to up-shift and coast all the time.
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Old 06-27-18, 01:59 PM
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OK that makes sense. Maybe you should hook up an arduino that beeps when your cadence exceeds a threshold. But sure, I could see that happening to us. My wife has only asked me to shift up or coast a few times. And I already coast a lot.
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Old 06-27-18, 02:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
Believe me. There are strong tandem teams. It's a myth that tandems always climb slower than singles. Tandems climb at a power output that is the sum of the team. If you have 2 300w riders, they climb faster than a 300w single rider because of being more aero.
If that's true how do you explain the fact that I have ridden with the stoker when she's on her single and she has no trouble keeping up with me on the hills? I can't keep up with the captain on any terrain.
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Old 06-27-18, 02:56 PM
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Originally Posted by noglider View Post
@Carbonfiberboy, once again, your remarks are extremely helpful to me, so thank you very much. Now I wonder if I should tell my wife what you said.

Why do you think stoking builds strength better than, uh, singling? Here's a theory: on the tandem, she has more freedom to adjust her effort to her liking rather than responding directly to terrain. This gives her rest when she needs it and the chance for an "interval" when she wants it. Does that make sense? She has remarked that tandeming leaves her with more energy at the end of the ride, and that part is something for me to rejoice over. It is why I got the tandem. More surprisingly, though, tandeming wears me out more than riding a single bike.
That's exactly right. It wears you out more because the combined weight is so much more resistant to acceleration. The bike doesn't get out of the way when you push on the pedals. But that's one of the reasons I like to ride tandem - more fitness. When we started tandeming, I was a fit single rider who could ride a century on any given day. Our first 20 mile ride just slaughtered my legs. This weekend we're planning on doing a 55 miles 5500' group ride. We'll start an hour ahead of our single riders.
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Old 06-27-18, 03:05 PM
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Originally Posted by noglider View Post
What does this mean?

@kingston, don't you want to use your wife's cadence preference? As I'm 50% massiver than my wife, I will, of course, set the cadence, but when she says shift up or coast, I do.
Watts at distance off a tandem wheel at 40+ mph.
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Old 06-27-18, 03:06 PM
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Originally Posted by kingston View Post
If that's true how do you explain the fact that I have ridden with the stoker when she's on her single and she has no trouble keeping up with me on the hills? I can't keep up with the captain on any terrain.
She's dogging it on the tandem.
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Old 06-27-18, 03:14 PM
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Originally Posted by kingston View Post
In theory I prefer to use my wife's preferences, but in practice it's not always that easy. I ride hundreds of miles a week in the season, and my legs are used to spinning a certain way and they are definitely not used to coasting. I try to remember to gear up to drop my cadence to her preference, but it naturally drifts up when I'm not paying attention and she gets tired of asking me to up-shift and coast all the time.
That's funny. On our tandem, I naturally back my cadence off to suit my stoker simply because I notice the serious power drop-off in the back at over ~88 cadence. No amount of high cadence work seems to make a difference. We get there faster at a lower cadence than I prefer.

For the past several years, I've almost never ridden one of my singles except on my rollers.
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Old 06-27-18, 03:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
She's dogging it on the tandem.
I'll tell her you said so. We're riding a 600k in 10 days.

Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
I notice the serious power drop-off in the back at over ~88 cadence.
I don't notice much power from the back at any cadence.
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Old 06-27-18, 04:00 PM
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Originally Posted by kingston View Post
I'll tell her you said so. We're riding a 600k in 10 days.


I don't notice much power from the back at any cadence.
I'm sorry! You might try my HR trick, though Stoker may respond negatively to such a suggestion . . . We've done doubles but no rando over 200k. Actually, Stoker has put a 200k limit on the bike. Enough torture already.
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Old 06-27-18, 04:05 PM
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My stoker's limit is more like 30 miles, so I really just need to learn be a better husband and remember not to pedal so fast and coast every once in a while.
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Old 06-27-18, 04:19 PM
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That heart rate thing is freakin' brilliant. I'll see if there's a way to do that inexpensively. My wife is a professional musician and doesn't care much for data, but who knows, maybe she'll enjoy that.
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Old 06-27-18, 04:47 PM
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Originally Posted by 124Spider View Post
She has ridden very similar terrain for as much as 74 miles, so I am sure that with proper training, she can do this ride on her single bike.
Tandem for sure. There's a big psychological difference between 74 miles in one day and 186 miles in two days.
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Old 06-28-18, 02:13 PM
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Originally Posted by noglider View Post
tandeming leaves her with more energy at the end of the ride, and that part is something for me to rejoice over. It is why I got the tandem. More surprisingly, though, tandeming wears me out more than riding a single bike.
Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
When we started tandeming, I was a fit single rider who could ride a century on any given day. Our first 20 mile ride just slaughtered my legs.
I find the tandem to be harder on my feet (especially my toes) and my legs still are destroyed by the end of our usual 30 mile loop. The latter is getting better, but I think with the former I am still overcompensating for the increased inertia of the tandem and just pounding too hard on the pedals. Of course we are about 2mph faster on the tandem than we were when riding together on our half-bikes... and we are nowhere near our peak fitness of a couple years ago.
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Old 06-28-18, 02:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Yamato72 View Post
I find the tandem to be harder on my feet (especially my toes) and my legs still are destroyed by the end of our usual 30 mile loop. The latter is getting better, but I think with the former I am still overcompensating for the increased inertia of the tandem and just pounding too hard on the pedals. Of course we are about 2mph faster on the tandem than we were when riding together on our half-bikes... and we are nowhere near our peak fitness of a couple years ago.
I have had a lot of foot problems which eventually brought me to two podiatrists for two opinions. The first saw my bunions and said surgery. The second assured me it isn't necessary and told me to move my cleats way back. Huge improvement. I had been pedaling with my toes, and I literally bent them permanently. With stiff cycling shoes and cleats way back, the pressure is spread all along my feet, and I can pedal longer and longer.
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Old 06-28-18, 02:51 PM
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Originally Posted by noglider View Post
I have had a lot of foot problems which eventually brought me to two podiatrists for two opinions. The first saw my bunions and said surgery. The second assured me it isn't necessary and told me to move my cleats way back. Huge improvement. I had been pedaling with my toes, and I literally bent them permanently. With stiff cycling shoes and cleats way back, the pressure is spread all along my feet, and I can pedal longer and longer.
Interesting that you say that, I first got SPD pedals around 2000 with my mountain bike, I got my first road bike in 2014, still had the same SPD shoes, put SPD pedals on the roadie, and put 4-5K miles on them, the only problem being that my toes had a tendency to fall asleep (fixed at the time by purchasing insoles with metatarsal bumps). Got new SPD shoes 2 years ago and setup the cleats the exact same way. After we got the tandem I spent a good deal of time on fitting, and decided that my cleats were too far back. Moved them to where the Internet told me they should be, and have been somewhat unhappy ever since, even after quite a bit of fiddling with the fore-aft position.
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Old 06-28-18, 03:00 PM
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@Yamato72, having the ball of the foot above the pedal spindle may be the most energy efficient, but it is not the best for our anatomy, according to one article I read. (This is a similar argument about cadence. A cadence of about 30 is most energy efficient but damages the knees.) I suggest you try moving the cleats back. I'm still getting used to it. The hardest part is when I jump on a bike with no foot retention. The Citi Bike bikes here have rubber pedals, and habit makes me place my feet in the normal way. I've tried and tried, and I just can't keep them forward where I need them. Interestingly, when I saw people riding with their arches, it was a mark of inexperienced riders. Who knew I should have been doing this?
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Old 06-28-18, 04:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Yamato72 View Post
Interesting that you say that, I first got SPD pedals around 2000 with my mountain bike, I got my first road bike in 2014, still had the same SPD shoes, put SPD pedals on the roadie, and put 4-5K miles on them, the only problem being that my toes had a tendency to fall asleep (fixed at the time by purchasing insoles with metatarsal bumps). Got new SPD shoes 2 years ago and setup the cleats the exact same way. After we got the tandem I spent a good deal of time on fitting, and decided that my cleats were too far back. Moved them to where the Internet told me they should be, and have been somewhat unhappy ever since, even after quite a bit of fiddling with the fore-aft position.
I've always (55 years) had my cleats (or clips) set with my big toe joint over the pedal spindle. No problem on my singles and the tandem feels just the same. If your toes hurt, it's probably because your saddle is too high and you're pedaling toes-down. Better to have the foot level at the bottom of the stroke, heel-down on the power stroke and heel-up on the backstroke. I start setting my saddle height using the heel-on-pedal method: https://www.myactivesg.com/sports/cy...ight-correctly

Pedaling action should look like this:

I try to always pedal with my heel cups, not the sole of the shoe unless I'm hammering. It's pretty simple: relax the ankle and calf, always concentrate on feeling the contact between your heel and the shoe's heel cup. Since if you do that, it doesn't much matter where the cleat is, it might as well be where it's most efficient, where you have them now.
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Old 06-28-18, 07:37 PM
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Don’t ignore foot pain while pedaling. I started developing a “hot spot” a couple of seasons back when I significantly increased my mileage. Nothing had changed shoe or equipment wise so I chalked it up to the mileage and powered through it. Big mistake, I ended up developing a Hausers neuroma (same as a Morton’s neuroma but between the third and fourth metatarsals). I was able to relieve the pain somewhat by setting the cleats all the back. I am in constant pain and surgery is planned for this coming winter.

So take care of your most important cycling interface and don’t ignore foot pain.

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Old 06-28-18, 09:44 PM
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I agree with @Alcanbrad. That and genital pain. Act swiftly.
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Old 06-29-18, 05:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
We've found that stokers who are weaker than their captains improve faster as stoker than they do on their singles. OTOH, their single bike handling gets terrible after continually stoking for a while. So it's a big decision to take up stoking seriously. Stoker gets stronger, team has great fun, but stoker is kinda stuck in that seat. One of our group's best stokers broke her arm on her single in a descent in Spain. Wasn't used to judging her line anymore was what she said. I've known stokers to run straight into a curb on their single. On the 3rd hand, many captains are more expert bike handlers than their stokers. I know potential stokers who've been injured on their singles who would not have been injured had they been stoking for their SO.

My wife and I match HRs on our tandem. She sees my and her HR. I see only mine. She gets plenty of workout!

It can be a tough decision.
I'm early in a relationship with a lady bicyclist and we've ridden a few times on my tandem. Maybe it's because I'm more of a higher cadence, lower pedal pressure kind of rider than she is used to on her single bikes, but she feels she doesn't really get the workout on the tandem that she does on her single. For sure, I seem to be working harder. I think maybe the dual HR monitor might help. What brand/model do you recommend?
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Old 06-29-18, 06:15 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
Believe me. There are strong tandem teams. It's a myth that tandems always climb slower than singles. Tandems climb at a power output that is the sum of the team. If you have 2 300w riders, they climb faster than a 300w single rider because of being more aero. .

While I generally agree with your point that a tandem team is going to climb at the rate dictated by the sum of their w/kg, I think you're overstating the case a bit in this example.

Unless we're talking a very shallow grade, the tandem team in this example is going to be a bit slower. The captain's power out put on a tandem is going to have about a 7% efficiency loss in the drive train, compared to a 2% loss for both the stoker and the single rider. At most climbing speeds on a steep grade the loss of efficiency would outweigh any minute aero advantage.

Additionally, most tandem teams typically would lose a bit more than just the captain's drive train loss due to less than perfect coordination between the two riders, such as standing.
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