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Tandem - how hard to ride?

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Tandem - how hard to ride?

Old 02-21-21, 07:50 AM
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Tandem - how hard to ride?

I am thinking of purchasing a tandem bicycle for use with my adult autistic son. He is 6 ft tall and weighs 160lbs. The bike I am thinking of getting is a Trek-Electra 7i https://electra.trekbikes.com/us/en_...olorCode=white

I have some concerns about the sizing of the bike for my son who will be riding in the rear position. Trek claims the size range is 5'2" to 6'1" for both front and rear saying the rear seat post can be extended and with the flat foot frame geometry (seat post angled backwards), will give enough leg room. That being said, the local bike shop has a liberal return policy and willing to let me try it out for 10 days and return it for a full refund if it doesn't work out.

The main question, I wanted to ask is how hard is it to ride a tandem? My son can ride a bike but doesn't have the general awareness to ride safely in our suburban neighborhood. I am thinking a tandem might work well for both of us. I would be riding mainly in the subdivision streets but on my bike will ride onto the sidewalk occasionally if I want to avoid traffic. I know that the tandem will not be as maneuverable, and not worried it I have to pull in a driveway and stop and restart to avoid going on people's lawns. I was trying to visualize though the starting and wondering how hard this is? I know that will be hard to answer for my specific case but any thoughts will be appreciated. My son can follow verbal commands to a degree so picture him kind of following my instructions. I think I will be doing nearly all the push off with my feet to get us going fast enough to start pedaling and then giving verbal instruction to get feet on pedal and start pedaling together. Thanks for any help.
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Old 02-21-21, 01:37 PM
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First step: google "tandem riding the proper method" Read several of the articles.

The most important thing is for the stoker to stay quiet, not lean one way or the other, but rather just sit there and pedal, not anticipating anything you might do.

Do your first ride in a large parking lot, like at a school on the weekend or similar.

A tandem is a large, heavy object. It accelerates and stops slowly. Steering is a bit imprecise. You want the average vector of advance to be in the general direction in which you wish to head.

The good part is that riding a tandem is about the most fun one can have on a bicycle, once confidence has replaced terror.
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Old 02-21-21, 02:32 PM
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There is no "correct" answer here.
For some pairs, tandems are easy. For others, they're impossible.
I'm VERY lucky to belong to the former group. I bought a tandem for my future wife as a birthday present. This breaks ALL the tandem rules! But I lucked into meeting the love of my life who happened to naturally spin the pedals. So we're totally compatible in the foot-speed department. And then the clincher? She grew up riding on the back of her brother's motorcycles. Score! She was the "perfect stoker" before ever putting her leg over the rear of a tandem.

Now to the latter group... Tandems have caused many, many divorces. Pairs have crashed terribly due to all sorts of problems.

There's really no way for you to know. I strongly suggest following Carbonfiberboy's excellent advice above as well as visiting a competent tandem retailer - if you can. At the LEAST, you should rent once you've decided it will work for you. There's no reason to go through all the motions of finding a tandem that meets your needs only to find out that it simply will not work in your situation. Better to find out after a day's rental than a full purchase price.

Good luck.
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Old 02-22-21, 04:33 PM
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I believe one of reasons for Santana's early success in the tandem market was their test ride program. At Bud's Bike shop in Claremont, the prospective captain would go out as stoker on a bike with an experienced captain. The caption would demonstrate all the stupid captain tricks that would make a new stoker run and hide and never tandem again. The prospective stoker was out at the same time with another experienced captain being shown the best time possible. The stoker usually couldn't wait to go again. Only after both rides would the prospective team then be allowed to go out together. The result was a surprising number of enthusiastic lifelong tandem teams (with new Santanas!).

LV2TNDM is spot on about visiting a COMPETENT tandem retailer, even if it involves a bit of travel. Go without your son and ride as both captain and stoker. Your comfort and confidence on the tandem will likely make your son more successful when you start riding with him! Perhaps you can find a generous local tandem team that would be willing to help you out with this process if the close by shops are clueless.

"Recreational" tandems like the Electra can be quite flexible and it might take a few rides to feel confident with a larger stoker. While the "foot down" geometry can be initially attractive, the stoker really doesn't have to take their feet of the pedals for the duration of the ride. You might find a fine used bike with a stiffer frame that will work for you.

There will be challenge and great rewards!
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Old 03-01-21, 05:05 PM
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The advice to get your own comfort level up before putting the pair of you on the bike is excellent. One of the key variables in tandem success is keeping the stoker content, and that's much easier if the captain exudes confidence.
As far as launching from a standing start, it's commonly suggested that the stoker should put both feet on the pedals and let the captain push off. That worked poorly for us. Instead, we both put our left foot on the pedal (our cranks are in phase). I (captain) say "ready?", she says "yep", and we push off together.
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Old 03-07-21, 07:02 PM
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As there is a large spectrum for folks with autism, I think you will best know whether your son would be able to handle riding a tandem as the stoker. My first question would be, have you captained a tandem? If not, renting one (or borrowing, if you know anyone who has one that is workable size-wise for you and your son) first would be an excellent initial step to see if it's something that you will both enjoy. I know a number of individuals who bought tandems without trying them first and then discovered that one (or both) did not enjoy riding together. As others have pointed out, riding a tandem is easy for some and a real challenge for other duos. It's difficult to say how things will go for a team.

I'd also suggest that you don't have to ride the tandem in any particular way... meaning, you may read a lot of "rules" or how-to's online about who should do what in a duo, but it's perfectly okay for you to work out a system that makes sense for the two of you. There isn't a wrong way, if it works for you. If you determine your system of communication before you even get on the tandem, it should help make things a little easier. Start with basics like a signal for starting and stopping and practice in a place you feel safe to do so. You may take to it right away, or it may take a little trial and error.
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