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Tandem Cycling A bicycle built for two. Want to find out more about this wonderful world of tandems? Check out this forum to talk with other tandem enthusiasts. Captains and stokers welcome!

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Old 05-05-08, 08:47 AM   #1
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Stoker's Balance and More: Reassure Us

I am a returning 50 + biker, 40+ years off of bikes.

Currently riding a Schwinn Jaguar, 7 speed. I'm still wobbly when passing or being passed, but that is getting better. I've gone about 15 plus miles total on my bike.

My wife now rides a 20" single speed 3 wheeler because of balance problems. Last fall we bought a 24 "regular type" 21 speed bicycle for her, only to sadly discover she just couldn't balance. She was quite ill a few years back, and that created the balance problems, though I suspect nervousness also plays a part in this.

We've been out for a few rides, learned we enjoy it, and do like the bikes we own.


My wife's 3 wheeler bike is, after all, only a single speed. Slopes and hills are a lot of work. I'm not a fast rider, but I find myself quite a ways ahead of her most of the time on the trail.

The three wheeler feels a little unstable at speeds over 8 mph. Cornering on the 3 wheeler requires sort of slow speeds.

Why we think a tandem would be better for us...

We would be together on the trail, instead of myself being quite a ways ahead.

My wife, as co-pilot, would now be able to share in a multi-speed bike, hills should be a lot easier for her.

Stability, riding as a co-pilot, we believe my wife would have a fairly stable ride at higher speeds than she currently does on her three wheeler.

Longer rides should more quickly become a reality on a multi speed tandem versus her single speed three wheeler.

Concerns and questions...

I significantly outweigh my wife. She's petite, and I am almost double her weight. Will my excess pounds assure me pretty much complete control over the bikes balance? I'd like my wife to be able to enjoy bike riding without worrying about her balance.

Transporting a tandem on our car? At the moment, we use a trunk rack to get our two bikes to the trails. It sort of seems like we should be able to do the same with one tandem bicycle, though perhaps a roof rack may be a better idea.

My wife's size. She is 4 foot ten. Too short for most tandems?

Money. I know there are remarkable tandem bikes out there, but their cost exceeds our budget. The Trek Cruiseliner Tandem looks nice to us, as does the Trek T 900 . Based on looks, the Cruiseliner Tandem appeals to us more, based on rear frame size, the T 900 sounds better.

Any comments on either of these? Any short co-pilots (4'10" or shorter) ride the Trek Cruiseliner Tandem? Any alternate suggestions? (Note: We like the looks of a beach type cruiser, and comfort is important)

There is a Trek store in town, so that is why I was looking at Trek.

Not sure if this matters, but at times, especially when bike riding, my wife's left leg temporarily refuses to do what it should. This is a leftover problem from her sickness. It is annoying to her, and causes a bit of trouble when her left leg is supposed to be pushing the pedal down. On a tandem bike, can the co-pilot temporarily relax with their feet on the pedals, and not having to pedal, as the pilot pedals?
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Old 05-05-08, 12:57 PM   #2
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There are a lot of issues here, but the last requires independent coasting, which is not at all common or cheap. Based on what you wrote, I would not recommend a tandem. You need to be much more solid on the bike, and you aren't there yet. I would really encourage you to try to borrow a tandem and get some help initially getting going on it. But the stoker leg-lockup issue is probably a show-stopper.
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Old 05-05-08, 01:04 PM   #3
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There are a variety of trikes on the market, some of them recumbent. There are recumbent trikes ($$$). You might be served by a tandem with independent cranks. Hard to say, from my vantage point.
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Old 05-05-08, 01:11 PM   #4
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I agree that getting on some tandems and also strengthening your own skills and confidence will be quite helpful before leaping into any tandem purchase. But I would not be nearly as discouraging as the previous poster. I think the beauty of tandeming is that there are a variety of ways to accommodate any differences.

I'm not entirely sure that your wife's leg-lockup issue is truly a show stopper. Would it keep you from peddling? She just wouldn't be adding power but her leg might still go around passively with your effort. That'd be one thing I'd try on a loaner and see how that goes.

Once you've achieved some confidence and tried a bunch of tandems, we always recommend people start with a used tandem to save money and see if they even like it. There are many ways to find them including E-bay, Tandem Club of America, Craig's List and assorted tandem clubs across the country including ours I'm thinking that you two might be good candidates for the unique setup of a Viewpoint. It's got an upright captain, in back with recumbent stocker in front. and offers independent gearing (not just independent coasting). And yes, a new one will certainly be expensive as will most new tandems. But with time you may find a used one. I think it would likely also be easier to address your height differences with one of these.

Don't give up. Tandeming put me back on a bike after a serious accident kept me off for a decade. It's now a huge part of my life. We love getting out of the city and exercising together on the tandem. Good luck and keep us posted.

PS: for both roof racks and rear racks check out

Last edited by s2cycle; 05-05-08 at 01:20 PM.
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Old 05-05-08, 02:09 PM   #5
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While your riding stability is better than your wifes, it is of the most concern, since the tandem is going to require you to deal with that for both of you. Definitely "try before you buy" as others have suggested and you may want to consider a nice recumbent trike for your wife instead.

If you decide to go with the tandem, I agree with s2cycle on the half recumbent. With independent pedaling on a full upright tandem, your wife could lock up on pedaling with the wrong crank down just as you are going through a turn causing a pedal to drag. I'm not even sure if anyone is making a full upright with independent pedaling because of this. The half recumbent would put your wifes cranks up too high to drag regardless of their position.

If tests with the tandem don't work out, you might want to consider an EZ-3 trike.
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Old 05-05-08, 02:26 PM   #6
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As for your wife's balance, if you have good handling skills, you can pretty much make the bike do what you want,regardless of what she does, particularly given your size, and presumably strength advantage.

However if your "wrestling" her all the time, it won't be much fun.

Not sure you need independent pedaling. In fact, pedaling together may help her develop a spin, and help overcome the leg problem (pulling her through the motion.) Depends on the nature of the problem.

As for sizing, a Co Motion Periscope or Bike Friday would work nicely.

I'd suggest you work on your own skills a bit more, Then rent a a regular tandem, without independent pedaling, and try it out in a untrafficed area and see how it goes.
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Old 05-05-08, 03:08 PM   #7
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Merlinextraligh is on point about your wife's balance. My wife and I are not a small tandem team at 380++ pounds. I won't divulge her weight. She has MS and her last exacerbation is causing some balance issues which is why we bought a tandem. We've been riding it for over a year now and haven't fallen over one except when the rear hub failed while climbing. I fell and she was able to unclip and catch herself. As was suggested earlier if you can rent or borrow a tandem for a test ride it would be for the best.

Have a great evening,

As a side note we tried the Cheaha Challenge this weekend and made it to Rest Stop #3 which it the top of Horseblock Mountain. We then turned around and went back for a total of 66 miles for the day. My wife did a fantastic job as we were climbing at 4 mph. The captain ran out of steam for the climb to Cheaha. We're going to try again next year.
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Old 05-06-08, 04:14 PM   #8
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I appreciate the information and suggestions everyone had. This is a knowledgable place! I was unaware of the independent coasting being an extra on tandems.

For now I am pretty sure we will stick with what we have, we are enjoying the three wheeler and the Schwinn Jaguar. I did discover a local bike shop that rents tandems, even rents the model we were interested in! We may never rent one, but its there if we decide to try it out.

Two bikes and a total of five wheels is the way we'll keep riding (for now at least)

Thanks again.
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Old 05-06-08, 05:38 PM   #9
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The T900 should work/fit.
Hauling tandem on trunk rack is fine; just be aware it sticks out a bit beyond width of vehicle. You could remove front wheel to shorten length on the rack.
Leg issue. When the problem occurs she can remove offending foot from pedal and rest it on one of the tandem tubes that's convenient; or install a BMX or motorcycle foot peg to rest foot on, 'til problem subsides.
If she can keep her bothersome foot on pedal and rotate leg, she does not have to 'push' on that pedal. Try spinning a bit more rather than pushing the pedals, that may help.
Other tandems (used) to consider with low standover room are the aformentioned Co-Motion Periscope or a Bike Twosday (made by Bike Friday folks).
Stoker Kay is 4' 10 3/4" *tall* and has been riding tandem for 33+ years
Do suggest that you, as pilot, get a bit more steady handling a bike/tandem before submitting stoker to the wobblies!
Riding TWOgether is a blast . . . go for it!
Pedal on!
Rudy and Kay/zonatandem
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