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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 07-08-09, 09:09 AM   #1
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Training a captain

I have a new friend that had been riding with me a few months now on our singles. He seems to be very compatible speed and skill wise. Last ride he was eyeing the tandem hanging in my garage. He's never taken a tandem out for a spin, and that tandem was built for a captain about 6ft (for you co-motion folks, it's a large/small skycap.) He's 5'9.

So, would he be able to fit on that tandem at all? And if so, how would I go about training him?

My last captain was pretty strong, and could hold me up despite any gymnastics I would do in the back. (Outweighed me by about 90 lbs.) I'm much more stable now, but the new captain, outweighing me by only 30 lbs, would he be able to hold me up if I stayed clipped in at lights?
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Old 07-08-09, 10:03 AM   #2
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I only outweigh my stoker by about 35 lb. He will probably do fine.

As far as fitting.... there is only one way to really find out
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Old 07-08-09, 10:11 AM   #3
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As someone new to tandeming the answer is a qualified "yes" (he can hold you up) provided the tandem is an ok fit. Get the tandem down and see if he has enough standover to hold the tandem up properly. Assuming this is the case the rest is more coordination than brute strength. I would think start-up on a conventional tandem would also take a bit of practice, but we have a daVinci so clipping in for me is quite easy.

When we bought our tandem we had several test rides. Took the shop owner about 10 minutes of basic instruction before launching us on our way. Haven't dropped my stoker (wife) yet. I probably outweigh her by 65 lbs, but I don't that much strength is involved, mostly balance. I recall one post where a new captain was discussing the amount of torque he put on the handlebars when stopped; he was clearly doing something very wrong.

I would set your pedals for a very easy release until you got comfortable with the captain or possibly unclip, but stay on the pedals. Practice on grass has also been suggest hereabouts.
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Old 07-08-09, 11:56 AM   #4
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I outweigh my wife by 5 to 10 pounds. We have had no problems with stability at stoplights/getting started. If the stoker stays balanced, all the captain is doing is keeping the bike upright. Often at lights I only have 1 foot unclipped and on the ground and if we are on level ground or on an upgrade I don't even have the brakes on. On the other hand if my wife were to lean really far the wrong way at a stoplight the bike would fall she doesn't do that. If your prospective captain uses good technique and you don't do anything to upset the balance then there is no reason why he wouldn't be able to support you and the bike.
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Old 07-08-09, 12:02 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by uspspro View Post
I only outweigh my stoker by about 35 lb. He will probably do fine.

As far as fitting.... there is only one way to really find out
But if he currently fits his single, comparing frames of the single to the captain's portion of the tandem will be a very good start. The captain needs more standover on a tandem, so as to be able to spread legs while holding bike and not get hit by pedals. So the two things to compare are the pedal to saddle top distance and saddle to bars distance. If they're close, should not be a problem. Thing is, that inseam is only correlated to height - not a perfect predictor for any individual. If he has unusually short legs for his height, no chance. If he has unusually long legs for his height, almost for sure. But then there's the question of leg length to height ratio for the prior captain.

The weight thing is mostly about technique, although leg length comes in here as well. My son can captain with me on the back (but the stoker compartment of any tandem I've ridden is very, very small for someone my size), but it is much harder than with my wife or daughter, who weigh about 2/3 my weight. (My son is probably 10-20 lb heavier than I, and at 6 1/2 feet probably still has a lower BMI). The times weight matters most are starting/stopping and slow, tight turns. The latter is a matter of experience, possibly lots of it; the former is technique. With legs properly spread (here the standover height comes into play), and the bike ever so slightly tilted so the top tube is pressed against one leg, a lot of weight on the back is not a problem: I can captain with my son without too much trouble (and boy can we fly), and don't find it substantially harder than with one of the women. He finds putting me on back much harder than one of them - perhaps I'm not as well behaved as a stoker, but I suspect it's more a matter of experience.
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Old 07-08-09, 12:18 PM   #6
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I think the tried & true method of training a captain is to find another experienced captain and have the trainee take the stoker position. That way, the trainee can find what it is like to be a stoker and pick up captaining skills from a veteran. Then, maybe have the trainee ride as captain for a bit with no stoker.

I've only been in the stoker position for a bit but I would really want to trust a new captain and for them to be trustworthy.
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Old 07-08-09, 08:28 PM   #7
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If he has adequate standover room, let him take out the tandem . . . solo . . . for couple short rides.
You, having been a stoker, can instruct him what he needs to do/say before you venture off TWOgether.
Key for captain is to COMMUNICATE everything he is about to do while on the tandem. Stoker: don't try to steer from the back and don't do the hula!
Good luck riding TWOgether!
Rudy and Kay/zonatandem
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