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Single bike average MPH vs. Tandem average MPH

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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!

Single bike average MPH vs. Tandem average MPH

Old 06-07-10, 08:22 PM
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ct-vt-trekker
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Single bike average MPH vs. Tandem average MPH

Sorry about the double post Moderator please delete



My wife and I are new to tandem riding having purchased our first tandem in April. We’ve logged just a few hundred miles so far. We’ve noticed that our average speeds for most rides on the tandem are faster than we’d typically ride on our single bikes.

Yesterday we did a charity ride that was 52 miles and a relatively flat 2260 vertical total and we averaged 18.3 mph. I was surprised since it was just a charity ride and we weren’t pushing it too much. It actually felt like about 17mph. This is faster than we’d usually ride on this type of ride. I actually thought that the tandem would be faster only on very flat rides but we are averaging higher speeds than our singles on very hilly rides too.

The local bike shop owner said that tandems are usually faster no mater what type of ride. Is that correct? What have you experience tandem riders experienced?

These faster averages have us thinking that we’ll use the tandem on a century ride later this year. Maybe we can beat our best single bike century time of 5 hours flat? This is something I didn’t think I could ever do again since our best time was done about 20 years ago when I was much younger and lighter.

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Old 06-07-10, 09:30 PM
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rdtompki
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It sounds like based on your use of "we" that you and your stoker are of comparable ability. Assuming you're both good climbers there is no reason your climbing speed can't approach the average of your individual speeds. Cadences might not match up exactly and standing will take some practice, but if you're anywhere near your single speeds going "up" you're going to be much faster on the flats and downhill. The 18.3 mph average is impressive; sounds like you are off to a very good start on your tandem journey.

I think the speed comparison (single versus tandem) is not nearly so clear cut for pairs of disparate ability. I'm a much better climber (not great, just better) than my wife so it doesn't take much of an uptick in the slope to reduce our speed below my 1/2-bike speed. Whether we would, on the tandem, make up the difference on the flats and downhill depends a great deal on terrain. Very steep downhills are not advantageous; I think you gain more time on a gradual downhill at a lesser speed (still much faster than a 1/2-bike). Many on this forum have exceeded 55 mph; we've only hit 50, but we had 3 singles drafting. The curse of the tandem is the feeling of stability at these speeds
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Old 06-07-10, 10:23 PM
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Ritterview
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One way to investigate this on your own, is to go to Motion Based TrailNetwork and put in 'tandem' as a search term. Just about everything you'll see will be tandem cycling rides. Look for an average speed close to your own. Then click on the username line for that person (usually the captain), and you'll see the rides he has logged on his half-bike, and you can compare the speeds for similar rides.

As for Mrs. Ritterview and myself, here are our rides on tanden, me on my half-bike, and me pulling for Mrs. Ritterview on half-bikes on similar roads in similar situations.

Overall, as I look over my rides, we are faster on the tandem than I am as a Captain, by 1-2 mph, and of course much faster than my stoker.

On our maiden ride on our new tandem, we did the 2010 Solvang Half-Century averaging 17.1 mph. In 2009 we did this on half-bikes, averaging 12.9 mph. If you have a choice of doing a Century on a tandem, by all means do it.

I don't know about other stokers, but with Mrs. R the speed differential on the tandem is realized not just by greater mechanical and aerodynamic efficiency, but so too by more confident captaining. Mrs. R on her half-bike will ride the brakes on descents, be in the wrong gear, slow down on corners, etc. Freed of these considerations by being a stoker, she concentrates on the production of watts.
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Old 06-08-10, 09:36 AM
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Brad Bedell
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Originally Posted by Ritterview View Post
I don't know about other stokers, but with Mrs. R the speed differential on the tandem is realized not just by greater mechanical and aerodynamic efficiency, but so too by more confident captaining. Mrs. R on her half-bike will ride the brakes on descents, be in the wrong gear, slow down on corners, etc. Freed of these considerations by being a stoker, she concentrates on the production of watts.
This is a carbon copy of my situation. My wife is a runner, so plenty of fitness. She is reasonably new on the bike. Unfortunately for me, she's a good student and is paying attention to how and why I do things... Just 6 weeks on the tandem she learned to turn over bigger gears on her 1/2 bike and asked me to swap her compact cranks for regular ones... It's a matter of time before she's chomping at the bit to try and drop me on the 1/2 bikes...Fortunately for us, the tandem has strengthened our relationship. We prefer it to our single bikes.
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