View Full Version : Tandem Tips

08-27-2003, 05:33 AM
Thought I'd start a thread for those who ride "big bikes". Tandeming is a great way to spend time with your kid(s) and/or S.O. :)

Originally posted by Veronica
Can you really climb as fast or faster on your tandem than your single? That's cool! What kind of training do you do to be able to do that?


Part of it is luck. We are a small-ish team (~265 lbs). Our riding strenghts also seem to compliment each other. Captain is a powerful CAT2. He's good a short, intense bursts of power, and climbs seated very well. Stoker(me) used to race mtb and likes lonnnnng grinding climbs and endurance-type events. I tend to stand rather than sit through climbs.

So, it sounds like we might ~not~ be compatible, but we tend to mix our styles and it's worked very well. We do hill repeats on our single bikes, but we go out together. I think if you spend time riding singles with your stoker/captain you start to sort of "read" how they climb. I believe that this helps with the sort of "intuition" you need so that you can climb in sync.

On the tandem, captain provides the power, and I keep our cadence up up up (~110-115), since I have the cadence sensor on back. I've noticed RPM as high as 132 while climbing when we are really working it. We MUST keep our cadence high as we only run a double on the tandem. If we bog down we are SOL.

We tend to mix seated and standing climbing(but we are always in sync--I have seen teams that have the captain sit and stoker stand and vice-versa). Sometimes I am actually the one to call "UP" and captain respects and follows that order. The longer we ride together, the more I notice that we able to anticipate the other's moves. I kind of "know" when to lighten up on the pedals (he doesn't have to call "shift") and sometimes we actuallly both stand at the same time without a word. That's really cool when that happens, because you know you are working as a team :)

When standing climbing, we find it works best when captain climbs like he is climbing on his mtb (not tossing the bike around like a roadie!) and I try to stay as relaxed as possible. If I lighten my grip on the bars and flex my elbows and just concentrate on putting power to the pedals captain comments that sometimes he can't feel my weight back there at all.

We find that the best training for climbing the tandem is to ride with the local racers. It's fun to make them work a little on the flats, set tempo up the hills, then try to outsprint them at the crest (one thing we don't do so well is sprint, but we are working on that).

Sorry to write a book! I'd love to hear how other teams handle climbing, cornering etc. ( I do search the archives at tandem@hobbes from time to time).

08-27-2003, 06:44 AM
Thanks for your post about your tandem experience. It's given me some food for thought. We're about a 310 lb team. I've noticed that the lighter you are - the better you climb, but there's a limit to how small I can get. ;) I'm going to think about staying looser when I stand like you said.

Teamwork wise we also tend to be very nonverbal. I think the only time Thom tells me he's shifting is when we're going to have to stop and he needs to downshift. We stand well together - but Thom's heartrate tends to explode when we do it for too long. He just needs more time on the bike - but with a 60 - 90 minute commute each way, it's hard to get the time daily. :mad: For us - he has the sprint power, I have the endurance. I've noticed a lot of improvement since we started riding with the racer boys on Sunday. We can't hang with them for the whole ride - but we're getting further each time.


09-04-2003, 12:40 PM
Hi tandem folks!

My husband and I just took delivery of our new, bright red prism Santana Team AL tandem. We are soooo excited about this new addition to our posse! :-)

We are about a 260 lb. tandem team, and my husband is a very strong climber (mountain goat!). I am an average climber. We're hoping that with the light bike (it's under 30 lbs. before pedals, pump, and seat bag) and our relatively light weights that we'll be a strong climbing team, but that remains to be seen as we haven't actually ridden it yet other than our test ride at the shop - and it was 96 degrees and humid that day, so I wouldn't say we were at our best!

I am also hoping that I'll quickly adjust to the lack of control (and ability to see in front of me) that being a stoker entails. I'm an avid single (half?) bike rider and hope I can jump back and forth between the two experiences easily as I don't plan on giving up my single to tandem exclusively.

Do you other stokers also ride singles? If so, is it hard to adjust to riding both types of bikes? We had a tandem years ago which I loved, but I didn't ride a single at all at that time, so I expect the adjustment will be different this time around.

Thanks for any feedback!

09-04-2003, 03:14 PM
When I got back into riding, I rode the tandem exclusively for about 8 months. I had to take the mountain bike to the dentist one day - the first 30 seconds were very amusing. Iactually had to steer and brake!

Weekends are generally tandem or mountain bike rides now. If we're road riding together I prefer to be on the tandem. We really like each other's company. ;)

As far as switching back and forth I was worried when I started riding my single (I personally prefer that term to half bike -it's a whole bike for goodness sake :) ) that I would lose some of the things that make a good stoker - not needing to be in control, paying attention to what the captain's doing, not leaning on corners, keeping my cadence really smooth, etc. But Thom says no - that because I'm riding more on own during the week, the only thing that's different is I'm stronger. It's kind of like driving a different car (we don't have his and hers, they're all ours) I don't drive the pick up truck the same way I drive the Volvo. I don't ride the tandem the same way I ride Fluffy. And I'm figuring out how to ride my mountain bike off road.

Have fun!


09-05-2003, 12:34 PM
Whew boy, where to start? It's funny that you should ask about the lack-of-control thing, because we are currently taking a "tandem break" for just that reason.

Both Captain and I have years of experience riding and racing single bikes. I've always been a fairly vocal and active stoker.

Probably due to lack of control issues in other areas of my life this year, I just kind of "lost it" on the tandem recently. I quite literally could not sit in the back w/o being able to see or to "drive".

It's not difficult, physically, for me to switch back and forth between the two bikes, it's more of a psychological thing.

The tandem IS great fun, and I hope that by taking a break, I'll really start to miss the big bike and I'll be able to stoke again.

09-07-2003, 11:58 PM
I've only ridden a tandem twice, and loved it- but the captain/ date was a wuss and starting screaming when I stood on a climb and started rocking the bike. Habit, especially once I found you can accelerate uphill on those puppies. He did not enjoy 40 mph. That was our last date. I'm looking for a big strong guy to haul *** with now.
What I want to know, is how you get the captain not to wreck your right knee when he stops spinning. Women who do a lot of stoker work tell me this has broken up marriages :p , and I'd like to find another tandem partner ('nother woman is fine, just really like the speed of the things!) but need to know the tricks. Do you read the cadence and follow when it slows, does the captain give a special grunt, what? This guy would just stop his legs with no warning and jerk my knee HARD! I have a time trial hammerhead style so this was probably a mismatch made in bike hell, but how do you all communicate?


09-08-2003, 03:59 AM
Hi Lizzy,

Sorry you had such a bad experience with your temporary captain on a tandem! Novice captains can take awhile to train, but they are always supposed to call out changes such as "stop pedaling". You should not get your knees jammed like that!

Experienced tandem pairs often get to the point where a lot of the calling out from captain to stoker is unnecessary as they develop a sort of sixth sense, knowing each other's riding styles so well, and can anticipate shifts, coasting, standing, etc. But early on, it is part of the captain's responsibilities to call out just about everything (bumps, coasting/stretch breaks, major shifts (front chainring at least), turns, upcoming climbs or descents, etc.

Or at least that is the way it is supposed to work! Good luck finding a more sensitive captain! ;)


09-08-2003, 04:12 AM
Thom's just a little bit taller than me, so I can usually see what's coming up and I know when he's going to slow down and coast. I also give up pedal control. He's the captain, he can see what's coming up far better than I can. But we've been together for twenty years too so we often think alike. :p And communication is key. I almost always tell Thom when I'm getting a drink or going to blow my nose to the left - those actions give the bike a little wiggle. Standing by yourself really causes the bike to wobble and if he was a new captain I can see him being freaked by it. It also really changes what the cadence is for the captain. Riding a tandem is certainly a situation where you have to communicate with each other somehow.


09-08-2003, 11:00 AM
Thanks. girls. Part of the problem is that I'm such a bigger stronger rider than Louie I should have been on the front anyway. The guy is not nessasarily the automatic captain from what I understand- it's the stronger rider. And standing to sprint wasn't going to put the bike down, I would have known it. Some people just aren't meant to be together. He should have thought through what putting a gonzo rider who can smoke him on the back seat would mean.
Anyway, he's been riding tandems for years, always with a different girl on the back. What does this tell us? :D


09-08-2003, 03:12 PM
Hmm... sounds like he needs lessons in communication. ;) Part of the problem with women captaining and a guy stoker is the way the bikes are manufactured. The bigger compartment tends to always be in the front. Our bike is a small/small and Thom has about two more inches than I do. We've talked about switching off captaining, but I have saddle issues. Frankly, I don't want to do it because it's nice to sit on the back and watch the scenery, take pictures, yak with other riders and he's much better at up front communication than I am.


09-08-2003, 07:00 PM
Originally posted by missliz
The guy is not nessasarily the automatic captain from what I understand- it's the stronger rider.

True, but just remember that on a "winery ride" it's the STOKER who gets to drink all the wine :D

Perhaps you can find a bigger, stronger captain.

09-08-2003, 07:35 PM
:D Very good point- and well taken. Only go on winery rides with big strong men. LOL and mind in the gutter... Good night at the gym and lots of endorphins, no captains in sight though. What a waste of youth when I should be squandering it.
Actually I think I need the big strong rider boyfreind, then we can work out tandem issues from there ;) .