A tandem tickle

A two-person tandem can let a parent share the adventure of riding with a child who is not fit or skilled enough to ride on their own, allow a couple who don’t usually pedal the same pace or distance to enjoy a ride together, or offer crazy racing for two strong riders. However, there are a few things to bear in mind:

The rider at the front is called the captain for a good reason. This person is completely responsible for steering, choosing gears, and braking. The one at the back is called a stoker, and their primary function is to help pedal. More experienced riders may battle to trust someone else to be in charge of their ride, but tandem riding with an inexperienced stoker is easy. These partners rarely have strong opinions about gears, pedal speed, and steering, and won’t cause the bike to lean when they try to help you balance.

How to get on the bike:

The captain has to stand with feet wide apart on the ground and firmly hold the brakes to keep the bike stable while the stoker gets on. Although clip in pedals are not essential for stokers if they aren’t comfortable with them, they are more efficient. To avoid hitting the captain on the back of the leg with a pedal, the stoker has to try to clip in without moving the pedals too much. At stops it is usually easiest for the stoker to just stay clipped in and still, while the captain steps down and keeps the bike stable.

What a new captain needs to get used to:

  • Because you can't just change direction by leaning your hips, you have to pull on the bars. For this reason, tandem riding at first feels like an upper body workout for the captain.
  • Click down a gear when you have to stop, because it takes quite a bit of pressure to start rolling again. If your stoker is strong, they can really help with this.
  • Stopping takes longer.
  • Remember to warn the stoker if there’s a bump or sharp turn ahead, because they can’t see it coming.
  • Rather don't ride in traffic or bunches until you are more experienced so you know how the bike behaves.
  • The length of the tandem does make it very stable on a turn. On an MTB track the people around you will be amazed at what you can manage.
  • Just be careful about loading the tandem on your bike rack. It can easily stick out too far on one side if you don’t position it carefully.
  • One thing you don’t need to be worry about is climbing with a youngster on the back of the bike. Because they are light you are hardly aware of having to carry a child. For this reason a tandem makes it possible to share the adventure of companionship on a very long ride with a child.

Read here - an article which possibly has detailed answers to every tandem question you might have!

What you’ll learn from riding a tandem:

  • The pedal strength of two pairs of legs on flat roads can be amazing. Enjoy!
  • On downhills the combination of your body weights can add a splendid push.
  • On climbs you have to click down, because then you have to pay for the combined weight ;-)

Overcoming the personality problems while riding a tandem:

  • Some pairs just get along well, but riders who have very different attitudes about the choice of gears, the line chosen through a turn, how hard they brake on a descent and so on . This does lead to tension on the ride.
  • Pedal speed is often a bit of a pickle because more experienced riders pedal faster and freewheel less than riders who are less fit and confident. Try and find a compromise somewhere in the middle.
  • Keeping the bike stable while standing takes practice, but you can also take turns to stand if you struggle to do it together. To offer a power boost and feel more useful, it helps for the stoker to stand and pedal quite hard on steep sections, but only if they have the legs to do this.
  • To get going it also helps for the stoker to press quite hard, because the bike is more stable once it rolls, and then the captain can clip in comfortably.

Apart from kids, couples and fellow racers, tandems also offer a great way to allow disabled people who can be very fit, but not able to ride on their own to experience what cyclists enjoy. Even very unfit old people can be offered this adventure, and it sometimes makes it possible to strengthen their bodies in a way they would never have dreamed of achieving.

There were approximately 440 riders who entered the Cycle Challenge with tandem partners in 2016 - you can too!CLICK HERE!

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