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    How do you ride a tandem?  
    We just bought a what?

Okay, so as usual, Amy and the Grahamcrackers are doing things backwards. Found a great deal on a Burley Rumba, less than a year old, great shape, and now what do I do with the thing????? My husband's got clipless pedals (?) I have no idea what those are. I am, however, looking forward to not being left behind when the two of us ride together. Any words of advise? encouragement?

Amy and the Grahamcrackers

In the immortal words of Freddy Mercury: "GET ON YOUR BIKE AND RIDE!"
(Yes, I know, he said "bikes", but you've only got the one between you now!)

Scott Saulsbury

The captain gets on first, and with his legs in a wide stance, holds the bike. The stoker gets on next, sits on the seat, and places both feet on pedals. We like to have the left pedal at about two o'clock. When both of you are situated and ready to go the captain will work his feet toward the center line, place his left (in our case) foot onto the left pedal, pushing down, lifting his butt onto the seat and you’re off. That’s pretty much it. In five years I've only dropped the bike twice, it’s pretty embarrassing but since you’re stopped not tooooooooo ugly.

When riding the stoker needs to be very still. The stoker can steer the bike by moving around. It is very scary for a novice captain, so sit still back there.

Communication is important. The pedals go around together. If one rider stops pedaling abruptly the second rider stops pedaling abruptly. Perhaps painfully abruptly!

You do not get to coast and stretch and get up off the seat at your leisure. These actions must be mutually coordinated. Communicate.

Stopping. The stoker can stay on the seat and in the pedals unless getting off. The bike comes to a stop the captain holds it up, kinda the reverse of starting. If this is a momentary stop, like a stop sign, the stoker remains on the bike. Once the stoker gets off the bike the stoker holds the bike until the captain dismounts by swinging a leg over the FRONT of the bike. Don't release the bike until the captain is all the way off.

Ok, that’s how to do it, now go have fun. Our first ride was around the block. That was plenty far enough. Our second ride was around the block twice. That was far enough. Then we did three or four miles on a country road. That was far enough. Now we have done several week long tours, the North West Tandem Rally, STP, eight centuries, thirty five hundred miles this year. It's great fun if you can stand each other.....


My stoker tells me I left out the most important item. The captain MUST call out the bumps and avoid them... The captain MUST keep the stoker happy...


Me as the captain, my granddaughter, Adrianne (nickname Adi) age 10, as the stoker, I've learned a lesson well.

While I'm straddling the tandem, securely holding it, waiting for Adi to mount or dismount I have learned to keep my legs positioned kind of bow legged enough so a pedal can't hit one of my legs. When we were first getting used to the tandem, Adi, would sometimes quickly spin the crack one full rotation so she can reposition the front pedal, slamming one of the front pedals into the back of my calf on the up stroke. I'd cry out in pain for her to please let me know what she's doing before she does it. Communication is very important! Now, even though I always remind her to be careful of the pedal, I ALWAYS keep my legs position so a spinning pedal will miss me.

Now that we're experienced enough as a team, after my reminder she doesn't do it anymore, but I still don't take any chances. I also make her aware of what's coming up ahead of us, speed bump, light gravel, rough road, etc. or I'll get hollered at.

Tandem cycling is the best way to bond two people by being a team, building great memories, and sharing a lot of nice conversations. We grew very close. Adrianne got so much enjoyment when we'd be cycling through a small town or housing area and kids would holler, "Wow, what a cool bike" Adi would just gleam and say "We know it". It's too bad Adi's mom moved her to Texas.

Nanette "seeking a stoker" Hoheisel

Oh my gawd!!! We took the tandem out for the maiden run. After two attempts with the trick pedals we traded them out to plain old flat pedals. What a difference! We made a fair run down the block about half a mile, talking, giggling, and having a great time, only turning back when I reminded David that we had left the two little kids in the care of their older sisters. On the way back I even ventured to reach up and scratch David's back. The next thing is a 10 mile loop. I love this, he does not ride away from me, I can hear what he is saying. I wish we had done this years ago.

Thank you for all the advice.... this has been great, and I am looking forward to CO next year.

Amy and the Grahamcrackers

David says the stoker must rub the captain's back! Actually I love this. Tomorrow we are going to do ten miles with the trailer and the little kids.

Amy " stoke me, stoke me" and the Grahamcrackers

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Amy, Bob and Nannette have summed up the technicalities of tandeming very well so all I can add are a few tidbits:

1. The first rule of tandeming is "the Stoker is always right." Actually, Mike and I have modified that to "the Stoker is never wrong" to capture the fact that the stoker shouldn't be held responsible for unpredictable reactions to unknown conditions.

2. Trust your captain. Early on I would close my eyes on big, fast descents and chant my mantra "Mike won't crash, Mike won't crash, if I just sit still Mike won't crash". It wasn't long before I was taking those descents with eyes wide open, begging for more speed.

3. The stoker, especially a kid stoker, should have a rear-view mirror and a bell. Put the stoker in charge of keeping the captain informed of upcoming traffic AND communicating the team's intentions back to that traffic. A bell is great for social contact with the passers-by who almost always smile at tandems, when they scowl at (or ignore) singles.

4. Indulge in a set of matching jerseys. Talk about feeling like a TEAM!

5. The captain should remember that he has no pockets any longer – the stoker simply has front pockets and back pockets. Take care of handing stuff forward (handkerchief, food, etc.) so the captain can focus on captaining.

6. Find a copy of the book "The Tandem Scoop" by John Schubert.

7. You're in the Eugene area, right? Contact Burley, Bike Friday, or Co-Motion to see if there are any tandem group rides happening. There was a tandem club starting down there, but I don't know what their current status is.

8. Ride, ride, ride, and HAVE FUN!

The Other Amy, Stoker
Team Tangerine Dream

1. Join tandem@hobbes, a special interest listserv for tandem riders. Be warned - it's pretty dry and technical in the winter.

2. Team NW Tandemonium has a group in YahooGroups that you may want to join. There's not much traffic as the list supplements the monthly club newsletter, but you may hear of upcoming events.

3. Plan on spending time at the Northwest Tandem Rally. These events are WAY fun and have rides that range from family to hardbody skill level, in addition to lots of food and socializing.

Amy C. Buondonno

Jim and I got a tandem a couple of years ago. It's great, even from the beginning, to be able to ride together. However, there is some compromise involved as each rider has to adjust their personal riding style a bit to make it work. I have an analogy comparing tandeming to sex: It's great from the start, but it really gets good after you do it awhile and develop some finesse.

Ann Morrow
Stoker, Team Tangerine Scream

Tandeming has become the way of life here at the Grahamcrackers' house. The kids and I used to wait for David to come in from a ride. Now we all ride. Things to get used to: COMMUNICATION, FUN, PERSONAL TIME WITH LOVED ONE IN EARSHOT. Actually the communication is the hardest and the best part of riding a tandem. The captain NEEDS to tell the stoker about bumps, down bumps are less painful than "up bumps". David will tell you that "butt rubs" are the best on a tandem, I think it is just being able to ride with the person I love. He rides at a different level than I do so he used to leave me in the dust. Now... when I tire or can not keep up his pace, I just ease up on the pedals, he takes more of the load and hence... we ride. Now we have a trail a bike for the four year old... Captain, Stoker and Rear Admiral. (His job is to yell, "Go faster") and to help pedal when mom poops out.

Amy and David Graham

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  Page Last Updated: Jan. 20, 2003  
    CyclingSite > CO Collected Wisdom > What to Take > Bikes > Tandems  

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