Advice Required for Communicating with a Deaf/Blind Person on a Tandem

Discussion in 'Tandem and Other Bikes' started by GoodbyeGirl, 28 Jul 2016.

  1. Have also posted this is Adaptive and Disabled Cycling thread.

    I am partially sighted and hard of hearing (I wear hearing aids). My hubby and I took delivery of a tandem today and need advice on how best to communicate.
    I assume I will be best off leaving my aids out due to sweat, rain and possibly being uncomfortable with a cycle hemet on (private aids so not cheap either) and as a VI person I can't rely on hand gestures from my hubby so we are thinking about some kind of communication device (I can hear music etc. through in ear headphones so am not completely deaf).

    Any recommendations/advice appreciated.
  2. srw

    srw It's a bit more complicated than that...

    I'll say up-front that I don't know anything about being a partially sighted or hard-of-hearing cyclist. But I have been piloting tandem (with @rvw, who hears and sees clearly) for a few years now.

    What we have found is that most of our communication is now non-verbal, almost telepathic. She recognises that I need to stop pedalling or change gear as if by magic. There are three main bits of verbal communication we use, only one and a bit of which will probably be a bother for you.

    The first is that @rvw is usually in charge of map-reading and navigation, and needs to tell me where to go. The second is that I rely on her to tell me when she can see that the road behind is clear so that we can manoeuvre. I also usually rely on her to signal to traffic so that I've got both hands on the bars for turning - you and your husband will need to decide whether that's something for you to consider. Most importantly for her, she needs to tell me when she's getting uncomfortable, and that's something you will need to do.

    I rarely need to communicate to her, and we can go quite a while without exchanging a word. So you may not need a communication device once you're both used to riding - if both of you are comfortable with periods of quiet, and can find a way for you to express your needs to your husband.

    On the specific points you raise - cycle helmets are strictly optional, because there's (almost) no real evidence that they're useful. There's a very long thread on the forum if you really want to know more... So if a helmet plus a hearing aid is uncomfortable, pick the one that you feel you need more. With practice you will find that sweating is less of an issue than you think - and if expensive private hearing aids really can't cope with rain (in Northumberland!) then your supplier needs a stern talking to! Of course I don't know if they're rendered less effective by wind noise. Is it possible to get hold of a clip-on microphone that creates a private loop system that your husband can wear?
  3. Ian H

    Ian H Guru

    East Devon
    Some tandemists do use a wired communication system. I have always used a 'soft' change to freewheel so that the stoker can sense I'm ceasing to pedal. You will probably quickly become in tune with each other so you anticipate gear changes. Ideally, when stopping, the stoker stays on/in the pedals and the pilot puts his/her foot down.
  4. Dave 123

    Dave 123 Guru

    I was thinking about what @srw said while out on our tandem today.
    I'm on the front of the tandem (pilot) and what I do Mrs Dave can just fall in with/respond automatically, and I think you'll develop that feel/anticipation just from getting out and riding.

    As with SRW, Mrs Dave is in charge of signals and navigation if we're in foreign lands.

    She will say "I'm just going to......" Get my phone/take my jacket off/ reach for a drink.

    The one I do like a warning for is a "shufty in my seat" which means she is about to take her undercarriage off the saddle, kind of do a medium sized forward hip thrust, and rearrange her bits. The force from this if it happens unannounced could be enough to induce a wobble.
    Not sure where 'shufty'came from!

    One thing she will do still is look at gardens, reach the pannier, generally not pay attention. You can feel the leverage of her body not being in line with the bike. Whilst this isn't catastrophic, you can certainly feel it on the front!

    One thing I do is pull up at the side of the road as if I'm on a solo bike, so the tandem is at 15° to the kerb. Fine for me, not So good for her! I think it adds to her excitement!

    Just do very short rides round the block to start with. Get off at the end of the lap and tell each other what you felt/thought. Repeat a few times.

    Whatever you do, get out and ride and have a great time!
    stoatsngroats likes this.
  5. BambiLegs

    BambiLegs Active Member

    We've only been tandeming for 10 months or so. My other half is quite a bit shorter than me and can't see the road with me on the front. She likes a commentary on what is coming up, if I'm changing gear, going round pot holes, slowing down, turning left/right etc which I'm not used to doing as a solo rider. Also, as Dave 123 mentions above it's good to give the Pilot feedback on what you are up to on the back, stretching out, if you need the cadence to be faster/slower etc.
    We found that wind and traffic noise made this harder (and more frustrating) than we expected! I had planned to check out motor cycle intercom systems, but other circumstances meant we had to change from the classic style tandem to the Hase Pino which has made a huge difference to our cycling.
    Good luck with riding, practise makes perfect as they say, and give us a wave if you see us on the road in Northumberland :-)
  6. Noru

    Noru Well-Known Member

  7. millerkd

    millerkd Member

    My friend is partially sighted so I have to remember to say what I'm doing like turning left or right or slowing down. The first time we went out on the tandem he was turning the handlebars to steer but of course he can't steer. Takes a bit of practice, but hopefully he's getting a bit of independence back instead of being told he can't do something.
    We walked up and back down Snowdon a few months ago, people kept stopping him and chatting to him to say good on you.
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