Riding a tandem is teamwork - yes the captain can see where you're going, has the brakes, gears and steering, but the stoker can do the looking behind for traffic without wobbling the whole bike about, can indicate, can navigate (I saw one couple where the captain had a map pinned to his back for the stoker to read...)
Most importantly, work-out how you're going to start and stop, otherwise one or both of you will lose skin from your shins and you'll hate one another.
Then talk to one another - the captain needs to keep communicating with the stoker, who can't see what's coming.
It all just becomes automatic very quickly, but...
To start :-
- captain gets on bike, straddles it with both feet on floor and holds it steady
- only now does stoker get on bike, gets on saddle both feet on pedals, gets comfy
- when stoker is ready to go, rotates pedals so the captain's preferred start pedal is top-of-stroke
- captain puts one foot onto pedal and asks stoker if it's clear behind from traffic
- when stoker says yes, captain pushes off
- if captain struggles getting into cleats, stoker can pedal strongly and captain with one leg until upto speed : particularly useful for pulling out of junctions, hill starts, etc
To stop :-
- captain tells stoker you're stopping, brakes to halt
- captain puts both feet down, straddles bike, holds it steady
- only now does stoker put feet down and get off
To stop temporarily, e.g. at a junction
- captain puts one foot down to steady bike
- stoker stays clipped in, rotates pedals ro top-of-stroke
- then like starting above
To turn right, pull-out to pass a parked car, etc
- captain tells stoker that's what's happening
- stoker checks behind for traffic, tells captain if it's clear, sticks arm out to indicate
For captain to irritate stoker
- bump through potholes, etc without warning stoker
- start to brake or change front ring without warning stoker
- swerve or change direction sharply without warning stoker
- get out of saddle and 'honk' without warning stoker (i.e. stick your bum in their face...)
- fart, with or without warning stoker
For stoker to get own back
- jab captain hard in kidneys
I think a tandem's great. Mrs wrx isn't as keen a cyclist as me, so if we go out I keep having to wait and she keeps feeling I'm not waiting. But go out on the tandem and we can ride together, talk to one another.
It's like a big powerful but lumbering truck - tons of grunt, fast in a straight line but without sprint accelleration, fairly unmanoevrable.
Far faster than a solo on the flat, for a given amount of effort, goes like stink downhill, pretty quick up long shallow drags.
Just a bit of an effort on steeper stuff, but that does get a lot better with practice, as you learn to work together in time rather than fight one another - first time you try to honk up a steep hill you'll spend more effort on balancing the thing than climbing, but it gets better.