Tandem Virgin Needs Advice

Discussion in 'Beginners' started by PaulSB, 27 Nov 2007.

  1. PaulSB

    PaulSB Legendary Member

    I suppose this should go in Special Interests but there doesn't seem to be much activity in there! Apologies.

    I just purchased a second-hand tandem. Very similar to this http://www.tandems.co.uk/products/tandems/pegasus but about 4 years old. From the picture it seems the only substantial difference is mine has front fork suspension and front disc brakes. The bike is in superb condition, in fact my LBS who originally supplied it, called me to tip me off it was up for sale.

    I'm an experienced cyclist, 60-80 mile rides generally OK, 100 a couple of times a year. My son will be 19 on Saturday, he has Downs Syndrome and at his age is clearly too big for a trailer bike. He can't ride a bike on his own due to balance and awareness probelms. We hired a tandem for a couple of days last summer with great success, and Tom always enjoyed the trailer bike when he was younger. So I have high hopes this will prove to be a good birthday present.

    I'd really like to hear from experienced tandem riders on how best to learn any special techniques etc. Would also be interested to know of anyone else who has used a tandem for similar purposes.

    Should mention Tom will be the stoker.
  2. Cathryn

    Cathryn California Correspondant

    I spent a weekend in France as my Dad's stoker this summer and it was a fantastic experience. From a stoker's perspective there were a few things I'd say. Be careful which gear you're in. Dad's legs are much stronger than mine, and he chose gears higher than I would choose, which resulted in achey legs even though I'm fitter and do more cycling.

    Balance is quite key, so it might be worth doing a lot of practise on quiet roads etc before you do a decent outling. Getting on is particularly difficult - we ended up that I'd sit on and take my feet off the pedals till Dad had got on and pushed off as we found it so hard to start pedalling in sync.

    But it'll be fantastic!!!
  3. My boss, a keen cyclist has a downs son, Joe 19, who rides tandem with him. I shall ask him tomorrow if he'll come on't forum to share his experiences. Joe rides on the front of a rear steer (recumbent front) bike so dad can keep an eye on him. Getting him to pedal can sometimes be a challenge!
  4. Arch

    Arch Married to Night Train

    Salford, UK

    Oh yes, the times I've heard "Pedal Joseph!" between gasps as we went up a hill in a group...:biggrin:

    Paul, I would imagine if your son is used to a trailer bike, the move to a tandem should be fairly smooth - the main tip I've heard is that the captain needs to communicate well with the stoker, warning about slowing down, bumps, gear changes etc, especially if the stoker is used to being in charge of their own bike. But it sounds like you already have that sort of experience. I hope you both have great fun on it!

    (I've never got on well on a tandem, I'm too neurotic to be stoker, and too nervous to captain...:biggrin:)
  5. PaulSB, Ive spoken to Big Jimmy McG, he would be happy have a chat about his experiences of tandeming with Joe. They have been doing it for years.

    I'll PM you with the office number.
  6. Globalti

    Globalti Legendary Member

    My wife and I hired a tandem hybrid for a day in the Lakes. We have never had more fun before or since with our clothes on.
  7. Bollo

    Bollo Failed Tech Bro

    I bought a Thorn kiddyback tandem about 4 months back to get around town with the littl'n and for family days out. I had a firm eye on the 100 day money back as I handed over the credit card, as I wasn't sure how Bolletta would take to it. Although the weight difference is much greater than most tandem teams, we both took to it much quicker than expected, with no problems at all with control or balance.

    The main differences I've noticed are that its a lot trickier to ride out of the saddle on a tandem, so you find yourself needing to spin up even short inclines (no bad thing). For mounting and dismounting.,I usually get on first and get off last to avoid doling out a ninja kick to Bolletta. Also, if its deraillieur geared, you'll have to anticipate stops and starts a little more, as it can be more difficult to get going in a too small or too large gear.

    Sheldon Brown has plenty of tandem tips, although I think he makes it all sound a little daunting. There's the Tandem Club as well, but most of the site is members only.

    One side effect of tandem riding I've noticed is that most people find it enough of a novelty to raise a smile, and motorists cut you a bit more slack.

    Oh, and its difficult to pull a wheelie.
  8. OP

    PaulSB Legendary Member

    Thanks for the replies and especially to the people who have taken the trouble to PM me. I shall be following it all up over the next few days.

  9. Tandems are tremendous fun, and not that difficult to get the hang of if you're used to a solo bike. Enjoy yourselves!
  10. Use the 'Search' facility (on blue bar at top of page) and look for 'tandem' - there's been a few decent threads on the subject previously.
    Below was something I posted on one previously - some of it will apply better than others to your particular circumstance, but I think it's a great idea, you and your son will be able to cycle together, enjoy it together.
    Have fun !

    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.
  11. OP

    PaulSB Legendary Member

    Now that's excellent. Tom gets to know about the bike on Saturday and some of what I had been planning was the complete opposite of your advice.

    When we hired in the summer Tom got on first as stoker and I sort of leapt on in the captain's role!!!!!!!! Will obviously change that straight away. About 10.00am Saturday Chorley is in for a treat!!!!!!
  12. cyclebum

    cyclebum Senior Member

    I have never ridden tandem and know nothing about them, but what a wonderful idea and I'm sure you'll both have hours of fun, saturday should be a very special day and I wish I could be in Chorley to wave you on.
    I have a sister with a mental handicapp (or whatever the current PC title is) and I know the importance of encouraging their special interests, my sister has always had a thing for music.

    Happy cycling :biggrin::biggrin:
  13. Jacomus-rides-Gen

    Jacomus-rides-Gen New Member

    Guildford / London
    Please keep us updated PaulSB, this is wonderful to hear about, and shall be passing this lot onto one of my mothers friends who is in a very similar situation to yourself.
  14. OP

    PaulSB Legendary Member

    OK Jacomus I'll do that while trying not to get too boring about things! It's pouring in Lancashire so today's planned ride has to be shelved, it isn't just wet it's really cold, wet rain!!

    Tom's reaction to the tandem was literally "wow!" with a lage smile, the idea seems to be working in principle. We had a 10-15 minute whizz round our village yesterday morning with everyone coming out of their houses to have a good laugh at me urging Tom to push! Our road is setted (cobbled), quite steep and it was damp! ( I always ride my road bike on the pavement, so you gte the picture). I feel confident this is going to work. We will have to develop a getting on / off technique, the tyres clearly need to be inflated higher than I expected and I think I shall have to take my rhythm from Tom's. I already knew from the summer experience if he stops pedalling it's a bugger and our short spin yesterday showed this again.

    Communication will be fun as I think I shall be having to talk Tom through things for sometime - push, pedal, faster, slower etc. I should explain Tom's communication is limited by dyspraxia - in simple terms this means he may conceive an idea but the workings between his brain and his mouth make it extremely difficult to form the words. Sign language doesn't work on a tandem!!!!! So Tom won't be telling me when he decides to slow down, he'll just do it.

    As soon as we get decent weather we will be out and I'll report back for those who are interested.

    BTW Jacomus I went to school at St. Peters, Merrow
  15. Arch

    Arch Married to Night Train

    Salford, UK
    I don't know, so this may not be a useful idea, but could you organise some sort of tactile codes for him to tell you stuff by tapping you on the back? A sort of sign by touch? Even if it was just a tap to say he wants to slow down or whatever? Or if you could, a tap up high on the shoulder for one thing, down low on the back for another...
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