Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Tandem Experience

this and further images: courtesy of Pamela Blalock

In conclusion to a rather unusual, entertaining and exhausting weekend, yesterday afternoon I rode on the back of a tandem - with endurance cyclist and racer John Bayley, or, as he is known in his native tongue, Fear Rothar (I'll let you figure that one out).

This was a moment I'd dreamt of for some time! Four years ago my husband and I rented an upright tandem on Cape Cod and rode it back and forth along the bike path. At the time, it had only been months since I'd started riding a bike of any kind, and neither of us had tried a tandem before. But despite initial fumblings, it was great fun. The more time passed, the more fondly I remembered it and the more I wanted to try it again - especially once I got into road cycling. With a fast and competent captain, I reasoned, I could experience a ride beyond the limit of my own meager handling skills and speed. So when John offered me to hop on the back of the tandem, I didn't need to be asked twice.

Overall, the process was far more intuitive and natural than I'd anticipated. For those unfamiliar with tandems, the person in front is called the captain, and the person in the rear the stoker. The captain steers, while the stoker goes with the flow and contributes pedaling power. The stoker's pedaling strokes are "fixed" to the captain's, which means that the captain controls the cadence, the gear changes, as well as when to pedal vs when to coast. Starting out, John mounted the bike by swinging his leg over the front and stood over the top tube holding the bike upright. I then swung my leg over the rear, and clipped my right foot in, bringing the pedals to where he wanted them to be. Then John clipped his right foot in. Then he pushed off and we both clipped in the left foot simultaneously. All of this happened fairly quickly and required minimal verbal communication. Subsequent stops and starts were even easier, because John prefers the stoker to remain on the bike with both feet clipped in. This made things pretty simple for me: At stops all I had to do was essentially act as luggage.

An important part of what made all of this work, I think, is that I had full confidence in the captain's ability to keep the bike upright. John is an extremely skilled cyclist who has been captaining tandems for 20 years. I also know him to be a responsible and considerate person. Secure in this, there was trust on my end from the get-go. We clipped in and off we went, with no tentativeness or false starts.

Now, all of this was happening in mountainous northern Vermont, where a group of us was staying over the weekend. There were no flat stretches where we were situated, only long ups and downs with steep grades and lots of dirt. We started off going downhill along a sweeping dirt road, before turning left onto the main road, which led us up a winding climb for a few miles. Once at the top, John did a nimble u-turn and we bombed down the same winding hill.

The experience of being on the back of the bike was wonderful. I was just in heaven for the entire ride. I enjoyed feeling the bike steered by another rider and accommodating to it. I imagine this is a "love it" or "hate it" sort of thing, as it does require the stoker to give up control and to trust the captain's handling. In my case, this was not a problem. Just as I'd hoped, I was able to experience things that I could not have done on my own: more extreme leans, faster speed, expert maneuverability. It was all tremendously exciting. I was only scared once, and that was when we first started descending. It was faster than my concept of "bike speed" had previously entailed and I felt lightheaded. But once I got used to it (and there was plenty of time for that, as it was a long hill!) I began to enjoy it.

Though not as thrilling as downhill, going uphill on the tandem was pretty nice. John is extremely strong and was spinning the cranks in a higher gear than I could have managed on my own. I contributed as much as I could, amazed at the sensation of spinning instead of grinding, at that grade, in that gear.

As the stoker, there is always the question of how much you're contributing as opposed to taking it easy and soft-pedaling while the captain puts in the real effort. My impression is that I was contributing when I felt myself pushing against a distinct resistance in the cranks. This is a different feeling from the resistance I feel when riding a single bike, but nonetheless there is feedback.

I found the switch from coasting to pedaling and vice-versa to be surprisingly intuitive and did not feel a need for the captain to warn me when switching; my feet would just immediately adapt. Same with switching gears. Surprisingly, I was somehow almost able to anticipate when John was about to coast, or start pedaling again, or switch gears. And the entire time, his cadence felt suspiciously perfect. I am not sure whether he was regulating his cadence to accommodate what he thought I'd be comfortable with, or whether this was his natural rhythm - but we were spinning at a decent rate the entire time, which felt great.

I know fairly little about the world of tandems, but one thing I've noticed is the difference in space allocated to the stoker. In some pictures of tandemists you see the stoker's face practically digging into the captain's back, whereas in others you see them set far apart. John and Pamela's tandem is somewhere in between. Had I wanted to, I could have leaned down to reach John's lower back with my chin when in the drops.  But it wasn't so tight as to feel claustrophobic or uncomfortable. I have seen tandems where the stoker is basically "spooning" the captain.

Since this is the only road tandem I've been on, it would not make sense to attempt a review of any kind, but the ride quality felt pretty good on the 650Bx42mm tires, and in particular I noticed that I felt less "bouncing" than I do on single bikes. While I had no control over braking power, the discs worked very well in John's hands.

We did not do anything extreme on this ride, figuring a relatively tame spin over hilly roads was enough for my first stoker experience. But John did wow me with his tandem track-standing skills at stops, as well as with his ability to maneuver the long bike through tight spaces. The way I remember it, we actually started on the front porch, at which point John steered the bike down the steps, onto the lawn, in between some parked cars, around the picnic table and over the stone fence - as I hung on for dear life and his lovely spouse snapped pictures. "You can have him for free this once," she said, "but next time I'm charging a rental fee." Fair enough!

Based on others' feedback, it is clear that stoking a tandem is not for everyone. Some riders cannot stand the loss of control (I don't mind, assuming I trust the person in front). Others complain about the limited view (I found that turning my face a bit solved that problem). Finally, there are riders who just cannot get in sync enough to make a tandem ride work. I found riding with John enormously fun and would love to ride again with such a fantastic captain.

Interested in tandem advice from experienced couples? Here is a detailed guide from the Blayleys and a "411" from Chasing Mailboxes.

92 comments:

  1. Heh, there's no way I'd ever want to be stoker. My husband and I saw one go past the other day, and agreed that it'd be hilarious for five minutes, but after that we'd drive each other nuts no matter who captained. (I captain when we canoe, reversing the usual gender-based positions, but the captain-equivalent of a tandem canoe is in the *back*, so the stoker-equivalent is up in the front with the best view and the job of alerting the captain to hazards s/he can't see, so the control issues are reduced.)

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  2. That first priceless picture says it all! Jim Duncan

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    1. Yea it doesn't resemble the writing. Wasn't there a post about that?

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  3. Glad you had a good tandem experience, its great fun if it suits you, but its got to suit you both. We've been riding one for more than 20 years, not so much recently as the after effects of a broken and dislocated elbow make it hard work. A good captain will have you doing unbelievable speeds, we've been up over 55mph. A bad tandem though is scary, the feeling that the stoker was coming past me caused us to get rid of our Motobecane tandem.

    Fear Rothar - something to do with a bad experience whilst listening to Neu!

    Funny to come across the Blayleys here after Pamela being a stalwart of tandem@hobbes

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    1. Things will get better. I shattered my distal humerus when I was 21 (1975) and have been riding a tandem for the better part of 24 years. Adjusting your handlebars, stem, and levers to accommodate (my arm is permanently bent) and adapt to a new position takes time, but is well worth the trouble. Good Luck!

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  4. I admit I never had a chance to ride on a tandem bike before and there is one thing that I can't find answer for - how both of you would handle the bike if you ride out-of-saddle(s), stepping on your pedals at higher gear? Is this doable on a tandem?

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    1. Yes, though we did not do this. Both riders can stand up, or just the captain, with the stoker remaining seated. When both riders stand up, the coordination in movements required is fairly advanced and might require some practice.

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    2. My wife and I have been riding tandems for quite a few years.....we both find it no more difficult to ride out of the saddle (individually or collectively) on a tandem than it is on a single bike.

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  5. You are positively beaming in the photos! Wow, what fun to try their tandem. I for one had a terrible experience trying a tandem. It was too big for my husband and I, I was TERRIFIED and hated the lack of control. I kept yelling stop stop, as I was really scared. I think I'd have to be the captain! The tandem we tried was an old vintage bike and it seemed to assume the the taller rider, or the man would be up front, little person/lady in back. Someone recently had a beautiful UK made lugged tandem for sale in the area which I seriously considered, but we didn't have the funds at the time. Despite my fear I understand it could be a great way for us to get around, and for when we have visitors like his daughters who have no desire to ride a bike at all, but it's the only way to town. I have seen people on tandems working wonderfully together and it looks so fun. It would actually be great to have a my husband is a beast of a rider, and I'm sickly enough at times to need to be pulled like 'luggage'.

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  6. Today's Notables:

    Trusting experience.
    Focusing on the tires, not referencing combined weight.
    Pictures of you riding a bike. And enjoying it.
    Rapha/Capo kit - what happened to the rash.
    Of course discs work well. Why wouldn't they?


    Speaking of Mr. Hetres Jan I heard he pronounced his bikes equally fast to Ti bikes. Wow. Shocker.

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    1. Jersey in the picture is Woolistic, not Rapha.

      My experience contradicts the experience Jan describes in that article.

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    2. Your experience is honest, let's say. My experience with his tests is their methodology is purposefully flawed. What a waste of time, but I'm sure he sold a few copies of his 'zine†.

      † as distinguished from a science journal.

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    3. The tubing on Jan's frame and fork is so thin I don't expect there is all that much a weight difference between it and many a Ti bike.

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    4. Matthew - There is a weight difference, especially with complete bikes. I believe Jan has stated his bike's weight as around 25lb (same as my Rawland), whereas a ti Seven built up as road/race should be under 17lb.

      I suggest we hold off on debating this further here, dedicated post about this stuff coming v soon.

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  7. Hey, a smile! Great photo, Pamela :)

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    1. It's easy to take good photos when you have such good models!

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  8. I totally get the control part... some captain/stoker pairs just can't work. One of my daughters "gets" it-- she follows my cues exactly regarding cadence, when to pedal and when to freewheel, etc. It's like she's not even there.

    My other daughter simply isn't willing to give up the control, and tries to do everything to her own liking, which results in my shins getting jabbed by the pedals and the entire bike wobbling to near catastrophe. Needless to say, it just doesn't work and we can't tandem together.

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  9. I agree, great photos. I was excited a few years ago when I scored a beautiful fillet-brazed Follis 650B tandem from the 1970s. Unfortunately, my wife felt my cadence was a bit high for her (she's not a cyclist of the dyed-in-the-wool variety) and so I sold it. Lately I've been lusting after an early 80s Tom Ritchey mountain tandem that has been languishing on the local craigslist--it even has the bi-plane fork. Oh well.

    Not sure where anybody was speaking about Jan Heine, or what his article comparing Ti racing bicycles to high performance rando machines has to do with a post about riding a tandem. But to put in a similarly gratuitous defense on his behalf, having had a titanium racing bike for many years, I don't think it was any faster than other reasonably similar bicycles built of different material that I've owned. I will say that I think 650B is the perfect size wheel for tandems, and that titanium makes extra sense as a tandem material in terms of moving the bicycle around when it's not being ridden.

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    1. "Follis 650B tandem from the 1970s"

      Wow, I'd love to have seen that.

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    2. I mentioned it b/c V hadn't and it's no longer topical.

      Material doesn't matter, efficiency does, not that anyone cares.

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    3. Ti, Carbon, Aluminum, Bamboo, Steel, Thermoplastic, they all have such similar properties that you really almost have to choose sides before you can work up enough emotion to have a strong preference.

      Having chosen a favorite though, one does tend to become a fervent defender of the "TRUE FAITH".

      I like to think I could tell what a bike is made from blindfolded, wearing mittens underwater in the dark, and maybe I really could, but to say I'm faster, a better climber or whatever on one is pretty silly.

      Spindizzy

      COLOR, now that matters, RED bikes are, like totally stupid, BLUE bikes are the future...

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    4. V wrote:"Wow, I'd love to have seen that"

      Here is my ex-Follis tandem, in all its plum-colored glory. I bought it from the original owners, a French couple. It was a wedding present from her uncle, who owned a bike shop in France. They took it along when work brought them here in the 1980s. After 20-something years in the U.S., his company was calling him back. Between your post and the Ritchey tandem on CL and reminiscing about the Follis, I'm experiencing a case of seller's remorse! So many bicycles, so little time...

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  10. I found a used tandem for $100 with a very short rear (Trek T-900), and my 9-year old daughter LOVES it. I love how I can show her the joy of cycling and be a part of her rides. She hasn't learned to ride solo yet, but this is giving her the confidence to try again without training wheels (which she is actually too big for, she topples over them). I look forward to riding with her on "two singles," but we may end up doing many rides on the tandem and even upgrade to a better bike. Reading Pamela's blog about their new Seven is very inspirational!

    BTW, nice cameo in the city bike piece in Bicycling magazine. That was you, wasn't it?

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    1. Yes, that is me. Though I don't subscribe to Bicycling and have not seen the article yet.

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  11. The captain actually controls NOTHING. He merely operates the various levers. The stoker actually controls EVERYTHING. And Fear Rothar will concur!

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    1. Umm if I'm the stoker, I hope to gawd that's not the case!

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    2. Definitely. The reason some folks never get used to tandeming is because they fail to heed this key rule--the best way for a stoker to "give up control" is NOT to give it up. Smart captains understand this.

      A couple of tandem insights that are counterintuitive.......

      Santana tandems did a survey a few years ago re whether tandemists preferred to ride in the captain or in the stoker position. Most preferred the stoker position because the rider could look around more easily, rather than remain so focused on the patch of road in front of the the front tire.

      Tandem handling is totally different than single bike handling. I used to have a custom Dennis Bushnell tandem that rode remarkably well without a stoker, but with a stoker needed to be muscled around, and was subject to "stoker steer," (whenever the stoker moved even slightly, bike handling was affected.) We switched a few years ago to a Ti Santana tandem that has slower handling, and that all but eliminates stoker steer. It rides extremely well with two people on board, but handles terribly when I'm on the bike by myself.

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    3. Let me rephrase it then. If I want to stop for ice cream/coffee/hot dogs, we stop for ice cream/coffee/hot dogs. If I want to explore that road up there, we explore that road up there. If I want a lower gear, we shift to a lower gear... A captain who wants to ride with the stoker on a repeated basis will ensure that the stoker is happy and comfortable and having a good time.

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    4. "A captain who wants to ride with the stoker on a repeated basis will ensure that the stoker is happy and comfortable and having a good time."

      Truth!

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    5. I concur with Pamela. I have seen jerseys for tandem teams emblazoned "Management" for the stoker and "Labor" for the captain. Also, "Captain" (captain) and "Rear Admiral" (stoker). That's definitely the way we operate!

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    6. Fixie Pixie, you sound just like my friend Karin with her husband Bob. Her motto: "I don't give up control when I'm on the back of the tandem. He goes wherever I tell him."

      In my experience, it's all about partners being considerate of each other's desires.

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  12. Once upon a time (back in the 70s) I had the pleasure of riding on a tandem with a young lady friend. She did the steering. I didn't think I was up to the task.
    It's certainly a unique experience.
    Looks like you were having a blast.
    Wonder what tandem bike racing would be like. Probably messy.

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  13. It definitely shows in Pamela's photos that you are enjoying the ride!

    My first tandem experience as a stoker was great-- I had a great captain and I loved going fast! I would totally do it again.

    I had written about my brevet on a tandem here: http://ramblingrider.wordpress.com/2012/11/11/flatbread-200k-2012/

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    1. I enjoyed reading that posts, as well as your other randonneuring entries. You and Alice really inspired me to start this year.

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    2. Oh wow-- I'm honored that you read my blog! I've really enjoyed reading your progression towards randonneuring as well. It would be great to ride with you someday.

      Work and school have conspired to keep me away from brevets for the better part of this year so far, but I hope to get back to them soon!

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  14. I find it interesting the different riding positions of captain and stoker. Particularly the curve of the spine. I only notice it b/c I'm trying to learn how to draw people in space and that's one thing I look at...anyway, it really stands out as interesting.

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    1. Don't go by my position in the pictures. The bike was made for someone else and we didn't adjust the fit since it was a short ride.

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    2. Didn't mean to imply anything--and noticed on the Blayley blog that they truly look like a team with such similar positions--but just enjoy seeing curves, angles, patterns, etc, and this was pronounced so even my eye could see it :)

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    3. Blayley's position is such no "modern" fitter would put him in, yet obvi it works. Miles do that.

      V's back is hyperextended; that won't work over time/distance.

      That's something you just know.

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    4. I have noticed that Velouria rides with a flat back which can be seen clearly on the tandem. Not everyone (including me) finds this easy to do but based on my experience and research, it is the best posture for comfort and injury avoidance.

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    5. The way I ended up in my current position, is that when I am too upright on a bike, my back hurts across the shoulder blades some miles into the ride. If I go lower this doesn't happen. FWIW a new bike fitter recently inspected me and put me in the same position as my Seven, even though I did not bring that bike in for reference. He measured something around my hips while I pedaled in the drops and said I was unusually flexible there, could go low. Still not sure what position I will end up in if I keep increasing distance, but for <100miles my current fit feels good.

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    6. BTW she's doing different things in the pix. I'm referring to #1.

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    7. He/she was measuring your hip angle with a protractor.

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    8. There was a protractor, but also something going on beyond that. Measuring "stability" as I pedaled in different positions.

      #1 completely unnatural position; I'm twisting for the camera with my arms straight; could never ride like that.

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    9. I too have been told by several physios and fitters I've talked to that maintaining a flat lower back is key to avoiding/minimising fatigue/pain over long distances. I know from personal experience that the first sign that I'm getting tired is my low back starts to round (collapse), which puts a lot more strain on my upper back, neck and shoulders. How not to let the lower back start slumping in the first place? Strong core muscles. I can attribute my ability to go further and further, not to actually cycling further and further, but to regular Pilates sessions.

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    10. +1 stability! That's what I was trying to say! :)

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    11. V do you normally cycle with your arms bent at the elbows like in the other pics?

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    12. Yes, I usually bend my arms at the elbows. Though again, my position on the tandem as shown is not representative of my actual position on my own bikes.

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    13. Just to be clear, these photos were taken essentially in a driveway, and they are both goofing around and posing for the camera. This doesn't in anyway reflect their normal position or style on the bike. If only I could have captured when they hopped on top of my car, but I was screaming too much!

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    14. Stability measurer? Must investigate.

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    15. Fixie Pixie, precisely! This post is nice b/c it's all about goofing around, having fun, and what comes from it all :) Sometimes this blog seems too serious...I mean for the love of bicycles! ..... Let's just have some fun once and a while! Do things wrong, laugh, stay nimble. I only have one bike, so most things I do on it are probably wrong but, really, for 30 years it's been blissfully fun to use it rather than a car for all kinds of serious and stupid things:) I think you and that Fear rothar embody just that!

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    16. Serious? You bet. Be thankful I don't use flow charts.

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    17. Okay, I am thankful!! The grass is green right here:)

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    18. I have been reading both Lovely Bicycle and The Blayleys for years. But what I wanted to say was that I enjoy both your blogs (even) more since you have started to reference each other. The synergy that's happening here is great. I hope the friendship continues to grow and blossom.

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    19. Well, as we determined one snowy evening over the past weekend, it might be more than that.

      I've been having some interesting real-life chats about the relationship between a blog's/website's feel and the writer's actual personality. They are not 1:1 by any means. I've met bloggers who come across as natural, funloving and girl/boy next door types online, but are cold and aloof in person, with poor social skills. I've also met those who are the opposite, coming across as all humourless and cranky and technical online, but are hilarious and easy-going in person. Sometimes a blog is more like an alter ego, or a "persona" experiment, than an actual expression of the writer's personality.

      But also I have the sense that a female online presence is generally expected to be all FUN and whimsical and crap, not, god forbid, "serious." Something in me doesn't like that, and no doubt reacts against it.

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    20. I respect that you protect your privacy and true persona. Many blogs I follow are written by women, some of them I know personally, and they are intensely serious with regard to their subject matter. They are not frivolous. Bicycling has an odd presence with regard to if it serious or is it fun? If one blogs about bikes do they have a 'serious' life separate from the blog..do they do real things?

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    21. Now you have me wondering if my blog persona and real life persona are in sync. And I'm wondering if it's better to ask someone who knows me well in real life and then started reading my blog or to ask someone who read my blog first, then met me in real life.

      At any rate, I really value my relationships with other bloggers. It's like we understand the joy and the pain of putting ourselves out there by writing about our lives and our passions.

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    22. So I should change my avatar from fixie_pixie to darth_vader? Of course I was thinking yoda was more appropriate!

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  15. Our tandem motto was "the stoker is always right".

    With the right partner, tandems are wonderful. Fast and comfortable, you can ride with a weaker or stronger partner and talk. We once hit 58 mph on a descent in the Sierra Nevada mountains and we both loved it.

    Your smile in the photos says it all.

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  16. V, I think you forgot about hopping onto the car's roof. ;-)

    It was an absolute pleasure riding with you. You're a natural. Little things like sensing where I wanted the pedal when starting, without me saying anything, were very impressive.

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    1. Must have blocked that out, but ah yes it's coming back to me now.

      "No, not over the car, John!" I pleaded.

      "This is how we normally get the bike up there for the drive home," you explained, switching into a lower gear.

      Good times...

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  17. I've been a stoker a couple of times. Once with someone like John but new to me, a friend of a friend. I was stoking along for 20 miles inside an hour and not feeling like we were working all that hard. Second time with another friend of a friend doing hills in New Hampshire. As the stoker I set the pace, just as Fixie Pixie might say I should be able to do. One disconcerting thing happened the second time - the captain had a different sense of balance. I looked down at the top tube to the bottom tube and was convinced that the lean that I felt was the same lean I saw. The captain couldn't sense this at all. Must be that we weren't compatible.

    I owned a double kayak, which forces similar constraints on the paddlers: balance, pacing, matching paddle strokes. It worked for me with several different paddling partners but the trust in the pilot nowhere near as important as on a tandem bicycle.

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  18. BTW that's called a bike packing seat bag. Light, voluminous, capable.

    Bdltm.

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  19. Nice tandem story: Dorte and I just did a 400 km brevet on one of our old Ibis Touche tandems. We were very tired and probably tired each other during the 400 km !

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  20. So I went online last night to write up my ride report on our first tandem experience, only for Blogger to tell me you'd just posted THIS! Yay for tandems!

    http://velovoice.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/bicycle-review-and-ride-report-tandem.html

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  21. My wife and I have a Jack Taylor tandem, but have not ridden it much since moving because it is so difficult to get out the door (which involves a 90 degree bend)!

    We actually have to take the tandem out to the back yard, pass it up to the deck on the next floor up, wheel it in through the kitchen, out the front door and down the stoop to the street. Whew. Let's just ride single bikes today.

    The tandem really flies on flat open roads. Twice the power but with negligable additional drag. However, we have found that the starting and stopping involved with city roads makes the tandem feel like a chore.

    One other bummer for NYC-based tandeming, is that while the commuter trains allow single bikes, they don't allow tandems on-board. Many of our favorite cycling routes involve a train at least one direction.

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  22. Fear Rothar, that's easy, bicycle man!

    OK,OK, I'll admit that it's only easy for people from my island!

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    1. Or people with internet access and the correct search terms for translation. The world shrinks yet again. BTW that is my great grandfather's native language, long lost to me.

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    2. On the Internet, nobody knows you're a madra.

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    3. We have a winner! I was tempted to post a hint that "rothar" was not the Irish for "reaper," but held myself in check.

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    4. The Pogues thought the same in the pre-internet days, but were found out!

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    5. the pogues!! they were intense!

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  23. Why is the man usually in the front?

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    1. The man is usually larger.

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    2. One of my tandem experiences was with a woman in front. In that case it was the person with experience on a tandem. I was heavier but not by all that much. The captain's cycling experience was fading into memory, except for ownership of a couple of bikes, including the tandem, but we had fun.

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    3. My wife likes being out of the air stream behind me.

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    4. Tandem Trivia: The picture on the sheet music for the "Bicycle Built for Two" song has the woman in the stoker position.
      http://tubulocity.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/daisybellaustralia-450x595.jpg

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  24. I noticed there is what appears to be an Ortlieb Compact bag on the front; did you happen to have a chance to look at it? I've been considering one for my own bike, but haven't been able to find many opinions or reviews...

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    1. I've tried the compact front bag and find it a bit too small to be useful to me personally. However Pamela loves it, and uses it on all or most of her bikes. There is also a larger version that I will try out soon.

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    2. Did you notice much effect on handling? I know it varies from bike to bike and person to person, but I'm curious what your opinion on that is. I've tried a Carradice Super C bar bag before, and the effect was very drastic. The Ortlieb Compact, with it's slimmer design and lighter weight, seems like it would have much less impact on steering.

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    3. Well, that's the thing. When I put only lightweight items inside, no. But then I could have stored those same items in my jersey pockets. When I put my DSLR camera inside, yes I could feel an effect on handling and it wasn't good. Of course it largely has to do with the bike as well, so YMMV and all that.

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    4. PS I should add that Pamela only stores small, lightweight items in the bag. She uses it largely for its waterproof qualities, rather than storage capacity per se.

      Some of these issues are discussed in this post.

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    5. A lot depends on the bike, but as mentioned, the capacity of the small Ortlieb is such that you'd have to pack this bag with things not very useful on a bike ride - like birdshot or something - to really affect the handling. (It's too small for V's proper camera and lenses) On my single bike, I usually have my tiny point and shoot camera, phone, wallet, a bar or two and maybe gloves or arm-warmers that have been removed on the move. Actually the camera usually stays in my pocket for even quicker access, unless it's raining - then it's into the bag. We also own the larger front Ortlieb bags, and have used them on various bikes - tandems and other lower seat to wheel ratio bikes, with good results when lightly laden. One can certainly get wheel flop with a heavy load in a bar mounted bag, and even effect the handling to some degree. The secret to using a bar bag on a bike with more of a *racy* geometry is to keep it light.

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    6. I stuffed my camera inside (with pancake lens) when I tried your former Red Line bike; it was a tight fit, but it allowed me to get a sense for the handling. Also tried the same on another bike/bag more recently.

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    7. Thank you very much for your comments (and the link to the previous post), they were very helpful! I would primarily keep the load light - perhaps a small patch kit, seat cover in case of rain, and wallet, phone, and keys. Maybe a snack on longer rides as well.

      I've found that I really do prefer to keep my personal items up in front of me, both to keep an eye on them and for easier access. A Jandd Bike Bag (a smallish 2-strap barrel bag) has no affect on the handling that I could tell (though it did slide and sway), but as stated, the Carradice was nearly intolerable. I may have to try out the Ortlieb Compact, as it sounds promising.

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  25. Going off the gigantic smile in all the pictures, it definitely looks like that was a BLAST!

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  26. Hmmmmm-

    FR: "V, I think you forgot about hopping onto the car's roof. ;-)"

    V: "Must have blocked that out, but ah yes it's coming back to me now.

"No, not over the car, John!" I pleaded.

"This is how we normally get the bike up there for the drive home," you explained, switching into a lower gear.



    Good times…"



    FP: "Just to be clear, these photos were taken essentially in a driveway, and they are both goofing around and posing for the camera. This doesn't in anyway reflect their normal position or style on the bike. If only I could have captured when they hopped on top of my car, but I was screaming too much!"

    Without pics or corroboration from the other observers- and You Know Who You Are-
    this is merely a funny, extremely geeky internet meme.

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  27. The "spooning" tandems with very short rear toptubes are an artifact of the days when it was very hard to come by a set of tubes. Think no internet, no UPS, no FedEx, high longdistance charges for the phone. Many small builders acceded to client requests for builds and made the frames from singlebike tubes and whatever miscellany they could get their hands on. The resultant tandems were very flexy and needed to be short. Needed skinny riders too.

    The tiny handful of specialist tandem builders cultivated relationships with the tubing mills and had decent tubesets. But they could not order just anything they wanted and the lead times were long.

    No one even imagined rear toptubes so long as the bike in your photos until perhaps the late 70s. And even after they were imagined few were built so very long until everyone had some time to get used to the idea. The bike pictured still looks like a stretch limo to me.

    Shorter wheelbase makes the bike more manoeverable and some opinion holds short is more aerodynamic. These considerations pale when contrasted with climbing a mountain in the hot sun sharing a sweat bath.

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  28. That looks like a lot of fun. I think you were lucky to have such an experienced captain. My stoker and I are learning together. Communication is key to us but I'm hoping it will become second nature soon.

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  29. Nice post! I've been so hankering to ride a tandem myself. Curious if the stoker influences turning at all, specifically sharper turns?

    In a recent trip to Manhattan I was encouraging my wife to rent a tandem as I'm versed in biking in the city while she is not. We opted to go with our own, likely a good thing since I may have killed us ;) Oh the things to consider.

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