People choose to ride a tandem for different reasons. For some, it is the joy of riding with a loved one, whether it’s your partner or your child or a close friend. For people with disabilities, it is a chance to get on the open road, which would otherwise have not been possible. It is an excellent solution for two people who ride together but are not of the same standard – no more waiting around!
LEARNING TO RIDE A TANDEM
If you can ride a bike, you can ride a tandem but there are a few skills to be learnt. The front rider is usually called the ‘captain’ and is generally the one with stronger upper body strength, and the back rider is called the ‘stoker’. The captain controls the bike through steering, braking and shifting. He must warn the stoker of bumps in the road, so the stoker can prepare for them. Warning must also be given when shifting into a low gear which will cause the tandem to jolt. The captain has to take note of his partner’s wish to slow down or stop and take a break. As the captain and stoker become a team, they will know each other’s style of riding and will anticipate gear changes etc. The stoker is the power behind the throne. He must be able to exert suitable power on uphill climbs and speed runs. The most difficult thing for the stoker to learn is NOT to steer. He must keep in line with the centreline of the bike as it goes straight and rounds corners.
RENT A TANDEM
The best way to see if tandem riding is for you is to rent one. Most rental companies will give you some instruction before you begin and give you safety instructions and a safety vest to make your trip a safe one. Put on your cycling reflective vest and off you go. The captain gets on the tandem first and keeps it steady while the stoker mounts the bike. Remember to take it slowly. A tandem doesn’t handle like a single bike and does not like last second changes of direction or sudden braking and gear shifts. A tandem can pick up enormous speed on the downhill and is more stable than a single, because of its long wheelbase but it is recommended that initially you travel at a slow speed until you have conquered this new skill. Braking, gear changing and steering all have to be learnt again when riding a tandem but mastering the skills is half the fun.