RAGBRAI XLIII Countdown – July 19-25, 2015
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Tandems. Yes or No?

(38 posts) (16 voices)
Started 9 months ago ago by zabo
Latest reply from kwog 7 months, 1 week ago ago

  • Avatar of zabo
    zabo
  • My wife would like to accompany me this year. I would like that very much. We have been thinking about purchasing a tandem, but I have several reservations about it. Her preference is a recumbent tandem because she liked the seat and the riding position of a Sun that we test drove this summer. Although it was fun to ride, it would not be a choice that I would make because the frame was not very rigid and I am told that it is a poor uphill performer. We would not consider a trike because they are also slow ascending hills.

    Although I am not a really fast rider, but I like the long miles and I like to try to make them fast as I can. I cannot find much time to sit still at many of the pass-through towns because I like to keep going. She would like the scenery, but is much more casual about the pace and would probably want to stop more often. Our hope is that we will hit a happy medium where we can go fast enough to satisfy me (especially ascending hills) and she can get the benefit of a more powerful rider up front. We take short rides on our mountain bikes in our neighborhood together that are fun, but I invariably follow them up with longer ones on my road bike because I want the miles. What is your experience for teams where one member is more experienced and the other is not?

    I am also concerned about safety due to the longer stopping distance and the wider turning radius of a tandem when so many other riders are around. Is this a tremendous concern for those of you who have experience? I saw many really excellent tandem teams that seemed to be in such complete control, but you can never tell what adventures can arise during the week. Do we need to purchase disc brakes or are regular hand brakes sufficient? Are there other safety concerns that I may not be aware of?

    If you can recommend some manufacturers, it would be appreciated. I hear a lot of good things about Rans, but they look to be difficult to find and they are super expensive. I am also curious about the different drivetrains and their synchronization.

    Thank you in advance for any insight that you can provide.

    Zabo


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    Posted 9 months ago ago #697443

  • Avatar of "Bicycle Bill"
    “Bicycle Bill”
  • A tandem among regular ‘wedgies’ is the cycling equivalent of a semi amongst sports cars.  Most proficient riders on singles are aware of tandems and their limitations in terms of agility and braking distance, but on RAGBRAI you are going to be surround by people that range from former pro racers to those that haven’t been on a bike since middle school.  If you decide to go the tandem route, even a conventional tandem, you will need to become super-aware of what’s in front of you as well as around you 110% of the time.

    The advantage of a tandem is that if you and the frau are able to become a couple that meshes well on the bike you should have no trouble covering your mileage at a good clip.  And as for her preference to a recumbent position (and your aversion to the same), there are ways around that.  You may want to look at something like a Counterpoint Opus —

    — the patents for which have since been sold to another manufacturer and is being re-marketed as the Viewpoint.

    With any luck, we’ll see you on the road.

    -”BB”-


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    Posted 9 months ago ago #697662

  • Avatar of Michrider
    Michrider
  • Zabo, good luck with that tandem thing! I just sold a nice tandem that my wife and I tried. We could not get in sync enough to make it work. Hope it works for you and your wife!!! See you in Iowa!!!!


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    Posted 9 months ago ago #697663

  • Avatar of Paul
    Paul
  • Hi,

    Since 2006, we ride a Rans Screamer recumbent tandem (a redundent) and are slow uphills mainly because we are weak like kittens. We are currently drooling over the prospect of maybe an Azub Twin- Anybody out there have any first-hand experience with one?

    Here are some things to think about in no particular order-

    Yes we are not as agile. We have to look further ahead due to poor acceleration, braking, and maneuverability (I should be in sales). You get used to it, keep a bubble around yourself (you can nicely use your voice or just wobble a bit to let people know who are getting too cuddly), and be ok with using your brakes rather than squeezing the last bit of momentum out of a downhill. Who cares about the next uphill anyway? We have all day, nice gears, and our bodies don’t hurt (any more than usual).

    Used Screamers can be had cheap with a bit of luck. Think 1/2 price) Many people find out that tandems are relationship accelerators and are not for them.

    Bits to look for or upgrade to are- Terracycle idlers for chain management that becomes a bit less like maintaining a threshing machine, A Terraflex Glide Flex Flipit to get rid of some of the wobbles, A drag brake of some sort (either a drum or disk), Low gearing(we can get down to about 18.5 gear-inches which is just above walking speed at 80-90 RPM. You have time for a whole conversation if you are passing someone who is walking their bike up a hill), and crank shorteners if needed (Tandems East). Cranks that are too long can be a real bummer, especially if you are trying to get in synch.

    Screamers come with Comet tires. They roll nice but puncture easily. Throw some liners in them or switch to Schwalbes. Tubes can be hard to find for the front wheel on the ride. Carry extras that have a valve that fits through your rim, and make sure they are 406 and not 451 size

    Q-rings help too if one (or both) of you has knee trouble or has a hard time spinning circles or maintaining decent RPM when tired. You can really mess up your knee on a recumbent if you use the seatback to mash slow, sad, little boxes rather than spin circles.

    We avoid independent pedaling systems and find we end up doing a good part of our communication through the pedals.

    Getting in and staying in synch. seems to be the trick. On good days, it is like magic. Other days, we have to slow down and concentrate until we get back in the groove. We have such little horsepower that we just use it up if we are working against each other even one little bit. Just trying to force our way through it doesn’t work so much for us. The average speed will creep up on it’s own if you concentrate on staying in synch. Eyeballing the speedometer continuously can suck the fun right out of it.

    Don’t think “Captain” and “Stoker”. Mutinies are easy with a crew of one. Think partners instead. Hearing teams listen to each other is fun. Listening to them discuss, debate, and bargain…. not so much.

    Break frequency and duration seems like less of an issue. Just listen to each other. You can carry more supplies (why not?, you already weigh a ton) and there is less body fatigue. It is definitely a different equation than singles or upright tandems and your pacing will most likely be different than them.

    There is a learning curve, so get your practice in before the ride. Yes, people will tell you “She isn’t pedaling”. Act like you have never heard that line before. Also get used to laughing and saying “We are” when someone on an uphill says “Hold yer line, tandem”.

    It is not for everyone but we like it and end up covering more ground than we would otherwise.

    Good luck and see you on the ride!


      Quote

    Posted 9 months ago ago #697934

  • Avatar of CyclingRoberto
    CyclingRoberto
  • Before buying, keeping testing and renting. If the two of you are enjoying it, by all means go for it. Lots of tandems on RAGBRAI.

    See you on the road.


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    Posted 9 months ago ago #698809

  • Avatar of zabo
    zabo
  • Thank you all for contributing such thoughtful responses. It is obviously very new territory for us, and the fact that the words “divorce” and “tandems” seem to exist in the same sentence so often is quite intimidating. I definitely want to get it right.

    Z


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    Posted 9 months ago ago #700592

  • Avatar of "Bicycle Bill"
    “Bicycle Bill”
  • There’s a saying amongst tandemers that goes something like “Wherever your marriage is headed, it will get there quicker on a tandem”. :-P

    -”BB”-


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    Posted 9 months ago ago #700800

  • Avatar of Sandaltan
    Sandaltan
  • You don’t need disc brakes or a drag brake to navigate the down hills Iowa has to offer. The “Little Stoker” and I biked ’06 RAGBRAI on a Rans Screamer with Magura hydraulic rim brakes and had no desire for greater braking power. I prefer the Rans Screamer over the somewhat faster Rans Seavo due to the high price of the Seavo and with my 32 inch inseam I can’t get both feet on the ground at stops on the Seavo. I have never ridden the Sun or Vision tandems but I do know they are both heavier and much longer than the Rans Screamer. Consider how you will transport the new bike, ours fits nicely up the center inside our Dodge Caravan or on a Draftmaster rack. A test ride would answer a lot of questions and if you lived in Dallas County I could fix you up this spring. Maybe jump on the internet and search for a tandem club in your area, make contact and see if there are any recumbent owners who would chaperone you and your wife on a test ride. The Hostel Shopee
    http://www.hostelshoppe.com/ and BROL both have classified sections offering used tandems and advice for buyers. http://www.bentrideronline.com/messageboard/index.php

    RIDE RIGHT


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    Posted 9 months ago ago #701656

  • Avatar of Sandaltan
    Sandaltan
  • Typo above!!!! my 32 inch inseam I

    That should read 30 inch inseam.

    RIDE RIGHT (OR MAYBE LESS THAN 30 INCHES)


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    Posted 9 months ago ago #701772

  • Avatar of mootsman
    mootsman
  • I’d say tandem teams should have a couple of years experience to go on RAGBRAI. This to deal with the additional complications of navigating such a large group.

    Last year a tandem team nearly crashed because the captain (a strong and no doubt experienced single bike rider) was piloting the tandem as if it were a single bike. I was passing some traffic on the right in the left lane and moved over with time to spare as a car was approaching. But the tandem captain then also tried, cutting it close and trying to force his way into the right lane right behind me. Then came a RAGBRAI moment. An inexperienced rider suddenly cut left right in front of me without looking to go around a slower rider even though I was in the process of passing him. I had to grab the brake or go left right into the oncoming truck. The frightened tandem captain gave me a good tongue lashing because he did not see what I was dealing with. Even after I told him someone had cut me off he wanted to pretend it was not his fault. A learning moment missed I’d say. But really due to a lack of experience as a tandem team since they should not have been passing with so little room for mistakes by other riders.


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    Posted 9 months ago ago #703920

  • Avatar of Ragbrai Nation
    Ragbrai Nation
  • I was almost was rear-ended on Day-2 of Ragbrai 2010 by a tandem captain that was going too fast in traffic or else not watching where he was going.

    I heard his panic yell behind me, looked back in time to see him and his poor stoker doing all they could do to get a severe, oscillating weave under control. They succeeded but it was a real cliff-hanger for a couple seconds.


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    Posted 9 months ago ago #705191

  • Avatar of Ragbrai Nation
    Ragbrai Nation
  • I was almost was rear-ended on Day-2 of Ragbrai 2010 by a tandem captain that was going too fast in traffic or else not watching where he was going.

    I heard his panic yell behind me, looked back in time to see him and his poor stoker doing all they could do to get a severe, oscillating weave under control. They succeeded but it was a real cliff-hanger for a couple seconds.


      Quote

    Posted 9 months ago ago #705192

  • Avatar of monjo
    monjo
  • We have done three complete ragbrais on a Longbike Eliminator recumbent tandum. I would agree that you do have to be more aware of your surroundings and spend the time getting miles in. We also did a few local rides to get use to other bikers around us. The best thing that was told to me was test ride and don’t ask if she is peddling. We still love to ride and hope to be able to go on the ride this year.Have fun ,be safe, and live.


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    Posted 9 months ago ago #705309

  • Avatar of zabo
    zabo
  • ST: That is extremely nice of you! I really appreciate the offer and the information that you have provided. There are two shops within driving distance that carry them, but not on a regular basis. I am saving up so that this spring I can test drive them if we are lucky enough to find one. What are your thoughts about independent pedaling systems?

    Moots and RN: This is what I was expecting to hear. It is very clear from what you have said that our first year on a tandem should not be one in which we ride Ragbrai. What are your thoughts about independent pedaling systems?

    Paul: I have heard good things about the LongBike Eliminator, too. What are your thoughts?

    Zabo


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    Posted 9 months ago ago #705381

  • Avatar of Punky
    Punky
  • This year was my third RAGBRAI, and my first year on the tandem. Bought it as a gift for my husband and me for our 20-year wedding anniversary. I know you are thinking recumbent, but I have no experience with that. Our bike is a Co-Motion with a carbon belt drive. My first two RAGBRAIs on my single bike included a sag day. I have endurance, but am a slow rider, and it caught up to me. My husband is a strong and fast rider, so he spent a lot of time waiting for me when we were riding single. The tandem has made us both enjoy the ride even more… Even with our different abilities, we have found riding the tandem puts us totally in synch. We rode every single mile including the century on our tandem, and I can’t imagine enjoying RAGBRAI any more than we did. We had two “issues” during this year’s ride: the steep hill in the park on the century day was extremely crowded, and due to our lack of speed and maneuverability, we felt it was unsafe to ride that hill, so we walked it. It wouldn’t have been a problem if we could have carried more speed in at the bottom, but it was just too crowded and to avoid hurting us or inconveniencing other riders, we walked that short section. The other problem came after a stop at a highway intersection and we were over to the right in low gear. We wanted a strong start since we were surrounded by other bikes, and we were in a patch of gravel and over torqued the start. Luckily we kept it upright and didn’t impact any other riders, but it was a little nerve racking. I would definitely get a lot of miles in before attempting RAGBRAI though. We figure we put in 600-800 tandem miles before RAGBRAI, and felt confident the whole ride. In my opinion, if you are patient with each other and built your confidence together, there simply is no better way to ride RAGBRAI.


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    Posted 9 months ago ago #706356

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