Playing Well with Tandems

2006 Tour de France pelotonThere are probably many other articles on playing well with tandems. I’m sure every tandem team has their unique views on this subject. Having just completed our first commercial ride of the season, riding in a large pack of single bikes, several things come to mind that will or will not endear you to us and most other tandem teams.

“She’s not pedaling back there”

While you may think it’s creative and funny to say “she’s not pedaling back there” it is NOT creative OR funny. We hear it multiple times a day. It’s insulting. It is the equivalent of passing someone and shouting, “You lazy slob. Why don’t you get to work?” Here’s just a few of the many creative and positive comments we’ve heard recently:

  1. Wish I had someone to help me up this hill!
  2. Great teamwork you guys!
  3. Hey, I didn’t think you had to pedal in the back!
  4. Which one of you works the hardest?
  5. Double the horse-power!
  6. When are you going to let her drive?!
  7. Stroke-Stroke-Stroke (on opening-day of boating season)
  8. That looks like FUN!
  9. She’s following you kinda close, isn’t she?!

On your left

While shouting out “on your left” is an excellent protocol for passing another cyclist, when you hear a loud honking-horn, please know that we’re coming up on you FAST. It’s a great help if you can move to your right. Tandems have two heavy engines and the wind resistance of only one bike. So when we get moving down a big hill we can easily hit 45-50 mph and once hit 59.9 mph! We may also honk to warn you of upcoming cars when “car back” wouldn’t be heard.

No free rides

Yes, we go fast downhill and often on the flats. And we tend to be much slower than singles on the uphills, though of course this is entirely engine dependent. When singles see a tandem often the first thought is, I want to hitch a ride. We are more than happy to have folks draft us. It usually motivates us to push harder. Here are a few helpful guidelines to make this safe and friendly:

  1. Ask us if it’s OK. This lets us know you’re there.
  2. If we signal a hole or debris, please repeat the signal for whoever else may have joined the “train”.
  3. We are not as agile as a single bike so pay close attention and expect the unexpected.
  4. Never get so close that your wheel touches.
  5. If you’re strong enough, offer to take a turn pulling us. We appreciate the thought even if it’s not always practical.
  6. We will slow down rapidly when we come to up hills.
  7. Instead of just taking off past us up the hill, be friendly. Say a few words. Thank you is nice but not necessary. Anything that acknowledges we exist as more than a tool to ease your ride is greatly appreciated.

If you ride a tandem, we welcome your additions and views to this topic.