Tandeming FAQ

These are some of the most common questions and comments about tandeming we hear along the way…

We could never do that...we'd get divorced!
The common wisdom is that tandeming will escalate the trajectory of any relationship. So if’ it’s good it gets even better and if it’s in trouble, it’ll get worse!
Who rides in front? Do you take turns?
The Captain (in front) is typically the stronger and more experienced cyclist as they’re commanding the “ship”. Sometimes you’ll find a tandem team who can switch positions, but it’s rare. In addition to the need to be very strong, unless the two riders are very similar builds, the two compartments are not going to be interchangeably suited to two different size riders. While you can adjust seat height, the location of the handlebars from the seat for a shorter Stoker would interfere with the knees of a taller Captain should they attempt to switch.
Is it easier or harder to ride a tandem?
Our answer to that is neither…it’s just more fun! For one thing we always end up at the top of the hills at the same time. No more waiting. And we can talk to each other easily during the ride.
Who works harder to ride a tandem?
It’s a team effort which is part of what we love about it. We both work hard. As the Captain, Spencer has to manage the weight of the bike and make all the gearing, steering and braking decisions. Sheila is the Stoker. She adds power, navigates, tends to food and drink needs as well as calling out the sights and wild-life that Spencer won’t notice due to his focus on the white line! The Stoker is also the social center, waving to all passing cyclists.
Are tandems faster or slower than singles?
Again, that really depends. In general tandems have two engines and the same wind resistance as a single bike. So we’re often faster on the flats and have the extra weight benefit going down hills where we’re really fast. Climbing is another matter. Tandems have a reputation of being slow on the climbs. But this is somewhat engine dependent. We often pass singles going up hill. We enjoy climbing and strive to get better at it all the time.
Do you ride singles too?
Spencer had a single he used for commuting and errands. He sold it recently. But when we’re riding recreationally it’s always on the tandem.  Since Sheila’s accident in 1991 she’s never been back on a single bike. Sheila likes not needing to know anything about gear shifting, etc. She just adds power.
How long have you been riding tandem?
We bought our first tandem, a used Davidson dubbed The Schoolbus for it’s yellow color, at an auction, in 1999. It didn’t fit us well but it was enough of a taste that we were hooked. The following season we sold it for what we paid and bought a new, locally made Rodriguez named Sweathard. After just two years we decided we wanted a bike with couplings to enable easier travel, we went for our current bike, a daVinci built in Colorado and named Clio. 
What's the longest ride you've ever done?
We’ve done the STP (Seattle to Portland) 4 times, twice in 2-days and twice in 1 day. That’s 200 miles! We’ve also done RAMROD (Ride Around Mt. Rainier in One Day) which is 155 miles with 10,000 feet of elevation gain. We’ve done many one-week tours, mostly supported. We’ve only done one two-week tour when we rode two weeks in France followed by the UK Tandem Rally in 2006. In 2012 we did a 9-week support coast-to-coast tour and blogged daily.
How many miles do you have on your bike?
We have 48,000 miles of tandeming as of Fall 2023.
How much does your tandem weigh?
We honestly do not know and do not care! Our first daVinci was cromoly and instead of worrying about it being heavy we decided to lose some weight ourselves. Our second daVinci was aluminum, but since we carry enough tools that weight as much as a carbon fiber single, again, we just don’t worry about it. And now we have a carbon fiber daVinci, but again, it does not matter to us what it weighs.
Now that you're riding an e-assist, how long does that battery last?
That can vary wildly. It depends on how you use it. Ours is a 500 w battery and we mostly use it for a boost when crossing a busy highway or when we’re climbing a steep hill, especially if loaded. Used judiciously rather than as if you’re riding a motorcycle, a battery can easily last a 50-75 mile ride.
What's so special about the daVinci?

Spencer had always been drawn to daVinci tandems. In fact, we’ve actually coveted one ever since we first saw them at the 2000 Bike Expo (months after acquiring Sweathard). Made in Colorado, the daVinci is a solidly made bike with an innovative drive train, shown left. Instead of locking the captain and stoker together with a timing chain, as every other tandem does, daVinci developed a new drive set up. They built in an intermediate drive shaft to which separate captain and stoker chains apply power. Those chains are on freewheels so they can independently coast.  This gives us an incredibly wide range of gears with short easy jumps between them. We love it and likely will not ever have another kind of tandem.

Any tips for single bikes riding with tandems?

Yes, we’ve actually written a post called Playing Well with Tandems.

Where can we learn more about tandeming?
We helped found the Evergreen Tandem Club in 2001. Even if you’re not in our part of the country, their Meetup site has a comprehensive tandem resources page. For an even more comprehensive site try The Tandem Link.