Twin Spin

Reality Check
By Ted Alan Stedman
  |  Gorp.com
Page 2 of 4   |  
Tandem cyclists
Could anyone really have a"bum" deal? (Co-Motion Cycles Inc.)

If you're a solo rider—and statistics say you are (total tandem bike sales are about 0.2 percent, according to Bicycle Retailer Industry News)—you've probably heard the same stories about the shortcomings of tandems. As a long-time half cyclist, I got an earful on the subject by insiders who live, eat, and breathe tandeming. So let's get the misconceptions out of the way.

Myth: Tandems are nothing more than a novelty and offer a lesser cycling experience.
Reality: Tandeming is all about enjoying teamwork and goals with another rider. For riders of unequal abilities, tandems can bridge the differences and provide a shared athletic experience.

Myth: Tandems are slow, especially on hills.
Reality: Like regular bikes, it all depends on the "engines." Tandems with two strong riders can outdo the athletic feats of any solo cyclist. Tandem teams have double the engine power at half the wind and rolling resistance, big speed benefits. Two ordinary riders can easily cruise at speeds in the mid-20s, and because of increased mass, hill descents on a tandem are blazing. And there's the equipment itself: A tandem weighs less than two bikes.

Myth: Tandem captains, usually guys, think they'll have to ride slower for their stokers, usually women.
Reality: Tandems can actually favor weaker riders in a team. Because each partner's share of the bike weighs less, and wind resistance is halved, the amount of energy it takes to ride a given speed is considerably reduced.

Myth: Being the rear rider is a "bum" deal.
Reality: What the rear rider visually loses because of the captain's caboose is more than compensated by freedom from control. The stoker has the window seat and is an unencumbered sightseer who can use binoculars, a camera, and do map checks in the calm slipstream of the captain.


Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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