Why a Tandem.
ABC Radio Interview
Listen to our ABC Radio Interview on why to ride a tandem.
Why a tandem?
If you enjoy bicycle riding and have a partner, children or friends, then why not share your experience? Often when cyclists ride together on solo bikes there is a disparity between there respective cycling abilities and one may get frustrated while the other gets exhausted. Riding a tandem can avoid those negative feelings as each rider contributes to the combined effort according to their own abilities. With the stronger rider up front (the captain), the one at the back (the stoker) could really be just “going along for the ride”. The stoker might be a partner who previously wouldn’t take up cycling, a child as young as 6 or even a person with some visual, intellectual or balance impairment.
The roles of the captain and stoker
The captain is invariably responsible for all the controls when riding and in particular for the bikes stability when starting, stopping or standing. The stoker provides part of the power source and may accept some responsibility for monitoring adjacent traffic and signalling. In cornering the stoker must relax and go with the flow which typically comes naturally. Good communication between the two riders will add to the enjoyment, particularly with the captain announcing impending gear changes and road conditions. See “The proper method – riding tandems” for more on this.
With the bicycle being the most energy efficient form of personal transport, the tandem bicycle is relatively more efficient than two solo bicycles, in terms of transportation for two people. This comes from having only a pair of wheels causing rolling resistance and having the stoker riding immediately in the wind shadow of the captain. The benefit is generally only seen on the flat or downhill runs as the efficiency benefits are not as significant at the slower climbing speeds and there is typically some loss because of lack of coordination.
Accommodating a small child stoker
Typically modern tandems come with a low stepover and minimum seat height for the stoker and a reach adjustable rear head stem. This will allow a small child to comfortably sit as stoker. However most tandems come with common adult length front and rear cranks (170mm) which make pedalling difficult for a small child. Pegasus Tandems can often provide stoker crank shortening to overcome that limitation. All production tandems come with a drive system which means that both captain and stoker must pedal in sync not allowing the stoker to freewheel while the captain is pedalling. This may be limiting for some children or disabled stokers. Pegasus Tandems can provide an alternative drive system which allows either stoker or captain to freewheel while the other is pedalling.
Try before you buy
When you buy a tandem you are buying it for the enjoyment of two people. It is not a good surprise gift. Some couples will not take to tandem riding immediately or maybe ever so the adage “Try before you buy” is most appropriate. Pegasus Tandems in Hampton, Vic always have tandems available to hire and also make them available during the annual Great Victorian Bike Ride. Any hire charge will be discounted from a subsequent purchase price. Take advantage of this or other hire services around the country to have one or more significant rides on one or more tandems before committing to purchase.
What to look for
What you need to spend and what features to look for on a tandem depend on how you intend to use it. Simple recreational activities (such as relatively short rides on bike trails) will allow you and your riding partners to determine where you want to go with tandems (or not). With the market for good young basic traditional tandems being quite strong, such a tandem is a good first choice. When the time comes to upgrade or if you don't take to tandems, on selling your original purchase should be achieved with little capital loss. A new tandem fitting this bill can be purchased well under $1000. Check out our Pegasus Brumby
With the front wheel removed and the forks faced backwards, the overall length of most tandems is similar to the width of most cars, so that they can be carried on a normal tow bar mounted bike rack (bike beak). Roof mounted bike racks are also available for tandems and some of these facilitate single handed loading and unloading of tandems. Pegasus Tandems is developing a roof mounted rack which will also allows single handed loading and unloading. This should be available early in 2013 and will sell for around $200. If you need to ship a tandem from Melbourne, Pegasus Tandems can assist by partially disassembling and boxing it for you.
The Tandem Community in Australia
The tandem riding community in Australia is relatively small compared to many other western countries but it is growing. Tandem Bike Australia via their web site and facebook group provide forums to encourage that growth. Pegasus Tandems has sponsored Tandem Bike Australia by making some low cost good quality ride tops available for $35.
View our current models here current tandems.