Why Some Teams Just Don't Click

© 2008 by Mark Livingood

Originally Posted by pdxcyclist at http://www.BikeForums.net
p.s. does it frighten anyone else that so many used tandems for sale l, including decked-out expensive ones, have low or no mileage?

Not at all. In fact, I would venture a guess that a large percentage of tandems sold see very little use. Tandems are often times purchased on a whim before a serious, candid discussion takes place between the intended riders about their respective interest, expectations, the amount of free time they are willing to dedicate to it, the amount of compromise they are willing to make, and how long they will give things to "click" before giving up.

While well intended, many of the manufacturer's Web sites and sales brochures as well as comments from the committed & enthusiastic tandem teams who participate in clubs, forums like this, and rallies can easily give the impression that sharing a tandem with someone is easy and will transform your lives in a positive way. While that may be true for some teams, it is certainly not true for all teams. In fact, the opposite is just as likely, e.g., many new tandem owners find it nearly impossible to make the compromises needed and find that riding the tandem becomes a source of frustration, dischord and arguments that can impact relationships in a negative way. Prime examples are when the cycling enthusiast in the family who is already a committed and fit cyclist can't adjust down their expectations for how fast, far, or efficiently they can ride with a spouse or child who is a beginner. Thus, the cyclist in the family finds that they aren't getting the quality work-out from their riding time that they expect and may, in fact, find their cycling performance on their personal bike suffers because of it. At the same time, the new stoker clearly senses that the captain is frustrated usually because they are being "over-coached" during every ride and never get to "enjoy" that great tandeming experience they were led to believe everyone has. Also, when kids are involved it is not at all unusual to have a parent who is looking for a way to bond with a child as a child reaches the point in their development when they are looking to spend more of their free time with friends instead of family.

Therefore, I would suggest that sharing a tandem is not necessarily easy and requires a lot of compromise from both (or all three, four, or five) riders early on. Tandems are often times a great fit for new couples who are already physically active and for new empty nesters who are also relatively fit. However, any time you have a couple where there is a large disparity between their level of fitness or cycling experience, a LOT of compromise and patience will be required before they will click as a team. Unfortunately, given how little free time most folks have, it's often times just too hard to give up a few months of your regular cycling routine to "get there" which is what it will take.

Moreover, if you are the only tandem team around and your riding friends are unwilling to learn how to ride with you, i.e., not running away on the climbs, learning to let you go off the front on the descents and to be out front on the flats, then it can also become a very lonely existence when you're left to ride by yourselves. This is why tandem clubs and rallies play such an important part in sustaining the enthusiasm of many teams. Some teams find that the monthly group tandem ride is their "quality time together" on the tandem along the social interaction that comes before, during and after the ride is what makes the tandem experience great. Other teams who have a competitive spirit can easily fall in with a local non-tandem club ride and use it to hone their cycling performance so that at the monthly tandem ride or rallies they can "run with the fast pack" and that becomes their motivation for staying on the tandem. However, there is an unfortunate and unintended downside to the "fast pack" in tandem clubs and that is the tendency for teams who aren't able or interested in running with the fast pack to just not participate at all. This is really a shame in that if more of them stuck with it they'd probably find that the social teams would far out number the teams in the fast pack and, thus, everyone's needs would be satisfied. Less I digress...

Ultimately, a couple who is considering the purchase of a tandem needs to figure out just how often they are going to ride and what their goals are.

- If a would-be captain thinks he's going to get an out of shape partner into shape in a few months by taking them out to ride and they don't have the same goal, there's a low-probability for success. To be successful, you'd have to both be willing to approach it as a social / time-together activity with the hope that over time your time in the saddle will slowly build back fitness and, in turn, allow your rides to cover longer distances that would further build fitness. You'll get there, it's just not going to happen in a month or two. Moreover, the captain and stoker in this scenario are both going to have to schedule firm time and be committed to taking the time to ride as it will be very easy to make excuses for not riding. The longer you put it off, the lower the probability that you'll ever achieve your goals. Moreover, tandem riders need to guard against being too critical of their partner's performance; in other words, learn to suck-it-up when you feel like you're doing all the work. Trust me, if you ride a tandem long enough there will be times when your partner feels like they are doing all the work -- and they may be right because we all have bad days.

- If a hammer-head cyclist thinks he can take a cycling partner who likes to ride at a slower pace and turn them into a hammer-head on the tandem there's a low-probability for success. Instead, the best you can hope for is adding an extra weekend ride on the tandem to your current riding plan that you use for honing your tandem skills. This way the hammer-head doesn't don't give up their regular training rides or fitness and can, instead, focus their attention on enjoying the time with their partner on the tandem and learning to ride as a team. It's also not a bad idea for the other cyclist to not give up their personal riding time -- at least a first. Over time the tandem riding may fill the gap for all of your riding needs, but it won't happen in just a few months. As for feeling like your partner isn't pulling their share of the work load, see my comments in the previous paragraph; suck-it-up and remember that what goes around comes around. It's all a matter of perspective.

If a parent thinks that they can get reconnected with their 10 year old who no longer is interested in doing things with the family there's a low-probability for success. To get a child intersted in family cycling you'd been better off getting them started at 3 - which is what we usually see with the families that do cycle together.

Just something to keep in mind....


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