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  1. #1
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    How to balance pedaling effort?

    Ms Stoker and I had our first ride on the new Fandango last weekend. I chose a route on forest service roads in DuPont State Forest, with challenging climbs, sketchy surfaces of loose gravel, ruts, random rocks, patches of loose sand and mudholes. I've been a bit off my bike training for a few months, while she does an hour of cardiovascular exercise 4 days a week. So imagine my surprise when I, huffing and puffing up one of the steeper slopes, sweating profusely, and stopping at the crest to wipe my eyes, look at Ms Stoker and she has barely broken a sweat. Her face is free of perspiration while I am soaked to the waist and salt is burning my eyes. I quickly recover and we continue. The next longish steep (no -ish about the grade) hill is a repeat of the first, but occasionally she felt we were struggling and added enough pedal pressure to spin the rear wheel a little in the loose gravel.
    So, I kinda wanted to know how she had that energy reserve to add the extra torque, because I was close to red-lining my engine. I'm nearly 65, she's just 56. When in training shape, I regularly ride 40-50 paved road miles, and 30 is a short ride. She goes to the gym for an hour of cardio and 30 minutes of weight training 4-5 times a week, but we've basically been hiking rather than biking during the hot humid weekends this summer, and I thought we were nearly equally fit. In fact, I thought I still had the edge of fitness over her, because of my riding history last fall and winter vs her lack of riding except once or twice a month on the road tandem this spring.
    So how do we make sure that our pedaling effort is balanced and I'm not doing 60% to her 40%? Is there a way to measure individual output on our tandem? Sure, we could go to single bikes and see who waits for whom at the top of the grade, but we like the tandem lifestyle. And for the record, she said that she was pedaling hard the whole time and was breathing hard on the climbs, as well. Has my donut consumption caught up with me?

    Please excuse the long post.

  2. #2
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    I think the solution is a simple one: ride more, together, on the Fandango.

    Also in tandem teams as in marriage never keep score. Just be glad if either one of you has the juice left to get you to the top of that brutal climb. Always make it fun!


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  3. #3
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    I thought it was something along those lines. You're very wise. I think I need to look for bigger hills for rides on my single bike, to get back to the training.

  4. #4
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    if you want to know

    two sets of power meters, based on these

    Crank Spider: Quarq/SRAM, Power2Max, SRM, PowerTap C1, Team Zwatt Zpider
    Crank Arms: Rotor, Stages, Pioneer, 4iiii, WatTeam, ROTOR INPower2, Team Zwatt Zimanox, Shimano
    Pedals: Garmin Vector, PowerTap P1, Polar/Look combo, bePRO, Look, Xpedo
    Pedal Spacer: LIMITS
    Cleats: Brim Brothers
    Bottom Bracket: Ashton Instruments, Dyno Velo, ROTOR INpower, Team Zwatt Zpindle

  5. #5
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    As you gain experience on the tandem, you will be able to feel out stoker effort via the sync chain. It won't be as granular as a bike computer and power meter connected to your cranks, but I can certainly tell when my stoker is putting in too much effort (or not enough).

    I will also say that for any given ride (we basically only have hills around here also), I will be dramatically sweatier than my stoker. I wear gloves and a Halo sweat band to help me out, but my stoker needs neither. Everyone is different, and few tandem teams are so equal that they put in equivalent effort in exactly the same spots. I'm fast-twitch, my stoker is slow-twitch. Tandems keep you together, but they don't make you Team Borg.

  6. #6
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    Well, dang. If I'm going to invest in all the gadgets recommended by 127.0.0.1, one would think I would be ready to join the collective. All I really want is to feel we're both putting in the same or similar effort. I've always been a clothes soaking sweat producing machine, but she may not be....

  7. #7
    K&K
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    If I wanted to compare our level of effort, I would use a pair of heart monitors. Seems that this would make level of fitness a moot point and simply measures how hard one is working. If the question is, who is putting out the most force, then power meters make sense.

    While I am always curious about our respective level of effort, the point of the tandem for us is that we can ride together, and stay together. When I ride, I always put out more effort, that's why riding singles never works; it just isn't fun for me to ride at half throttle so we can stay together, and riding ahead isn't much fun either.

    Everyone has their own relationship, but I like what Jbull said. I think it would make my partner self-conscious and would detract from her enjoyment of riding with me if I were to pursue this line of thought, so I keep this one securely corralled in the recesses of my psyche.

  8. #8
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    That is the best advice I've ever read.

  9. #9
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    My wife and i had a similar problem on our ECdM. The solution turned out to be shorter cranks for her. We had 175 in front and 170 in the back like on our road tandem. Switched the rear to 165 and we're a lot more even now.

    Also, we both wear heart monitors. She can see both of our heart rates and puts in more effort when hers drops below mine.

  10. #10
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    The last thing I want my stoker to realize is that she's not pulling her weight; heck, I'd lie to her before admitting she was only 49% compared to my 51%

    In our case, I certainly produce more output on the front of the ride, while stoker takes a bit to warm up, then when on the back side of a ride, I'll normally peter out a bit while stoker comes into stride... Finding and understanding each other's ride progression is all part of the tandem experience, and deepens the cap/stoke bond!

    Great thing is, you can both get as strenuous of a workout as you like, without ever leaving each other in the dust.

  11. #11
    SS Pusher Man
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    The first few times my wife and I rode ours, she kept saying it seemed easy than she expected, while I was dying up front. So on a mild climb one day, I r moved my feed from the pedals and made her pedal solo.

    She now has a better understanding of how much effort to put in.
    I resolve to constantly assert my honest opinion on anything and everything - whether it is requested or not.
    Bucky the Cat

  12. #12
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    We don't typically have much trouble on the road tandem where the captains cranks lead the stokers by a link or so and this seems to communicate my power output to her. I haven't yet made that adjustment to our mountain tandem but need to. I find that trails frequently require bursts of power to crest hills, get through soft spots etc. and I sometimes ask for a little turbo then let her know when we're past the obstacle.

  13. #13
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    I never thought much about it on our road tandem either, but the pedals are 90 degrees out of phase, which seems to give smoother pedaling. The new mtb tandem pedals are just a chain link or two from in sync, as you said yours is. I am thinking I need to put the pedals out of phase like my road tandem. Will this cause problems I don't know about?

  14. #14
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    I think that setting up similar to the bike you are familiar with would be worth a try!

    It seems to me that the challenge with 90-degree phasing on the mountain bike would be the inability to coast through the rough with high pedal clearance at both cranks, the inability to corner with both outside pedals down, and the possible need to retrain yourself how to avoid stoker pedal strikes but this is all speculation rather than the voice of experience.

    PS. I should have referred to Mrs. Bugshield as Bugshielded since my handle is a tandem reference. Ha ha.

  15. #15
    PMK
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    For a longtime to keep things honest when riding on road, we ran too monitors both displayed on the captains bars. With side by side display, and knowing the key HR points, it became easy to match effort.

    Off road, even after all these years, my stoker thinks she is riding in the world championships and I constantly tell her if she wants to pedal that hard she can and I unclip. Regardless, I constantly remind her to back off or it will be a short ride.

    Eventually, it should be about feel through the pedals for both riders.

    As for Dupont, I assume you climbed to the airport. As for how out of shape you think you may be, I would assume the stoker is not carrying her fair share.
    Reps! We don't need no stickin' reps!

  16. #16
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    Yes, we rode a loop beginning at the Guion Farm Parking Area in DuPont which I had ridden a couple times before on an adventure bike. Up some semi-steep and semi-long climbs, with some white knuckle (to me) descents, a bit of adapting to the new bike's handling, I naturally attack hills at near max effort. I vaguely remember crossing an airstrip kinda near the top of one grade. When my stoker added a bit of oomph to her stroke a few times in a challenging section, I wondered where she had been hiding that reserve. I definitely need to quit allowing life to interfere with my training.

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