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  1. #1
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    Stoker not getting a good workout

    I am a much stronger rider than my wife, both in terms of leg strength and in terms of endurance. My wife says that when I choose a fast cadence, she feels that the pedals are spinning on their own without any input from her. When I choose a harder gear/slow cadence, she feels either (1) that she's not adding that much power or (2) that it's too hard to pedal.

    What do you suggest?

    Thanks!
    Mark

  2. #2
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    Practice.

    A little background would be good, such as is she a strong solo rider, how long you both have been on the tandem, etc. But, you'll have to meet her more than halfway on this, before she decides tandeming isn't for her.

    Due to knee injuries in the past, my stoker likes things a certain way, and she'll tell me when my cadence is going to hurt her knee. It is typically fast cadence where she'll ask for an "up" which is for me to go up a gear on the rear cassette, or when we're climbing a steep hill and I tend to mash - she'll call out "smooth" and I'll soften my pedal inputs.

    I'll forget, and she'll remind. But I can't make her knee better, and you'll have to adjust as well. It may not be the workout you're looking for, but over time your stoker will likely get stroner, and you can then push further.

  3. #3
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    Some more background:
    My stoker is not a strong solo rider. She has been doing 30 minute rides on easy gravel trails once or twice a week. She does use an elliptical for 30 minutes most days a week.

    We have been tandeming about once a month for about 2 years. At the beginning, I would always choose a fast cadence, because that how I normally ride, and only fairly recently did she speak up and say that she's not getting a good workout.

    I am willing to meet her more than half-way, but have to figure out what exactly to do.

  4. #4
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    A while ago, my wife also commented about not getting as good a workout on the tandem mountain bike as on the road. We both wear heart rate monitors and have two Garmins. She gets to see my heart rate on her Garmin and hers on a watch, so she has data to back it up. A friend suggested trying shorter crank arms for her, and had a set of 155s to loan us. We tried them and that helped quite a bit, so we changed her cranks from 170s to 160s. We still have 170s on the road bike though.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by moshemark View Post
    and only fairly recently did she speak up and say that she's not getting a good workout.
    Tandeming is a team sport and both have roles to play. She'll have to communicate to you what she needs.

    Most tandem communication is from captain to stoker, but there's some vital stuff that goes the other way. Figure out what the major problems are and come up with simple commands that she can say that will prompt changes in your riding (like "up" and "smooth" I mention above).

  6. #6
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    How about the following plan: I put in less effort, and feel for my wife's effort. Then I put in slightly more effort and wait again to feel my wife's effort.

    At the end of the day, I really do like getting a complete workout, so the question is whether I have to give up that goal for the sake of tandeming. Is it necessary to make that sacrifice?

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    We had the same thing going on. Getting her a HR monitor did the trick. She used to ask me what my HR was and would then dial up or down her effort. Now we pretty much don't need to update each other, but she studies the HRs after the ride. She is not a spinner either so when I really crank up the pace she doesn't feel like she is contributing that much.
    2 wheels == True

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by moshemark View Post
    At the end of the day, I really do like getting a complete workout, so the question is whether I have to give up that goal for the sake of tandeming. Is it necessary to make that sacrifice?
    In the short term, it seems it will be necessary to make that sacrifice. Not all tandem teams have approximately equal input by captain and stoker, but all successful tandem teams figure out what needs to happen to make it work. You two are a team on the bike, after all, so one can't dominate without affecting the other.

    In the long term, if this is something you AND your stoker want to do, you'll figure out how to make it happen. That may mean increasing your stoker's solo workouts to increase her strength, it will mean you accommodating her current needs on the tandem, and it'll probably involve increased communication while on the bike. In the short term if you look at it as a way to spend time on the bike with your wife (versus getting a workout) that may also help resolve current issues.

  9. #9
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    Have had the same issue here. I've had to learn to back off just a little and not spin so fast.

    Also, and this really helps in terms of Joyce feeling like she can contribute: I slightly un-synced the captain and stoker cranks. By 2 testy on the timing ring iirc, Joyce's pedals are slightly ahead of mine, so she gets to put in some power while I'm still at top dead center.

    Also I'm using a 180 crank and she a 170 or 165. I can't say if that helps or not.
    --Reamer

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  10. #10
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    It may also be the case that the person controlling the bike naturally works harder because there is simply more work involved with steering and pedaling simultaneously.

    I get a better workout on my lower body from riding a solo bike, but I get a better upper body workout on the tandem.

    My wife is the exact opposite, she wants more spin and complains when I'm making her work too hard, so we're working on finding a balance where she backs off to preserve stamina, then she kicks when I ask for help.

    My biggest complaint is that my wife will often push too hard going into a technical section, hairpins, etc.. and I'll have to ride the brakes to keep us from blowing a line.

    If your wife is expecting to get a spin bike workout as a stoker, I think she will always be disappointed, it just doesn't work that way because the pilot controls the spin and tends to dominate the work load.

    Crank length probably won't change much, shorter cranks reduce leg movement (reduces effort) and they may do a tiny bit for increasing work due to having less leverage, but in the end she'll still be following you. I played with crank lengths on munis, running as short as 100mm and as long as 180mm, it really didn't change much other than feel, so in the end I picked a length that seemed the most comfortable (150mm).

    Is it more that she gets bored and a workout would relieve that "tension"?

    Maybe she could go for a trail run before going riding

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nurse Ben View Post
    My biggest complaint is that my wife will often push too hard going into a technical section, hairpins, etc.. and I'll have to ride the brakes to keep us from blowing a line.
    That's just down to communication from you to her. When we're riding tight ST with switchbacks (which means she can't see diddly-do) and we're coming up on a 180, I'll call out "switch" which means for my stoker to put out about half power to avoid the situation you describe. Once I've got the turn nailed, I'll call out "okay" which means my stoker can put out full power again.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by reamer41 View Post
    I slightly un-synced the captain and stoker cranks. By 2 testy on the timing ring iirc, Joyce's pedals are slightly ahead of mine, so she gets to put in some power while I'm still at top dead center.
    That's very interesting. By mistake, my captain and stoker cranks are un-synced in the opposed direction, with the captain putting in some power while the stoker is still in dead center. I will try to un-sync them in the way you suggested.

    BTW I found it very difficult to remove and put back the SRAM magic link because the chain is so tight. Any tips?

    Thanks!

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by moshemark View Post
    .

    BTW I found it very difficult to remove and put back the SRAM magic link because the chain is so tight. Any tips?

    Thanks!
    Just loosen captain eccentric BB to put slack in the chain.
    --Reamer

    SC Tallboy LTc
    Ventana ECDM 26
    ventana el Ciclon
    Litespeed Classic
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    1989 Stumpjumper

  14. #14
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    anyone else riding unsynced pedals?

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    Quote Originally Posted by moshemark View Post
    At the end of the day, I really do like getting a complete workout, so the question is whether I have to give up that goal for the sake of tandeming. Is it necessary to make that sacrifice?
    If thats the one sacrifice in your marriage, shut up and be happy.

    Get your workout when you go solo.
    always mad and usually drunk......

  16. #16
    PMK
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    Awesome advice on many accounts.

    FWIW, off-road we have the timing synced simply for knowing where the pedals are and for when standing through rough sections or if the bike becomes airborn.

    The Co-Motion road setup has the captain pedals 2 teeth leading the stokers. This smoothed our spin and made it easy to hold 100 / 105 rpm for a long time.

    The Co-Motion was more difficult to balance the workout / efforts. Ultimately, I had it setup where I could watch the stokers heart rate. Rather than back my effort down, it was easy to see when the stoker was backing off or blowing up. In any case, I either adjusted the gearing, or told her she was not putting in the effort. Prior to the HRM, explaining to her she was not working to her zone became a fight. The monitor became the jury.

    It's almost as if I became her coach or trainer.

    Regardless it is about fun, and sometimes I get to serious or she goes out with too much effort and blows up. Those are not fun days.

    Tandems are about compromise, unless you are racing or training. As someone else mentioned, train on your single, enjoy the tandem with your friend.

    PK
    Reps! We don't need no stickin' reps!

  17. #17
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    A little late here, but I ride with many different stokers, from old folks to teenagers to children. Some are fit, some have strong legs but poor aerobics, while others are neither strong nor aerobic - all with varying experience levels. Then there's my wife, who would probably break her own leg trying to keep up with another bike if I didn't talk her down...

    I use a lot of communication. We usually warm up for a couple/few miles, then get into a rhythm. Some stokers want to "feel the burn" but I know they will knock themselves out early, then I will have to haul them the rest of the way so I remind them that we're "sharing the power". They usually settle down after that. They get their workout, but they don't implode before they do.

    To riders who I know will not be able to contribute much on hills, or who express reservations, I tell them to "pedal hard enough to get yourself up the hill - I will take me and the bike." This puts them at ease, balances things out well enough, AND, most importantly for me, smooths out the power. They are not fighting me (or vice-versa) or on/off/on/off/on, and I know they will still be able to assist near the top of the hill and I won't have to blow a gasket hauling them up. Mind you, we start on easy hills until I find their limit. Sometimes I relax a bit to see if they begin to increase their effort or just give up.

    On the flats we pedal whatever cadence they want (not without a little influence from me - there is a practical and functional limit to my legs).

    As the captain, it's my job to do pretty much whatever the stoker wants. I'll get a workout for sure, but it'll more likely be at a slower cadence and higher pressure than if I rode solo (spinning).

    btw - my wife used to be a masher, but she was pleasantly surprised that she felt better spinning a little more. Not 100rpm, but not 60rpm either.

    -F
    It's never easier - you just go faster.

  18. #18
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    It might be that your wife only equates a workout with POWER as on the elliptical. There is no way to spin on an elliptical trainer. Maybe you should take her on some hillier terrain so that she can get a power workout and hopefully learn to appreciate a faster cadence.
    My wife and I have somewhat different cadences, I am the masher and she spins, so she keeps telling me to shift...She is more comfortable with my cadence now after she took up riding a singlespeed, you have to ride at whatever cadence you can push on that.
    Tandeming has a lot of nonverbal communication, My wife can sense when I am going to stop pedaling for a turn or a rock or whatever, so when I ride with another stoker we get pedal strikes because I expect them to sense the same thing. As you and your wife ride together more, you will develop your own feel. You may end up adjusting your cadence a little, your wife will as well, there will be some days that feel like you are one being. And there will be days when you can't seem to work together. The more you ride together, the better it gets.
    Keep at it and HAVE FUN TOGETHER!!!!!

  19. #19
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    Yes, there is a big difference in the ride with an experienced biker on the back. I rode around with a friend who is a skilled mountain biker and even though he was not an experienced stoker, he was smoother than my wife in pedaling, anticipation, and body position/movement.

    Communication is important and cannot be overrated, BUT it won't change the OP's wife's complaint, stokers just don't get the same workout because they have to hold back and they are not involved in steering.

    My wife gets a good workout on the tandem because she rides harder with me than she would on a solo bike. If we were more closely matched in physical strength and endurance, then she might be the one complaining; but in that case we would probably ride solo bikes

    And that^^may be the answer to the OP's question: Ride solo for a workout, ride a tandem for fun.

    Quote Originally Posted by Fleas View Post
    A little late here, but I ride with many different stokers, from old folks to teenagers to children. Some are fit, some have strong legs but poor aerobics, while others are neither strong nor aerobic - all with varying experience levels. Then there's my wife, who would probably break her own leg trying to keep up with another bike if I didn't talk her down...

    I use a lot of communication. We usually warm up for a couple/few miles, then get into a rhythm. Some stokers want to "feel the burn" but I know they will knock themselves out early, then I will have to haul them the rest of the way so I remind them that we're "sharing the power". They usually settle down after that. They get their workout, but they don't implode before they do.

    To riders who I know will not be able to contribute much on hills, or who express reservations, I tell them to "pedal hard enough to get yourself up the hill - I will take me and the bike." This puts them at ease, balances things out well enough, AND, most importantly for me, smooths out the power. They are not fighting me (or vice-versa) or on/off/on/off/on, and I know they will still be able to assist near the top of the hill and I won't have to blow a gasket hauling them up. Mind you, we start on easy hills until I find their limit. Sometimes I relax a bit to see if they begin to increase their effort or just give up.

    On the flats we pedal whatever cadence they want (not without a little influence from me - there is a practical and functional limit to my legs).

    As the captain, it's my job to do pretty much whatever the stoker wants. I'll get a workout for sure, but it'll more likely be at a slower cadence and higher pressure than if I rode solo (spinning).

    btw - my wife used to be a masher, but she was pleasantly surprised that she felt better spinning a little more. Not 100rpm, but not 60rpm either.

    -F

  20. #20
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    We do this, but in reverse: I have my wife limit her input so she doesn't burn out.

    I think it is hard for less experienced riders to "sense" that amount of work being contributed by the captain and "match" that work with their own effort.

    I've been using a 1-10 scale to help my wife get a sense for I contribute to the effort so she can equate that to what she feels.

    I also have her back off in places where I don't need help, such as tech stuff or tight turns where she could blow us off our line.

    I also use brake steering to control input and increase my control.

    You could let her Captain on terrain she can handle; assuming you are close to the same size, this is something we are trying so my wife gets to have a try at being the "boss"

    In the end, tandems are not bikes, they handle like buses, they take more effort to do the same mount of work, so in the end it really is a question of "loving the ride" because riding a tandem is just a lot of extra work.

    We tandem because we like doing things together. We paddled tandem kayaks for years, which is why we knew that riding a tandem bike would be okay.

    Recently my wife took to riding with her feet on the bars when she didn't fee like pedaling. On easy terrain I didn't even notice the difference. One time I was complaining about the tandem "bobbing/surging" and she started laughing; her feet had been on the bars

    Quote Originally Posted by moshemark View Post
    How about the following plan: I put in less effort, and feel for my wife's effort. Then I put in slightly more effort and wait again to feel my wife's effort.

    At the end of the day, I really do like getting a complete workout, so the question is whether I have to give up that goal for the sake of tandeming. Is it necessary to make that sacrifice?

  21. #21
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    If the OP's stokers cranks were set up relative to his as he said above, that's going to be a huge contributor to the problem they're experiencing. So, a crank reset and a couple rides will determine how much of that is a factor.

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