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  1. #1
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    Tandem Sizing: One-size-fits-most stokers?

    Greetings all, I was hoping you tandem owners could answer a sizing question or two for me. I'm an avid rider but don't own a tandem. I would really like to get one, though. I'm right in between a size L and XL on a single MTB so I can comfortably ride either, and my wife rides a men's Medium. However, I have brothers and friends who also ride who are taller than her and would probably actually ride with me on the tandem a lot more than she would.

    What I'm wondering about is sizing for the stoker and the size relationship/ratio to the captain. I'm guessing that the larger the bike is in the front, the larger it can be in the back. Is that right? (For instance, I doubt there's such a thing as a L/L tandem as the top tube tends to slope down as you move to the rear of the bike). I realize you can have custom frames made but I'm hoping to just find a used tandem somewhere.

    Since my brothers/friends are tall like me and ride L/XL singles, I should probably look for a tandem that's XL in the front and L in the rear, correct? Is the sizing based solely on stand-over height of the top tube or is reach/top tube length part of it as well? It might be a dumb question, but looking at pics of tandems, the top tube on the rear portion is always quite a bit lower than the captain. So would the stand-over height of a size L stoker be lower than the typical stand-over height of a size L single? Perhaps that's just b/c stokers tend to be females who are quite a bit shorter than their significant other, I don't know.

    So what I'm trying to figure out is if I got a tandem that's XL in the front and L in the back, could it work for a relatively wide range of heights for my stoker? Anywhere from Medium to Large in bike-size heights? So say like 5' 8" to 6' 2"? Would someone 5' 8" be able to straddle the top tube of a size L in the rear? If not, does it even matter since the captain is holding the bike while they climb on and off anyway?

    I know I'm asking pretty specific questions here and bikes are going to vary by manufacturer, you should always test-ride a bike for fit, etc. But I need to know if it's possible to have a tandem that fits varying heights of stokers (within reason, of course) or if I'm looking to do the impossible by having a one-size-fits-most-stokers tandem. Thanks so much for any light you can shed.

  2. #2
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    Cue Alex from mtbtandems.com.

    Sent from my GT-N5110 using Tapatalk

  3. #3
    MTB Tandem Nut
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    Most stoker compartments are standard in size, meaning same TT length across the size line. The adjustable stoker stem is used for most fitting beyond that. As with any such approach, this doesn't work as well for folks on either end of the size range. You're most likely going to find the rear sizing too small for 6'+ folks on most frames.

    That being said, don't key too much on stoker standover. If you're doing it "right", the stoker shouldn't have to straddle the tandem in most situations; the captain holds the bike up while mounting, stopping, starting, etc. Stoker standover for your wife is probably the least of your worries in sizing. For much shorter riders, you have to be sure that there is room for the suspension seatpost (and you definitely want a suspension post, especially for smaller riders).

    A bigger concern in the larger stoker sizing setup will be too much seatpost exposed when used by a taller rider, which will stress the post and the frame a great deal more than normal seatpost exposure.

    We use long TT lengths in the captain's compartment to fit a wider range of captains. If buying used, your sizing options will be even more limited, but they're out there. I've had lots of calls for used tandems this year. There just aren't that many out there in the latest generation of truly capable off-roaders.
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  4. #4
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    Thank you so much for the run-down of how stoker sizing is achieved, it's appreciated and helps a lot. Unfortunately, it seems to pretty much verify that I'm not going to find a used, non-custom tandem that is sized XL/L am I? It's about what I expected but it's still disappointing to have it basically confirmed. Being tall is great and all but I suppose that would have to be one really long, overbuilt tandem if it fits two 6' 2" dudes. Guess I'll still keep my eyes open but won't hold my breath.

  5. #5
    MTB Tandem Nut
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    Finding a used tandem MTB at all seems to be a challenge, at least one that is decently spec'd and designed for off-road. You may find a Jumbo/Large Cannondale floating around somewhere, which would be a decent starting point.
    Most tandems are indeed sized one size smaller in the rear, since most tandem teams, in the US at least, tend to be spouses, with stoker being, as you noted, typically smaller than the captain.
    Does your SO ride as well, or just your bros/friends?
    MTB Tandems Inc.
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  6. #6
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    Unfortunately I was finally having success getting my wife into the sport where she was starting to enjoy it, and then we started our family. Now she takes care of our son while I ride solo or with brothers/buddies. So really the bike would need to fit me and guys taller than her. I was just hoping that if I actually found a tandem and spent all the money on it, it would be something that she might be able to join me on as well on rare occasions. A two birds with one stone kind of thing.

  7. #7
    MTB Tandem Nut
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    Well, my opinion (and you know what they say about those, and of course it's none of my business) is that you should get a tandem that you and your wife can ride. Your potential benefit will be so much greater than sharing it with other guys. Nothing against guy-guy tandeming, but the novelty of that will soon wear off, and most guys don't like taking the back seat, literally or figuratively.

    The greatest thing about tandems is how they equalize both riders and put them in the same place, at the same time. With a young, growing family, you both will need this more than you realize. It was a lifesaver for us; we bought our first tandem when our youngest was 6 months old. we couldn't afford it, but It was the only way we could ride together, and quite honestly, it's the way we still ride together most of the time, even 17 years later.

    The best money ever spent, when rated by how much enjoyment and time together it has given us.

    And yes, I sell tandems. But I was an enthusiast first, and still am. I believe in tandems and what they can do for people!

    Best of luck in whatever you decide, and keep us posted if you decide to get a tandem!
    MTB Tandems Inc.
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  8. #8
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    Team Zibell here in this forum tow/ed their son along on their tandem. Don't let three-up stop you from going forward with the tandem idea!

  9. #9
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    2 cents:

    I've had a 20/18 tandem since before I was married.

    At 6'-3" I have ridden on the back only a handful of times. My hands are near my knees.
    BUT, we have had soooo much fun going from tandem, to tandem+child carrier, to tandem+trail-a-bike, to [hopefully] child stoker (+wife on single). It is a great way to get almost anyone, and sometimes everyone out for a ride of appreciable distance.

    For reference, I have put a non-suspension post on for people around 5' tall to take them riding on the path. Once they're on board they are good to go.

    When using the pogo post, the minimum size is ~5'-6", or maybe even a little taller, and max is probably 6' before the cockpit gets too tight. If the stoker bars are any farther forward, I am nearly sitting on them. I'd imagine a 22/20 frame might do what you want if you can find one. I thought there was one on here at one time. I'd be hard pressed to search it out, though.

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

  10. #10
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    Thank you all for the opinions and sharing your experiences, it helps one think of things they may not have otherwise. I like the advice of sizing the rear of the bike to my wife as opposed to my taller riding buddies, as I love her dearly and would love getting to ride with her more than I do. Which, unfortunately, is almost zero as our situation is not like most: the reason my wife watches our son so I can ride with friends is b/c he has special needs and we have almost no one who can watch him, as we have no family around.

    We do own a great special needs bike trailer that I tow him in (if this resource can help anyone else: Wike Bicycle Trailers - The Walk and Bike Company) on paved paths and fire roads through the woods, which he loves. We also have friends who own a street tandem who tow their child in a bike trailer, so I've seen that done before (what a semi that thing is). But my wife can just join us on her bike when I tow him, and I'm all about singletrack when I can get it, and there's obviously no way I would attempt to tow our son behind a real mountain tandem on singletrack. No way that would ever work.

    All this to say that unlike most couples, owning a tandem would be the easy part. Us getting to actually ride it together would be a very rare occurence. That's why even though I knew it would be harder to find, my thinking has been to try to find one that my buddies could ride with me and if the stars aligned, while it might not fit her perfectly, she could ride it with me as well. A bonus would be if we wanted to mix it up, we could attach our son's trailer to it and we could all ride the paved paths/fire roads together or even with our friends on their tandem with their trailer.

    Now to find that used XL/L mountain tandem, hmmm…….

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