Tandem Quiz


Tandem Quiz

Q1. How long is the average tandem?


Q2. When was the first tandem bicycle created?

a) 1817
b) 1891
c) 1867

Q3. How many seats has the tandem that currently holds the record for most seats

a) 8
b) 10
c) 11

Q4. Which year was the first round the world trip on a tandem?

a) no one knows
b) 1931
c) 1987

Q5. How many hours is the current Guinness record for John-O-Groats to Lands End on a tandem?

a) 87
b) 67
c) 51
d) 45

Q6. What is the official speed record on a tandem on flat surface?

a) 61 mph
b) 81pmh
c) 59mph

Q7. In which country tandems were illegal until recently?

a) Cambodia
b) China
c) Iraq

Q8. Have the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge ever been on a tandem?
a) you bet
b) no way Jose

Q9 Who starred in the 1971 PG tips add campaign focusing on Tour De France?

a) Lance Armstrong
b) Monkeys on bikes
c) Tandems

Q10 Which of these 5 Famous people have been on tandem and were caught on camera (you get a point for each right guess, but if you get one wrong you loose all points from the question)

a) Sylvester Stallone
b) Madonna
c) Winona Ryder
d) Boris Johnson
e) Lance Armstrong

Answers at the bottom:

Each right answer cores a point, apart from the bonus question 10.

1 a – unscientific answer based on the average length of the 3 tandems I own
2 b – Uncertainty surrounds the invention of the first tandem bicycle. H.G. Barr and P.E. Peck filed a patent for a tandem bicycle on August 4, 1891, although their unique design featured one seat directly above each wheel and a set of pedals anchored in each wheel’s center.
3 b – Santana 10 seater with ss couplings
4 a
5 d – 51 hours was the incredibly impressive 1966 record that stood until 2015, when it was broken with a time of 41hrs and 11 min
6 a
7 b
8 b
9 b
10 e

March 27, 2016 |

Tandem Maintenance Top 10 Tips


The biggest difference from maintenance and parts perspective is that tandems have to carry considerably more weight and more power transferred to the wheels. The tips below are tailored specifically for tandems bearing this in mind:

  1. Tyres – check the pressure and for any defects before every ride! Tyres on a tandem see a lot more wear and tear than on a normal bike and the mileage you get is sometimes less than a half of what you will get from the equivalent tyre on a single bike. Go for best quality touring tyres – Schwalbe Marathons are personal favourite of mine. Do not skimp on this! An inferior quality tyre on tandem can leave you stranded and ruin your day or worst result in a nasty accident.


  1. Wheels – Check for loose or broken spokes at the end of each ride. It only takes 1 min and catching a problem early can be the difference between 5 min DIY truing and having to get a new wheel. Go for the toughest wheels you can afford build by a reputable wheel builder. The minimum number of spokes will depend on the wheel size and while you can get away with 32 and even 28 spoke wheels if I had the option I will go for 48 spokes even in 26 inch wheels. When choosing a wheel I always visualise 2×300 pound gorillas riding my tandem over nasty potholes.  £30 wheel from decathlon or amazon will not do – it will disintegrate in a week without daily maintenance and while you can keep it serviceable for longer it is not worth the time and effort.


  1. Rear chain – check this regularly for stretching using a chain wear tool. Better to change it at the early signs of wear and get more life out of your sprockets. I tend to go for low-mid range chains – I prefer to pay low price and change the chains more often as they stretch anyways with the high torque of two cyclists. I don’t use degreasers on my chain – I wipe with cloth and apply new lubricant, and wipe again to take off excess lubricant.


  1. Derailleur vs internally geared hub – I would go for IGH everyday on a tandem. The smug feeling when you change gear while sitting stationary on a traffic light is a reason enough but you also get tougher wheels and chain wear is less of an issue. Make sure the range of gears fits your needs.  If you are considering Rohloff vs Alfine 11 I would say that Rohloff is built very robust, whereas the Alfine changes better (but I had mine develop a hair crack near one of the spoke nipples and had to move it back to solo bike use!). And if you do not plan to tackle the Alps Alfine 8 is a great solution and much cheaper that a Rohloff.


  1. Timing chain – refer to manufacturers recommendation for the slack needed, but my rule of thumb is have it as tight as possible while still ensuring there is no tight spots if you spin the crancksets backwards –there should be no visible slowdown because the chain is tight. That said the timing chain should last you a lifetime if you adjust properly.


  1. Brakes – pads will wear much faster than on a solo bike so keep an eye on them. Good cantilever brakes front and back with some Koolstop brake pads should be all that is needed to slow you down on your Alps decent. Just use the right technique – brake hard then release the brakes and keep repeating. A slow but constant pressure on the brakes on a long decent may overheat your wheel rim and cause a tyre to burst.


  1. Periodically check for bearing play in your headset, hubs, and cranks. To check your headset, squeeze the front brake and rock your bike fore and aft. For wheel and crank bearings, pull the wheel or crank side to side. If you feel a wiggle, your component needs an adjustment. Some bits are easier to replace than adjust and if you have a choice go for the sealed version of bearings and cranks.


  1. Cranks in phase or out of phase? – While hardly an existential question you will find proponents of both options.  Setting up the cranks in phase simply means setting them up so that the stoker’s and pilot’s cranks and pedals are synchronized – when captain’s cranks are horizontal so are the stokers, as opposed to out of phase where usually there is a 90 degrees difference. I would personally recommend starting out with cranks in phase as the bike is easier to manage as slow speeds and feel as  a team and as your gain confidence to try out of phase to see if you like it.


  1. Brakes again – squeeze on those brakes before every trip to make sure they do job! If the levers come too close to the handlebars adjust them back up and check your brake pads for wear. If you are unlucky and it rains your brake pads can deteriorate significantly in a day and if your leavers were already close to the handlebars when fully squeezed, they may end up touching the bars and you will not be able to use your full stopping power. Ah, and if you get the dreaded squealing from the cantilever brakes, you have two options – leave it and revel in the panic you create as people cover their years and run for cover or make sure your pads are “toed in”. This just means that there is slight angle between your rim and brake pad. It gets rid of the squealing and ensures smoother braking. I usually pinch a penny between the rear of the pad and the rim by squeezing the brake lever, then tightening the bolt to secure the pad in position. This gives me adequate toe in.


  1. Saddles – while not really a maintenance tip, this is so important that I need to mention it. The biggest comfort improvement you can do is find a saddle that works for you. This is even more important for stokers and in many cases your stokers can be put off from riding a tandem if her first experience is of an uncomfortable saddle, ambitious captain and lack of forewarning about road imperfections. Chances are the stock seat that came with your bike is not what is best for your posterior. May be you are lucky and have already found a seat that works for you. If so buy 1 or 2 spare as there is no guarantee you will be able to purchase the same model a few years later. The thing with saddles is that you cannot say in advance what you will find comfortable. Some people prefer hard and supportive, other soft and springy. The position you ride and the time you spend on the bike also makes a big difference for what seat will be right for you.  Trying is the best way of finding out. After trying a good dozen of saddles both me and Bobby have gone for Brooks leather saddles. With time these mould around your “contours” and become so comfortable that I tend to ride without any padding in my shorts even on weekly tours. That said, Brook saddles are personal possessions and I would not recommend them if you are renting your bike.  For such applications I find the quirky looking Selle SMP a very adequate and comfortable saddle.


March 27, 2016 |

How to repair a flat tyre without taking the wheel off


It is possible to repair a flat by patching the inner tube without removing the wheel from the bicycle, and that may be preferable if the hub has a brake arm or internal-hub gear. Usually it is easier if you do take the wheel off. If you are going to replace the inner tube, you must take the wheel off.

Here is how to patch your tyre without removing the wheel:

  1. Turn bike upside down and rest on seat and handlebars
  2. Inflate tyre and carefully listen for leaks
  3. Once found, deflate tyre and use leavers to remove this section of the tyre
  4. Pull out the tube and inflate again to make sure this is the offending spot
  5. Roughen the spot where the patch will go with sandpaper (if moulding line is present sand it right down)
  6. Apply patch and wait for 1-2 min
  7. Remember to remove the cause of the puncture from your tyre
  8. Put back tube and tyre and inflate
March 27, 2016 |

Solo Touring bike hire


I have meant to do this for a while now, but finally found the time to set up the website and get some bikes ready and we are officially live: ready for its first booking.

The model is slightly different than the tandem business – we are delivering the bikes to your door rather then asking you to come and collect.

The main idea is if you go on a holiday you can order from us and have the bike wait for you at your destination. So far we can only deliver within UK.

But let us know if there is a particular interest for abroad destinations and we can try and get some arrangement with cycle hire operators abroad.

So far we have just one bike ready for rental – a very nice Rohloff hub-ed foldable Dahon that should do anything you ask from it.

Hope that you remember about us on your next holiday!

March 27, 2016 |

How to Ride a Tandem


I have included below some really good advice on riding tandems courtesy of

Don’t be bothered by the long description too much. During our experiences renting tandems we have seen many couples, old, young, kids, people who have not been on a bike for 20 years, and all master the tandem within 10 mins. From there on there is still a lot to be learned in terms of team gelling but the basics are easy enough.

“Tandems are lots of fun, but it takes time to learn how to ride such a large ‘beast’. Start out easy. Don’t go for a century ride on the first time out. Make sure you can get along very well with your stoker/captain. It’s a lot of togetherness and it takes time to become a “team”. Just being married or living together doesn’t mean you will tandem well together in the beginning. The stoker needs to have high trust in the captain. Trust is the important thing two people who ride a tandem share. This is going to take much more communication than on single bikes.

The assumption that the man should be the captain, and the women should be the stoker may or may not be right for you. I know of teams that work better the other way around because of differences in physical build or attitude toward tandeming.

Read, “The Tandem Scoop” by John Schubert. Join a tandem organization, they often organize rides, go to Tandem specific bike rallies. That way you can learn from other Tandem teams. Try and find an experienced tandem team. Both of you (assuming that you have a stoker or captain selected) start by taking a ride as stoker with an experienced captain. A new captain needs to get some experience as a stoker; it will prevent many misunderstanding in the future. The new captain should practice riding the tandem solo; learn the controls and the handling of the bike. Next the new captain with an experienced stoker. Each of these rides should be short, possibly just a few blocks, so that the new person can become comfortable and know what to expect. Lastly, the new captain and new stoker ride together, with the experienced team watching and offering helpful hints.

The first miles of tandem riding may be difficult, as the tandem seems to swerve around the road. Two very experienced riders may take 500 miles to work together as a team. One experienced rider and one less experienced rider will take less time, about 100 miles. Captains may take 50 miles to get used to handling the big bike even without a stoker. Captaining a tandem is very much like riding a loaded touring bike, except the luggage pedals. An experienced or strong rider has to modify their style to accommodate a less experienced partner.

Try to be steady and predictable. Tandems don’t handle like singles; you can’t make sudden last second changes in direction or speed. Bad habits of throwing the bike when standing and climbing will have to be unlearned. Stokers can make the problem much worse (without realizing it) by leaning or attempting to steer. Stokers often lean slightly in an attempt to see around the captain. The stoker should be very quiet (little body movement) on the bike when you first start out until handling is in control and always quiet going downhill. The stoker will have to learn how to get their water bottle or look behind them without leaning the bike. This takes time and practice, so be patient. The stoker should always alert the Captain when going for water. Stokers need to realize that their movements affect bike balance (steering) and the Captain can’t compensate as quickly and as smoothly as for his own movements.

Tandems go like a bat out of hell on downhills. Even coasting, the acceleration on a hill can be quite fast. Work up to speed gradually on the hills. Remember, due to their longer wheelbase, Tandems are more stable at higher speeds than singles. Rim heating can be a problem on severe downhills that’s what the drum brake is for. You can brake aggressively on a Tandem – endos are unlikely due to the stoker’s weight ‘out back’.
Be especially careful when stopped or when coming to an emergency stop or it may be your last tandem ride. When only one foot is down, falls to the other direction are common for new tandem teams (especially if they are not used to clipless pedals or toe clips.

Ride conservatively until you get to know the bike and your stoker’s cycling style. Don’t ride as close to things (cars, barriers, etc.) as you would on a single (this is common for the experienced rider to do) unless you really want to give your stoker a heart attack. Downshift well in advance of hills – they have a large effect on a tandem. Both of you need to coordinate taking the pressure off the pedals, so it can take longer to do. Tandems require more gear shifting than singles due to their mass.

Communicate your needs to each other. Remember that safety requires that decisions about starting, stopping, steering, standing, etc., be communicated. Some teams communicate every shift, I just tell about major changes, i.e. double shifts or shifts into the small chainring. Compromise extends to details such as cadence, since it must be the same for each. Patience, patience, and more patience.

The Captain is responsible for the stoker’s comfort (calling bumps, etc.) and safety (they have little control and can’t see directly to the front anyway). If the captain doesn’t look out for the stoker you’re better off on two singles. Stop when the stoker wants to stop, shift when the stoker w ants to shift, walk when the stoker wants to walk. Take lots of “butt breaks.” Don’t eat anything that give you gas in the middle of a long ride. Make sure the stoker has a good time! Do yourself a favor and never dump the bike with the stoker on it.

When riding as stoker, keep changing your hand positions. Given that you will not be shifting, braking, etc., the tendency is to forget to move your hands around. The result is sore elbows and shoulders, and numb thumbs and fingers. You can even go no-hands without any problems (after advising the Captain of your intent).

Tuck your shoelaces into the tops of your shoes, or tape them down. Tandems eat shoelaces. Own a low vehicle so loading the bike can be done without ladders and hanging out the front window to place the fork into the holder. Make sure that you have tools that fit all the odd sized nuts and bolts that you’ll find on the bigger bike.

Don’t pay attention when the 50th person says, “She’s not pedaling back there!” Try to think of witty (but not snide) comebacks. Enjoy the kids’ reactions to the Tandem – they love them!

The rear tire lasts about half as long as the front. When the rear wears out, shift the front to the rear and put the new one on the front. You always want the best (thickest tread) up front because front flats are not fun at speed.”


March 27, 2016 |

How to protect your tandem bike against theft


Honestly, just thinking about it raised my ire! Your pride and weekend dream machine stolen by creepy fellow who knows how to wield big pincers.

So a quick post to see how are you protecting your tandem and to share my methods. And of course if your bike did get stolen feel free to rant below.

As a rule I always lock the tandem back wheel and frame to something solid above ground so thieves have less leverage when working on the lock. And my garage has proper alarm with movement sensor plus door opening sensor. I also have them ensured for a modest fee each month.

All this makes me feel better at night but we can always do more. I quite like the look of this GPS tracker but the price is a bit off putting. And this gadget (still in development) also seems great and you can envision starting an army of biker vigilantes tracking down thieves!

Urban myths about the guerrilla tactics resorted to by cyclists wanting to outwit thieves include:

  • Rigging the bicycle to the house burglar alarm
  • Running a length of wire between the bicycle the garden gate, which unleashes the family dog when pulled
  • Disguising a bike’s value by covering its frame with duct tape
  • Fixing a wicker basket to a bike’s handlebars to reduce its ‘street cred’
  • Running a length of 500lb fishing line between the bike and something secure so that if it’s ridden away without consent, it snaps tight and throws the thief from the saddle

I quite like the family dog idea! I was also thinking of running some live current from 12v car battery to my bike so when it is touched, you get a shock!

Comments welcome!

March 21, 2016 |
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