Riding a tandem isn’t really a fine art, more a messy sketchbook of wobbles and wavy lines before you get the hang of it, especially fully loaded. The important thing is to synchronise at all times. When stationary, pushing off with a chant of ‘3, 2, 1’ helps takes the strain off the knees. – Chris & Janyis
You know all the words to ‘A Bicycle Built For Two’ but does that mean you should consider touring on a tandem? For many riders, the answer is yes.
If you’re a cycling couple, where one person tends to ride much faster than the other, a tandem is one option for keeping both of you together on the road. Families on tour like tandems because they lessen the worry of young riders straying out into traffic. Equally, a tandem can allow people with poor eyesight or other disabilities, who couldn’t ride a bicycle on their own, enjoy the pleasures of bike touring.
Tandems are great for keeping families and couples together. Photo by Nancy Sathre-Vogel.
Your ability to form a good team will be the key factor in tandem touring success. The captain sits up front and must take responsibility for steering and keeping the stoker happy by choosing appropriate gears for both riders.
Warnings about bumps ahead in the road are also appreciated. From the back seat, the stoker has to develop total trust in the captain and pedal steadily. A tandem partner who leans back and reads a book all day won’t be anyone’s favourite!
Be aware that a tandem is long and heavy. Tasks that are relatively simple with standard bikes – like carrying your bicycle up a set of steep stairs in a hotel – could prove nearly impossible with a tandem.
Packing for a tandem tour is another challenge because two people have to share one set of luggage. Some pannier manufacturers make extra large bags for tandem riders. You can also tow a trailer for extra luggage capacity.
Extra-strong wheels are another feature worth considering. A standard touring bike often has a 32 or 36-spoke wheel. More common on tandems are 40 or 48-spoke wheels, built with the best rims that money can buy.