Tandem Bike: The Complete Guide To All Types of Tandem Bikes
It can allow two people with varying fitness levels to ride together. It is also a great way to cover ground quickly, as you combine your strength to power on.
However, you need to be able to communicate well with your partner. Tandem bikes are known as “divorce bikes” for good reason!
But they can also reinforce your relationship or friendship, as they can be a true test of trust and communication.
To get yourselves off to a good start, you need to get the right tandem bike for your needs. There are a few types to choose from and several things to consider before buying.
In this article, we’ll be covering:
- What’s It Like To Ride A Tandem Bike?
- The 6 Different Types Of Tandem Bikes
- 7 Things To Consider Before Buying A Tandem Bike
Ready to learn all about bikes built for two?
Let’s get started!
What’s It Like To Ride A Tandem Bike?
A tandem bike is a great way to spend quality time together. But, you’ll need to work as a team to eventually become perfectly synchronized.
Getting to this point takes time, effort, compromises, and lots of patience. But once you manage to become an effective team, you’ll enjoy the high speeds and unique feeling of riding a bike made for two.
The person at the front of a tandem is called the captain, and the one at the back is called the stoker. The captain operates the brakes and gears, while the stoker only has to pedal.
One of the compromises is that you will be slower on climbs than you would on a regular bike. Therefore, if you go out with your regular riding buddies, prepare to be left behind on uphill sections.
However, you will soon catch them up on the downhills and flats. The extra weight of a tandem and its riders makes it faster at descending. But you may have to build up to letting it go and riding as fast as you can, as it can be unnerving – especially for the stoker!
In the early days of riding a tandem bike, you can expect many arguments. There’ll probably be accusations of the other person not pedaling and screams of “slow down!” from the stoker. This is a natural process many tandem couples go through.
It’ll take some time to build trust in each other and the bike. But once you do, you’ll get a real thrill riding your tandem!
The 6 Different Types Of Tandem Bikes
#1. Touring Tandem Bike
A touring tandem bike is the most flexible of all tandem bikes. These are built for long-distance riding, which is reflected in their geometry and comfort level.
Touring tandem bikes usually have provisions for mounting panniers, bags, and racks. These features make them great for weekend adventures, as you can carry camping equipment for overnight stays.
They often come with wider tires and strong wheels. These give you more traction and allow you to ride on unpaved roads.
#2. Road Tandem Bike
Road tandem bikes are built for speed. They use components and frame materials used on regular road bikes, and their geometry puts you in an aggressive riding position.
Their short wheelbase makes them responsive in corners but less stable than bikes with longer wheelbases.
#3. Tandem Mountain Bike
Tandem mountain bikes have long wheelbases and chunky tires. This makes them more stable and gives you lots of traction when riding off-road.
Riding a mountain bike trail on a tandem requires lots of trust and courage. It’s best to find a tandem mountain bike with front and rear suspension for more comfort, traction, and confidence.
#4. Tandem Recumbent Bike
On a recumbent bike, the rider is sat down on a chair in a reclined position, with the pedals in front of them.
The altered riding position offers a very different style of riding. Some love it, some hate it – the only way to know for yourself is to give it a go!
Check out our Guide to Recumbent Bikes here.
#5. Folding City Tandem Bike
It can be tricky to store a tandem bike due to its length. Therefore, a folding tandem bike may be a good choice if space is tight. You may be able to find other types of folding tandems, but the city or hybrids are more common.
#6. Electric Tandem Bike
There is an electric bike for everyone these days, including electric tandems. The benefit of electric tandem bikes is that you get assistance from the electric motor and your partner.
Electric tandems are heavy bikes. This won’t cause you too much trouble while riding, but lifting it will be tricky. Luckily, there are two of you!
Truth or Myth: Handling a tandem is just like handling a single bike?
Well, the answer is MYTH, but the answer is not as concrete as one would think. The goal should always be to get the tandem to handle as close to a single bike as possible. I like to tell people to think of the tandem as a rod with two weights on it. If you put the weights to the ends of the rod than when you shake the rod the two weights are further apart, thus creating more torque and getting the weights in sync is challenging. If you move the weights closer than shake the rod than it will respond more like there is one. This is the same with tandem riding. It’s all about the center of mass (COM). If you can bring the stoker (back rider) a close to their pilot than you are bringing the COM over the bike closer to the front of the bike and the pilot will love you because the bike will now handle more like a single bike.
In the video of Hank and Si, when they are going steady, Hank is right up close to Si in an aggressive position and over top of the pedals. His COM is forward, and the power transfer is good. As a result, the amount of energy they are losing to being out of sync is low. If Hank would sit back in more of a relaxed touring position the COM moves back, and they lose a lot of energy because of the forces working against each other.
One part of the video where it is very obvious that being in sync is crucial is when Hank and Si are on the “Wall of Doom” and they are both out of the saddle. At this point the bike is all over the place and the two are getting completely exhausted. Standing up on the tandem iss all about communication and consistency. Having clear and consistent commands is crucial. At one point Si gives Hank the 1-2-3 countdown to stand but he has already stood up ahead of these commands. This will require more energy for both to stabilize the bike when not in sync with each other. Standing on a tandem expends significant amounts of energy and therefore should be used only for very short bursts as in getting back to speed after a turnaround, making short bursts to break away from your competition or when climbing long steep climbs to regain momentum or get over top of the hil.
Truth or Myth: Double the power must mean double the speed.
You don’t even want to know how many times I have heard this. At a glance, this may sound practical, but this would mean that tandem riders would be going 40mph on the steady aerobic solo ride of 20mph. Those that believe the above may also believe that a tandem in any situation, is faster than a single bike. Hank very accurately points out in the video that with two people you have gravity which is an exponential factor working against double the weight. The truth is that when you increase the gradient of a climb or length of a climb tandems are at the disadvantage. Hank points it out very well in the video that the types of climbs that tandem will shine on are steady low gradient climbs. Give a tandem a 1-2% grade steady climb and they will win anytime against an equally talented solo rider. Increase the steepness of the climb and you are giving the advantage to the single rider.
Let’s compare some other scenarios such as descending. With descending you again take gravity into account but this time the heavier tandem will pick up much more speed and be faster unless of course the descent is super technical in which you have the situation of a school bus or semi-truck going down a winding mountain. With technical courses especially with 180deg turns, the solo rider can react and get back to speed much quicker, but the tandem will out do the solo rider on the flats.
So, the answer to this question is that it’s a MYTH that tandems will be twice as fast and also a MYTH that tandems are always faster than solo bikes. In general, tandems are faster except for the above scenarios. The truth related to this topic is that with a tandem you can create double the power, but since there are multiple factors and forces working on the system this doesn’t mean that all the power will generate equivalent increases in speed.
Truth or Myth? Stability of the bike is more crucial in tandem riding than solo riding
Bike stability is obviously of high importance for all types of cycling especially for safety and efficiency. Safety probably pops up first in our head for both tandem and solo riding. We often don’t realize how much energy we expend with our trunk and core muscles for stability, and therefore we don’t want to be moving around and shifting our weight all the time because we will constantly be wearing down our core stabilizers and upper body and thus be less efficient. Because cycling is a repetitive motion where hundreds of thousands of repetitions may be done on one ride, small amounts of excess energy on each pedal stroke will add up to enormous amounts of energy and time off your results.
The difference between tandem and solo riding is that you have two separate masses that not only need to be stabilized but also need to be in sync to be efficient. Hank and Si point out some areas where the bike is unsteady. When they push off and when they are weaving through traffic, as well as, when they get a very high cadence, they both mention that the bike is very unsteady. This is because tandems are noticeably unsteady at very slow speeds and when trying to ride at higher cadence.
The instinct on the tandem when the bike is unsteady is to clamp down with your upper extremities to stabilize the bike but with a tandem this can lead to the pilot and the stoker fighting each other and uses up a ton of energy. The more efficient thing to do is always stay relaxed in the upper body and let the bike flow more. The riders will get in sync quicker when relaxed, especially in the upper body. Riding in a higher gear than you would on a single bike and planning ahead with gear shifting to minimize drastic force changes can greatly help the stability on the tandem.
Because two masses are being stabilized on the tandem as opposed to just one on a single bike, the answer to the question is that it is true that stability is of greater importance on a tandem than a solo bike.
Truth or Myth: Gearing on a Tandem Should Be Different For Tandem Then Solo Bikes?
Proper gearing when riding is super important to maximize performance. No matter when riding on a tandem or solo bike if you ride variable terrains, you will want a wider range of gearing. Back in the day, all tandems had a triple (three gears) on the front and this because of the challenge when climbing on a tandem and the decreased ability to get out of the saddle. The problem with triple gearing on tandems is that there are more issues with chain alignment due to the longer chain. The increased load on the derailleur and the amount of cross chaining that occurs, increases the likelihood to drop your chain on the tandem versus solo bike.
There may be a desire to get a larger “big ring” on the front of your tandem and this is because you can ride in a bigger ring on the flats and so you don’t max out your gear on downhills. The downside to a bigger ring on the front is that unless you also increase the size of your middle (or small ring on a double), there will be a larger jump when shifting from big to middle in the front and thus you may have shifting issues or increased chance to drop the chain. Hank stated that they are riding a 58/42 in the front. This would be a super large gear fro a solo rider and probably even a large gear for these two but because they are both super strong riders and if they want to crush the flats and downhills, this big gear allows them to maximize their abilities. For two riders that aren’t super strong or when the riding will be variable, I wouldn’t recommend getting this big of gear on the front. It may also be hard to find a compatible derailleur that will accomodate this large of big rear and still shift well.
For tandems, I‘ve found that a two-ring system like Hank and Si have is better because it improves the chain alignment issues. Increasing the range of your rear gearing can allow for greater range in gearing without having to put very large gears on the front. Another very important tip when shifting on a tandem is for the pilot to always announce “shifting” so that the stoker can take the load off the pedals for a split second to allow the bike to shift smoothly and prevent chain issues. As with single bikes but even more important on tandems is having the chain near the middle of the back ring when shifting up front to improve the chain alignment and allow the derailleur to better do its job.
With all the above said, I think the answer is TRUE, gearing on the tandem needs to be different than a single bike or at least gearing needs to be considered with respect to the rider’s ability and the terrain of the ride more so than on a single bike.
Skydiving Tandem Jump
The Skydiving Tandem Jump consists of jumping with an experienced and qualified instructor with a parachute especially designed for two people. The jump takes place right next to Aranjuez, the location of the of the summer residence of 17th century Spanish Royal Family and other places of interest. There are countless terraces for “cañas y tapas” for pre/post jump snacks!
Enjoy a day out of Madrid, exploring the area around Aranjuez and top it all off with a high adrenaline rush!
- The drop zone is located just outside of Madrid, in the village of Ocaña, 15 minutes from Aranjuez
- After proper equipping with the harness and a brief explanation, the Jumper is ready for the Skydiving Tandem jump
- You will gain 60 seconds of free fall, traveling at a speed of 125 miles/hour
- 5 minute comfortable flight until the landing area
- Option for Photo /Video (85€, 110€ for both photo and video)
- Transport can be provided for a minimum of 3 passengers (30€/ person)
- Alternatively, Jumper or Jumpers can reach the jump site through a combination of bus/taxi
- Jumper must wear comfortable sneakers/ or can wear sturdier shoes
PACKS TRIPS, TOURS CULTURE – Completely Customized, Completely Spain
Combine the activities of your choice to optimize your visit to Madrid and the of Spain. Action, Culture Cuisine… Madrid has it all and Spain has more!
We can arrange One-Day Multi-Day Trips combining all the fun outdoor activities and extra options you want, combining almost all activities we offer, including a nice lunch, drinks, visits or a dinner to top it all off.
If cancellation is done more than 48 hours in advance, payment is fully refunded., Less than 48 hours in advance, half of the deposit is refundable.
If your group is larger than 8 people and you need transport, please contact us.
Your accommodation when transport is included
Gloves and/or Hat, Hiking Shoes (good heel support), Snacks, Vika Outdoor Sunglasses, Water, Wind Breaker
Guide/Instructor, Insurance, All necessary material
Drinks, Food, Photos, Transport, Video
- 225 € (High Season), 205 € (Winter Prices). 205€ (Student Discount), 205 € / person Group Discount (for groups of 10)
How tandem jumping works
But what even is tandem skydiving? Essentially, it’s jumping out of a plane with a parachute strapped to your back, and then hurtling to earth at terminal velocity while simultaneously discovering a sudden interest in religion.
Except rather than do it alone, you do it attached to a trained expert, so that when you’re sitting in the open doorway of the plane with the ground looking terrifyingly tiny far below, and you suddenly realise what a terrible idea this is, you’ll have no choice but to do it anyway. Because your instructor will jump, and since you’re clipped together, so will you. End of discussion.
The other advantage of this is that if the parachute does indeed fail there won’t be just one of you splatted face down into the soil, but two. So at least you won’t die alone, which is nice.
Booking a tandem jump
So faced with my boyfriend’s peer pressure and my fear of regretting a missed opportunity, I booked my tandem skydive. And because I was on my own, and I was definitely only going to jump out of a plane once in my life, I decided to book the Full Monty. Go big or go home, right?
When choosing a tandem skydive, you basically have to decide how much you want to spend, and how long you want to freefall for. The higher the plane flies before chucking you out, the more time you’ll get to spend plunging headlong towards the ground with your life flashing before your eyes, and the more you’ll pay for the privilege.
How much does it cost to do a tandem parachute jump?
I booked with Skydive Wanaka, who offer three options for tandem skydiving. Short, where you jump out of the plane at 9,000 feet and freefall for 30 seconds; medium, where you say your prayers at 12,000 feet and get 45 seconds to think about all the things you regret in your life; and long, where you start screaming at 15,000 feet and don’t stop for a full 60 seconds.
I opted for the last one, which at the time of writing costs NZ469 (about £240 / US330). In other words, £4 or 5.50 for each second of terror.
On top of that, I paid extra to have a cool Colombian cameraman come with me and record the whole thing. After all, I was on my own, and if I was going to risk my life jumping out of a plane just to prove my bravery I needed the evidence to show the folks back home. The video is at the bottom of this post, if you want to skip to the end.
Why Is It Important To Have An Experienced Instructor?
Skydiving is an extreme sport, and like any extreme sport, there are risks involved. While the chances of an issue are slim, on a tandem skydive, you want to make sure you have a guide that knows exactly what to do if things do not go according to plan. In essence, your tandem skydiving instructor is there to save your life.
Before being paired with a tandem student, an instructor candidate must have accrued a minimum of 500 jumps, four hours of cumulative freefall time (remember, freefall lasts for about 45-60 seconds), have been in the sport of skydiving a minimum of 3 years, and must be able to pass the FAA Class III Medical. In addition to meeting these prerequisites, the tandem instructor is required to attend a thorough tandem instructor course sanctioned by the United States Parachute Association and competently perform skydiving maneuver evaluations both on the ground and in the air. Because of strict requirements for would-be instructors and advanced skydiving equipment, the number of skydiving deaths that occur from tandem skydiving is remarkably low, with one fatal accident occurring per 500,000 jumps over the past decade.
How Much Training Do You Need For Tandem Skydiving?
Because of the brevity of instruction, tandem skydiving is a perfect fit for first-time jumpers. Generally, the ground training for a tandem skydiving student will take about an hour. That’s it, just an hour of training will get you from sitting on the ground to flying through the sky!
Is Wisconsin Skydiving Center Right For Your First Tandem Skydive?
At Wisconsin Skydiving Center, our staff live and work with our core values in mind:
- Deliver an amazing experience
- Treat each other with honesty and respect
- Be passionate and determined
- Continuously learn and grow
- Enjoy the journey and have tons of fun
Because of the dedication of the Wisconsin Skydiving Center staff we have been able to continue to pursue our mission and commitment to safety, community, and fun. The result of our efforts is an unparalleled level of customer service and satisfaction. You don’t have to take our word for it. If you have some time, give our reviews a once over.
These are the words we love to hear: “That’s the best thing I’ve ever done!
Nervous? It’s okay. We all started right where you are now. If you’d like to experience the thrill of a lifetime with a team that is focused leaving you feeling empowered and inspired, schedule your tandem skydive with Wisconsin Skydiving Center today.
For more information on tandem skydiving, check out our frequently asked questions page, or feel free to give us a call!