Cycling is a great activity that helps you get in tune with the outdoors (and nature), work out, and even save on fuel when taking short trips. To make such an interesting activity even more exciting, you can opt for a tandem bike; and with it, get to bring someone else along for the ride. When it comes to converting every ride into a friendlier, closer, and more exciting experience, nothing in the cycling world beats riding a tandem bike.
There are many benefits of riding such a bike. And, to ensure that you and your chosen partner get the most out of each ride, it is essential that you get the right bike.
To find out more about tandem bikes including what they are, their benefits, and the main features to look for in the best option, read on below.
What Is A Tandem Bike?
In the simplest of terms, a tandem bike is basically a combination of two solo bikes in order to create a single bike that can accommodate two riders at the same time. These bikes normally have two handlebars, two saddles, and a more advanced braking system than what is seen on solo bikes.
As the name suggests, a tandem bike is designed to be ridden by two people simultaneously – in tandem. The front rider is referred to as the pilot or captain, while the rear rider is the stoker.
In general, the captain is responsible for controlling the direction of movement, gear changes, and braking. This means that they are heavily reliant on their upper body strength. It is important to note that even though the rear rider (stoker) does not shoulder as much control as the captain, they still have a key role to play when riding in tandem.
The stoker is expected to put more of their energy into propelling the bike. As the main “motor” of the bike, the stoker is more reliant on their lower body strength. The stoker can steer the bike by simply shifting their weight along the bike’s axis; however, they are discouraged from doing so as they cannot see in front. The stoker is not supposed to attempt to steer the bike unless the captain directs it.
With time and practice, both riders are able to work together to get the bike moving at a steady pace, pedaling at a pace that they are both comfortable with. Each action, from initiating motion, to accelerating, coasting, standing, braking and stopping must be properly coordinated to ensure an enjoyable experience for both riders, every time.
Benefits Of Tandem Bikes
Due to the unique design and riding technique, tandem bikes offer a number of advantages.
Tandem bikes help bring partners closer than their solo counterparts. Regardless of whether you and your riding partner have the same cycling abilities, riding a tandem bike gives you the opportunity to spend more time together, without the chance of anyone being left behind. By virtue of being on the same bike, you start each ride, travel, and finish together!
Riding a tandem bike helps improve communication between you and your partner. Since the stoker cannot see the road ahead, it is upon the captain to tell them what to expect. The stoker on the other hand has to learn how to spot and interpret even the slightest visual cues from the captain to ensure that they keep up with them. Furthermore, since both riders are close to each other, there is no need for yelling throughout the ride.
When traveling downhill or along a flat stretch, tandem bikes can attain higher speeds than solo bikes. This is due to the fact that the bike is being powered by two people, while the sitting arrangement works to maintain the aerodynamic drag of a single rider. However, these bikes may be slower when traveling uphill.
4. Biking Fun For Everyone
With a tandem bike, you can share the joy and excitement of cycling with just about anyone, including adults and kids who are learning how to cycle and those with physical disabilities.
The Main Features Of A Tandem Bike
As you can see, there are many benefits of riding a tandem bike; however, to enjoy each of these benefits, you need to have the right bike in the first place. Here’s a list of the main features of the best tandem bikes.
- Frame: Technological advancements have led to major improvements in the design and materials used in making tandem bike frames. The best frames for tandem bikes must be light and also extremely stiff. This ensures that even with the extended length, additional weight, and power, the bike does not become overly flexible.
- Stronger Wheels: Tandem bikes are designed to carry heavier loads than solo variants. As such, they are normally fitted with stronger wheels. 26-inch wheels, with 40 to 48 spokes are the norm.
- Wider Range Of Gears: Tandems are faster on flat surfaces and slower uphill. To help you take advantage of the speed over flat surfaces, bigger gears are needed; in the same breath, smaller gears are necessary to get the bike over steep inclines.
- Extra Braking Power: Since they carry more weight and are capable of attaining higher speeds, tandem bikes are normally fitted with powerful brakes. Some tandems come with a third brake – which may be designed to work simultaneously with the other two, or separately as a drag brake.
- Fit/Size: Tandem bikes come in a variety of sizes. This combined with the fact that they are used by two riders makes the work of choosing the right fit somewhat of a challenge. Consider the size of the captain when looking for the perfect bike.
- Comfort Features: Comfy saddles and a capable suspension system make for a smoother ride for the stoker especially considering the fact that they, more often than not, bear the brunt of any bumps along the road.
- Ease of Storage and Transportation: Being larger in size, tandem bikes may pose a challenge when it comes to storage or transportation. Fortunately, you can find foldable or easy to dismantle lightweight variants that help you overcome these challenges.
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The Best Tandem Bikes: 5 Great Picks
- Steel frame
- Coaster Brakes
- Single Speed drive train
- 26-inch wheels
- Comfy extra-large cruiser spring saddles
- Shimano Steel frame
- 21 speed Shimano drive train
- Classic saddles and Schwinn Typhoon Dual Density grips
- 26-inch tires
- Steel frame
- Single-speed drive-train
- 26-inch wheels
- Compact foldable design
- High carbon steel folding frame
- Six-speed Shimano drive train
- 20-inch wheels
- Comes with a separate child seat
- Cruiser style design – with the 26-inch tire
- 21 Speed Shimano drive train
- Linear pull brakes
- Rigid suspension
- 37 Hole double-wall alloy rims
Tandem bikes have transformed the way people enjoy cycling. With the right bike, you can enjoy this fun activity with your favorite partner regardless of their physical or riding abilities. And, with the above information on the main features of the best tandem bikes, you will be able to choose a variant that perfectly suits your individual requirements.