Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Guidelines for Tandems: Stokers

Just a few biased facts based on my tandem experience to put forth.

1   Tandems are not faster than single bikes.  A quality tandem with a good team is

2   Just because you spent $6K USD on a tandem does not make it faster.  See disclaimer #1

3   Tandems are easier for 2 people to ride together than the same pair on singles.  FALSE  these people need to work together, discover the qualities of the bike and develop their skills together.  Of course 2 tandem experten thrown together on a tandem will have an easier go at since they know what to expect, mostly.

4   Tandems are heavier than singles.  A 42 lb mtb tandem weighs about the same as two 21 lb single bikes.  Our 36lb road tandem weighs the same as two 18lb singles.

Tandems consist of two people.  The person in front or "captain" and the person in back, the "stoker" "rear admiral".  Any additional riders are "stokers".  I am a captain or as I refer to myself, "gear hunter".  Mary is my stoker or as I sometimes consider her, "air brake."

We currently have 2 tandems.  Our first is a mtb converted to touring bike.  I have logged a few hours and miles on single track in the woods of this bike.  However, most of my riding is on pavement and thus the flat bars were replaced with drop bars.

Fisher Gemini, Ragbrai 2011

Our other tandem is a road/racing tandem.  No racks or unnecessary shit.  Just a computer, 4 water bottle cages and provisions for lights.

Cannondale RT3000, Carlisle, Iowa
The captain's responsibility is to keep the bicycle upright and avoid collisions.  the captain must communicate with the stoker about changes in speed, cadence, immediate bumps and other assorted dangers.  The captain is also responsible for communicating with other bicyclists unless that power is delegated to the stoker or the captain is unaware of others.

The stokers main and most important responsibility is to learn and blindly accept the habits of the captain.  When these two individuals first unite on the bike the captain will issue the necessary orders; coast, resume, downshift, up shift, stand up and stop pedalling because there is a bad bump/tracks ect. 

After a significant period of time the captain should not have to communicate so much with the stoker.  the stoker should know what the captain is going to do.  After 20 years Mary knows the exact moment that I will stop pedalling for a stop sign or a 90 degree turn.  She knows the exact speed in which I will resume pedalling after dive bombing a 40 mph downhill.  This greatly reduces the my workload and lowers my stress to free my mind on more important issues.  These issues include where to stop for a pee break, what we should have for lunch, how hard we should push it to bury the competition, what brand of beer should be purchased and how much.  Paramount, where are we going and how long will it take to get there.

Others duties of the stoker include but are not limited to:

--placing map back in captain's jersey back pocket

--handling camera and/or handing camera to captain or putting camera in captain's jersey pocket

--operating communication devises, phones, texting, internet, FB, walkie talkies communicators

--monitoring tandem mechanical performance--chain rub on front derailleur, noise from rear wheel, tire pressure (does it look or feel like it's going flat?), what cog in the cassette is the chain puking in

--inform captain when other bicycles are drafting (serious issue with tandems are wheel suckers.  We have inadvertently run a few of these unwelcome guests off the road simply because we were unaware of their presence

--monitor rear rack and panniers (if equipped)

--monitor trailer (if equipped)

--operate stereo

--operating weapon systems--tandem weapons include but are not limited to the following--water balloons, squirt guns, water bottles, eggs, flare guns. bottle rockets, firecrackers, MG 151/20, MG42, MK103, Hispano 20MM, Ma Deuce, 1911, Glocks, Uzis ect

Stokers also have other responsibilities

--never sit up and create an air brake without permission
--never take personal phone calls while on the bike
--screen captain's phone calls
--never bitch about extended beer breaks
--inform the captain if need to stop pedalling
--inform the captain if the trailer (if equipped) is knocking down orange cones

What makes a good stoker?

--understand and fulfill the duties and responsibilities mentioned above
--very important is to be lighter than the captain. 
--complete trust in the captain

And that is why I love Mary. Shes a strong rider that never complains and can handle a 30mm machine cannon like a pro!


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