Hot Corner: Tandem biking with my daughter
By Rich Palzewic
I’ve never been one to wish time away – and I still don’t – but I remember when my daughter was born 11 years ago, I couldn’t wait to go biking with her.
We’ve done a fair share of that over the past two years, but we had never ridden a tandem – a bicycle built for two.
That changed a few weeks ago.
Putting some pedals on and pumping up the tires, I hoped she was tall enough to sit in the back comfortably with the seat lowered the whole way down.
I’m not an expert in bicycle fitting, but I do know the most common mistake people make is improper seat height.
Ideally, you should have about a 15% bend in your knee at the bottom of your pedal stroke.
Anything not close to that could lead to discomfort, possible pain and lack of efficiency.
Hopping on the bike, I’d guess my daughter has about an inch more to grow for the ideal seat height – next spring should be good.
It was doable, so we rode for 45 minutes around town and on the Mountain Bay Trail.
Before riding, my daughter said there were two rules: No sweating on her, and I couldn’t pass gas.
I did one of those things, but I won’t say which one.
We got several interesting looks from people passing by them.
I could almost hear them saying, “What the heck is that thing?”
The person in the front is the captain and controls shifting, steering, balancing and braking, among other things.
The captain should be the more skilled of the two cyclists and needs to possess sound judgment and good bicycle-handling skills.
Perhaps the most important quality the captain needs to demonstrate is the ability to communicate and inspire confidence and trust in his/her partner.
As a captain, you must communicate any changes in gear or road conditions.
The stoker – the rider in the back – is not – as popular misconception would have it – the easy seat when you want to kick back and put your feet up.
In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
A stoker preferably needs good endurance and strength, or at the very least, to pedal consistently.
Of course, it’s OK to take a break when you get up to cruising speed.
Perhaps the most important role of the stoker is to provide the power for getting up hills.
I could even notice this from my 75-pound daughter.
When I needed more power going up hills, I could feel her push – the tandem got a quick jolt of energy.
To avoid causing accidents, it’s important the stoker remains centered on the bicycle and doesn’t try to steer.
Erratic weight transfers can throw the tandem off balance and cause crashes.
And remember, when the bicycle leans into a corner, then you need to as well – to ensure you maintain the tandem’s equilibrium.
A tandem is similar to an 18-wheel truck – it’s slow going uphill, but watch out going downhill.
As always, thanks for reading.
Sports editor’s note: To read another Hot Corner article by Rich Palzewic, CLICK HERE.