Mountain Bike Tandem Riding Tips

Mountain Bike Tandem Riding Tips

Most tandem teams spend the majority of their time fighting one another on the bike. This fighting is not physical in nature rather it is a hidden fight that works to impeded the smooth operation of their machine. Examples of this fight include:

  • The stoker and captain pedaling out of sync
  • The riders shifting weight in contradictory directions
  • The captain braking while the stoker pedals hard
  • The pair pedaling in violent thrusts versus smooth circles

While out on a tandem ride the other day our editors decided to ditch the paved course they had planned and took to the mountains. The only wrench in their gears came in the form of slick tires mounted to the wheels. Normally they run slicks on the mountain bike for paved rides and knobby tires for off-road treks. Throwing caution into the wind they hit the trails anyways and discovered a great secret for working better together.


The slick tires on the soft dirt work as an amplifier of imperfections. The hidden fight noted above becomes a pay per view special in this slippery exercise. As our editors pedaled along the dirt trail they were forced to sync pedal strokes and weight shifts to avoid toppling over. The captain was made to brake smoothly and communicate the braking vocally to ensure the back tire did not skid uselessly. In the end they finished the ride with no crashes and only one dab after pedaling too violently on a slick climb.

Riding a tandem on dirt with slick tires is not for the faint of heart but it is an excellent exercise to build unison for the more advanced tandem couple.

The techniques used when riding on dirt translate to all tandem teams. Communication is key and synchronization is the goal. Working together the tandem team can navigate most any course set out by single rider bikes and in some cases ride courses not manageable by them. The additional weight and power available to a tandem team, when applied uniformly to the surface, can provide significant traction and torque to top crests not ridable by a solo rider.

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