Staying Safe When Riding a Tandem

Staying Safe When Riding a Tandem

For some the idea of safety on a bicycle is making sure their shoelaces are tied to avoid tangling the laces in the pedal. For others, with a keener eye towards self-preservation, a few safety tips can go a long way to making rides on a tandem bicycle safer and more enjoyable.

The options available to tandem teams in terms of safety are the same as available to solo cyclists with the caveat that more care needs to be taken of the machine. A tandem bike, notably the components, are more susceptible to fatigue related failure. The combination of two riders with mass applying torque on two connected pendulums will prematurely wear parts that would normally never fail on a single bike. When seeking additional safety on a tandem look at your components first.

With the tandem in safe form your next safety line is found with the items you choose to wear. For solo cyclists the bigger risk for serious injury comes in endo style crashes (over the handlebars). For protection from these types of injuries a standard helmet, gloves, and a hydration pack can minimize injuries. Tandems are much less susceptible to this type of crash due to the long wheel base and seperation of mass front to back.

Tandem teams are susceptible to side to side crashes, wash outs of the front tire, and accidents with third parties (think “cars”). In these types of crashes the stoker tends to be more at risk since they “never see it coming”. One second they are pedaling along and the next they are lying in a heap on the side of the road. Safety gear needs are obviously different. Being unaware of the impending doom (artistic expression added here) tandem teams should look for equipment that will provide additional protection to areas that will have first contact with the ground.

  • Helmets that provide additional side and rear coverage or even mouth protection can provide additional levels of security.
  • Some stokers elect to wear body armor knee/ shin guards and elbow guards (primarily spotted on mountain tandem teams).
  • Full finger cycling gloves can protect more of the hand from road rash and lacerations.
  • High dollar cycling shoes with molded heels and toes protect the foot from foreign objects.
  • Sunglasses that offer more than just style. Shades that include design elements to keep them attached to your face during a fall will ensure your eyes receive some level of protection after you hit the ground.

Finally it is necessary to ensure information is easily accessible. Think about the worst case scenario where both riders are incapacitated after a crash. Do either of you have allergies? Is there an emergency contact outside of the two individuals lying on the ground? All those important details that can help save your life and care for your injuries might be lost in this worst case situation. Take steps to provide information to first responders. At a minimum make sure both riders have id on their person or the tandem. Add additional ICE (in case of emergency) contacts into a cellular phone other than the individual you normally ride with. If you have allergies or immediate medical conditions carry a card explaining so. Taking this a step further their are third party services that use an ID tag to provide this data to first responders. Our editors have experience with the “Road ID” system and can vouch for the quality of the service.

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