A Tandem Bike is a bicycle designed and built to carry two passengers in a manner that allows both passengers to pedal. Tandems can be setup for standard riding styles, recumbant riding styles, or a combination of the two. Commonly referred to as a bicycle built for two the tandem is experiencing a revival in popular culture due to its simplicity of design and operation, ability to allow two people to travel conveniently together, and light-hearted nature of travel.
Tandem bikes can be found in design combinations ranging from standard non-geared beach cruisers to fully suspended long travel mountain bike tandems. The wide variety of tandem designs and shapes allows tandem teams wide latitude in selecting a tandem bike to fit their riding style and terrain. More recent designs have intergrated a recumbant Captain seat and a standard Stoker seat.
The riders of a tandem are designated by their position on the tandem bike. The rider in front usually has control of the steering, braking, and shifting. Generally the rider in front is the more experienced cyclist or is the cyclist with the better ability to maneuver the tandem through the intended route. The rider in front is thus referred to as the Captain.
The rider in the rear of the tandem generally does not have direct control of the steering, braking, or shifting. The second rider is “the motor” of the tandem with their only direct effort being to help power the tandem and aid in manuevering by shifting their weight from side to side. The tandem rider in the rear is thus referred to as the Stoker.
The Captain and the Stoker combine to make a tandem team. Beginner tandem teams often find riding a tandem to be an exercise in communication and patience. For most people the combination of two riders into one bike is a learned trait that must undo years of solo biking efforts. The Captain must be aware and caring of the Stoker’s lack of visual acuity replacing their lack of sight with consistent feedback on upcoming maneuvers. At the same time the Stoker must be careful to time weight shifts and pedaling efforts to sync with the needs expressed by the Captain. It is often said that wherever a relationship is headed a tandem will get it there faster.
The tandem bike offers cyclists a viable and fun alternative to riding alone and under the right circumstances affords a great opportunity for human powered transportation.