Author Topic: Why aren't there any tandem road races? Imagine a tandem Tour de France race..  (Read 5418 times)

Can you imagine how much more exciting road racing would be if they had races for tandems?
I can't help but feel that the world would be a better place with a tandem TdF.
Of course it won't happen, but if it did...


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It would be fantastic!

Jan and I could enter as Team Very Slow.
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  • Whimsy Rider
There are tandem road races in the Paralympics and associated races. I captained a blind stoker in the Australian para-cycling team in the '90s, mostly national events but also a world championship in Belgium (wet pave corners in the middle of a tandem bunch banging elbows) and Swiss races. is tandem road race Rio 2016.

There used to be a tandem stage race last century, the Burley Duet Classic in the USA, later sponsored by Co-motion. I read about it in a few magazines; never got a chance to race it but always wanted to.

HK reminded me that last century there used to be a Tandemania race in the UK that included a road race.
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In France*, tandeming was quite popular among working class couples who could not afford buying a motor car in the years 1930 to 1960 approximately. During that era, there were a lot of road races which accepted tandems, for example the Poly the Chanteloup, accepted a mix of pro racers, randonneurs, and tandems, among them Lily Herse, daughter of the frame builder René Herse.

Then, motor cars became more affordable, and all the tandems were left rusting in a barn  :(


*: It's probably not much different in the UK, but I have no data.

Littlewheelsandbig, thank you for those links.
The Rio road race looks amazing, the speed appears significantly higher than solo machines, and impressive to see the skill involved in the safe captaining of one of those tandems.
It's interesting to see the inclusion in paralympic events, and I expect there is a strong team ethos between stoker and captain, that may not be easily replicated by two solo professionals, who would be hindered by their individual egos. Would love to see tandems ride in the Pyrenees though, although I expect the descents would be too hazardous.
Wowbagger, I think we are probably slower than yourselves, and our interest in tandem racing extends to a desire to spectate only..


Chris S

Great links, LW&B!

The idea of piloting in close quarters with a bunch of tandems at those kinds of speeds (at least 40/50 km/h is my guess) I find frankly terrifying!


  • Whimsy Rider
40-50 km/h are pretty normal solo racing speeds. Tandems add maybe 5-8 km/h most of the time. More downhill, less uphill.
Wheel meet again, don't know where, don't know when...

There used to be tandem track races in the world championships, I remember seeing one where the stoker snapped their handlebar but they carried on.  They seemed to take a little longer than the solos to get up to speed, but once moving were impressively fast.  Stopped a few years ago I think.  There are a few clips on Youtube:
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  • Whimsy Rider
Again, the paras do a lot of tandem track racing but mostly not bunch racing, rather sprint, kilo, pursuit.

The tandem sprint was always fun (to watch) until it was dropped from the UCI world championship but they tended to wind up from 500m out and sub-10 second 200m was commonplace. Leading out was almost essential on small tracks because it took so long to come up alongside and too many turns added distance going round the outside. On big tracks, you could start going later because of the greater distance from the second-last turn to the finish line.

That Aussie team trained on my local track for a while when they were preparing for the 1993 world champs. I had started to ease off racing that year but their speed was impressive. Unfortunately I was the opposite of a sprinter, so the tandem sprint was never on my horizon.
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The US masters nationals included tandem racing (including bunch road racing), until a few years ago. A couple of friends used to race it every year and thoroughly enjoyed it.
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I think it's The Penguin Book Of The Bicycle that contains a photo of a brace of tandems trackstanding on a velodrome.

Vague recollection of seeing tandem track racing on the telly coverage of the Commonwealth Games, probably the 1970 edition in Edinburgh.
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There was a certain amount of tandem track sprinting for many years ( triples and quads as well pre-war).
I rode a few tandem sprint events, including the National Championship.
Unfortunately tandem racing was dropped from the Olympics, and subsequently the UCI worlds. The reality is that funding for events is about Olympic, and at a lower level Worlds, performance.
A secondary consideration is that the new indoor smaller, tighter Velodrome’s aren’t as ideal for tandems as the older outdoor tracks, ( although I know some might disagree).
When Andrea Ingram was the Coach at Manchester she put on a tandem omnium; she was an enthusiast, but she moved on. Newcastle track had an omnium as well at about the same time.
On the track, everything flows from the Olympics - because those are the performances that fund the sport.
There is, of course, still a continuing amount of tandem, and even tandem trike, time trial racing.
Tandem road racing would depend on interest, in something that doesn’t have an obvious progression, and someone building suitable tandems ( Mercian build racing tandems, but I’ve seen few other current ones) . Personally, I’d imagine a fair few serious crashes as well ( 3 or 4 up tandem track racing was often pretty physical, I’ve still got some scars!)

I think it's The Penguin Book Of The Bicycle that contains a photo of a brace of tandems trackstanding on a velodrome.

 Indeed it does:

Which leads us to this:

Meanwhile that photo from The Penguin Book Of The Bicycle reminded me that the Road Records Association (see has categories for tandems (male, female and mixed teams) not only for two-wheelers but also for trikes, as this splendid shot from p229 of the same book shows.  Crimes & Arnold's 1954 End-to-End record for the long barrow still stands.

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Meanwhile, John Woodburn's excruciating looking stoker position may help to explain why tandem racing isn't so popular:

(Ooh, what I'd give to have calves like John Patston's! And a quick search shows that they got him 17th in the World Team Time Trial in 1979, together with Joe Waugh, Bob Downs and Martin Pyne)
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