Author Topic: How hard do you pedal on tandem vs solo?  (Read 3177 times)

How hard do you pedal on tandem vs solo?
« on: 15 May, 2023, 10:30:31 pm »
 I've been riding audax this season with a partner who is of broadly similar ability to me, maybe a bit less but not dramatically so. We have been far slower than I am riding solo. Also it's clear from my heart rate data that I'm not riding as hard as I normally do in a solo. That's not a conscious decision, so why is it?

When riding a bike I don't necessarily think about how hard I am going to pedal. The level of power I ride at is a function of my objective and how fresh I'm feeling, and I just pedal at what I think I can sustain to achieve my goal, whether that is to cover x distance in y time, or poottle asking admiring the scenery, or anything in between.

On a solo, how fast I go is directly related to my level of power. On a tandem there is obviously another factor: how hard the other guy pedals. I've been wondering if this affects the unconscious calculation that a tandem rider makes that dictates how hard they pedal? If so, how?

The closest analogy I can think of is if you are riding with a partner who is pedalling hard, it's a bit like riding slightly downhill, and with a soft pedalling partner, it's a bit like riding slightly uphill.

Aleksdad's post below at being slower with his son than either of them solo also made me wonder if there was unconscious softpedalling going on there, and if it's a common thing.

I've not seen anything at all written on this. Anyone have any views?

Re: How hard do you pedal on tandem vs solo?
« Reply #1 on: 15 May, 2023, 10:51:10 pm »
I used to race tandem.  My stoker was slower than me, but together we were considerably faster than I was solo.  On the touring tandem with my then wife we were possibly slower than me solo, but she almost never rode on her own.

Some of it is down to compatible pedalling styles.

LittleWheelsandBig

  • Whimsy Rider
Re: How hard do you pedal on tandem vs solo?
« Reply #2 on: 15 May, 2023, 10:56:43 pm »
I usually ride a tandem the same speed or faster than I ride a solo. Mostly the difference is ‘not wanting to let the team down’, so I pedal a little harder. Monitoring effort by perceived exertion is the phrase, rather than a target speed or time. I am fairly lazy riding solo.

I tend to tell my stoker to pedal a touch conservatively so that when I ask them for more effort, they have a little left in the tank and can actually power us over that short rise in the wrong gear.

I have done enough miles on a tandem, touring, road racing and audaxing, that I don’t need to worry about running out of juice most of the time.

Are you fairly matched in cadence or is one or both of you pedalling at the wrong cadence?
Wheel meet again, don't know where, don't know when...

Re: How hard do you pedal on tandem vs solo?
« Reply #3 on: 16 May, 2023, 06:45:52 am »
Thanks both, that's helped me to understand a bit better.

I don't think it's pedalling incompatibility. Our natural cadences are quite well matched and there's no feeling of the pedals wanting to do something different from what I want.

I think my first post want quite right. I expect I am probably more than a little bit stronger than him nowadays. And our slower speed is due to climbing, we fairly zip along on the flat.  We've not raced on the tandem (he has with others in the past), but I expect we might be quick on a flat course.

The issue is that I'm not putting as much effort in as I do in a solo. That's not intentional but my HR data shows it to be the case. And after the weekend's 400, my legs were not sore the way they normally would be the morning after a long ride. (Nb the lower average heart rate will in pat be due to us having loads more, and longer, stops than I do on a solo).

That's not intentional. I think, for some reason, I'm subconsciously adjusting my power downwards to match his, maybe to make the perceived effort match the speed. Probably just something for me to think about next time. But from what you say, Dave, it doesn't sound like it's what people generally do: you seem to be able to put in the level of effort you want.

Re: How hard do you pedal on tandem vs solo?
« Reply #4 on: 16 May, 2023, 08:28:01 am »
We're faster on the tandem than we are on solos- except climbing and we're possibly slower, possibly the same. That's partly a different climbing style, I'm very much a seated masher, he climbs like on a fixed. We do stand when climbing, though probably not as often as he would solo. Most of the climbing issues are mass-related though.

Mr Smith's HR is always higher on the tandem- he reckons it's partly the upper body engagement he doesn't need on the solo.

Our strengths are different- he's got a higher power but it fades much sooner than mine. I take forever to warm up (couple of hours?) but we often rely on my finishing strength as he's completely spent.

I'll tell him to ease up and soft pedal (if his HR is running higher than I'd like- he does have a history after all) but he rarely does- he doesn't like relying on me until he has to.

When I'm tandeming with LW&B there is much more

Mostly the difference is ‘not wanting to let the team down’, so I pedal a little harder.

because I know Mr Smith will love me and ride with me even if I'm crap  ;D



Re: How hard do you pedal on tandem vs solo?
« Reply #5 on: 16 May, 2023, 08:43:11 am »
Thanks L, good to get thoughts from the people with loads of experience!

You raise a good point I hadn't thought about which is pedalling style for climbing. There we're not compatible. I sit and spin the lowest gear technically possible while he would like to stand up at a lower cadence for every bump. And that's where we are slow, so figures.

I'm not adverse to a bit of standing, and it would help with comfort, but I have trouble with the handling when he stands (he's slightly heavier than me). The one time we both stood, the timing chain came off and we've not tried it again. Maybe we just need to practice that a bit.

There's definitely something in the relationship dynamic too. He is blind so can't ride other than on a tandem so I expect he feels more need to give it his all than I do. I've got other objectives on a solo that I'm also focusing on, and maybe saving myself a bit for.

LittleWheelsandBig

  • Whimsy Rider
Re: How hard do you pedal on tandem vs solo?
« Reply #6 on: 16 May, 2023, 10:17:29 am »
Steve and I are consciously practicing standing more over short slopes now, mostly to take pressure off my baby-soft bum, after riding our first couple of brevets only standing while coasting. Getting used to how a tandem moves out of the saddle and how much to control its natural lateral movement is a big part of becoming a tandem team.

We are very clear that Steve is very much my 'ace in the hole' for when I misjudge a climb's severity or length, so he is happy to 'ride conservative' most of the time. It is easy to make a tandem go fast on flat ground but it is climbing where a tandem team really shows their mettle.

I think it is a good idea to run a tandem's timing chain a little tighter than is normally considered optimal. People test chain tension without any load on the chain while a tandem frame tends to flex noticeably (particularly if the timing chainrings are small) which loosens the chain tension. Just watch the timing chain sag when you put some power down. The effects of losing a timing chain are bad enough that faster wear of the rear BB isn't a big deal in comparison.
Wheel meet again, don't know where, don't know when...

Re: How hard do you pedal on tandem vs solo?
« Reply #7 on: 16 May, 2023, 02:05:44 pm »
Thanks - so I'll bite the bullet and practice standing on our next ride!  And try to remember  to pedal a bit harder...

Interesting you say that about the timing chain.  I'd come to a similar conclusion from my experience this year.  I've adjusted it a couple of times over the last few months and each time left a little slack in it, and we have been losing it regularly.  We lost it maybe four times on our 300, which was crazy. So I had it pretty tight for last weekend and we didn't lose it at all. 

Re: How hard do you pedal on tandem vs solo?
« Reply #8 on: 16 May, 2023, 02:35:18 pm »
How much information do you give Roland on the hill coming up? With Sean I’ll distinguish between short and sharp and a longer sustained uphill. For the former I’ll ask Sean to give it some welly, as he can produce a lot of power, but not for very long.  But if short sharp it’ll be enough to get us up it. For something longer, I’ll let him know I’m dropping the gears down and we’re going to keep it steady. Obviously harder to do on audax once it’s dark, unless you are familiar with the terrain.

A technique for rollers that you may or may not do when solo, is to shift to a big gear and really build up the speed as much as you can on the downhill and let momentum carry you a fair bit up the other side whilst still in a big gear.  Then judge when it time to change to a lower gear as your speed drops.  Often as not you’ll get a fair way up the other side, if not all the way, before you need to change down, if at all.  It’s a technique I started adopting when I switched to mostly recumbent, taking advantage of the characteristics.  It surprises me how many upright solos don’t take advantage of gravity to reduce the amount of uphill effort / work.  The technique should work equally well for a tandem.

LittleWheelsandBig

  • Whimsy Rider
Re: How hard do you pedal on tandem vs solo?
« Reply #9 on: 16 May, 2023, 03:13:02 pm »
Tandems ride a lot like an aero recumbent, quick descending, good on flat ground, often slower on steep climbs. Momentum is your friend over short rollers but it is fairly easy to bog down on longer lumps. At PBP, the only time I have to worry about my tandem being overtaken on the descents is when a velomobile is wound up. That technique is less important on a solo upright as wind drag is usually more significant.

Lindsay, there have been very few stokers that I have enjoyed riding with more than you. Finishing that 600 despite mechanical issues was great. Just let me know if you want to team up again sometime.
Wheel meet again, don't know where, don't know when...

Re: How hard do you pedal on tandem vs solo?
« Reply #10 on: 16 May, 2023, 03:45:27 pm »
How much information do you give Roland on the hill coming up? With Sean I’ll distinguish between short and sharp and a longer sustained uphill. For the former I’ll ask Sean to give it some welly, as he can produce a lot of power, but not for very long.  But if short sharp it’ll be enough to get us up it. For something longer, I’ll let him know I’m dropping the gears down and we’re going to keep it steady. Obviously harder to do on audax once it’s dark, unless you are familiar with the terrain.

A technique for rollers that you may or may not do when solo, is to shift to a big gear and really build up the speed as much as you can on the downhill and let momentum carry you a fair bit up the other side whilst still in a big gear.  Then judge when it's time to change to a lower gear as your speed drops.  Often as not you’ll get a fair way up the other side, if not all the way, before you need to change down, if at all.  It’s a technique I started adopting when I switched to mostly recumbent, taking advantage of the characteristics.  It surprises me how many upright solos don’t take advantage of gravity to reduce the amount of uphill effort / work.  The technique should work equally well for a tandem.

Good points! 

I try to give him a good bit of info about the hill, without saying 'this one seems to go on for ever!  What I started doing at the weekend was giving a time estimate for a steep bit - 20 seconds, 30 seconds.  That seemed to work better than distance, as my distances were invariably wrong.  And I try to say, this is the steep bit but it's only xx seconds, or it's flattening off now.  But I'm sure I could do more in describing hills.  Maybe first step is to ask him what he wants to know.

Funnily enough, one of my memories from my first PBP was how few other riders seemed to pedal downhill, in the later stages at least. We're both time triallists so are used to working the descents, and on Sunday I used the carrot of 'if we give it a bit of a push we can get up this one without shifting down' quite a bit.  The tandem is noticeably better at carrying momentum through a roller, and we discussed this on Sunday.

Re: How hard do you pedal on tandem vs solo?
« Reply #11 on: 16 May, 2023, 03:50:33 pm »
I try to give him a good bit of info about the hill

I find the climb alert and subsequent flip to the altitude / gradient profile page on the Wahoo Bolt and Roam to be really handy when riding unknown roads with unknown hillage. I think Garmin has an equivalent. Would it be useful if the stoker had a separate GPS on their bars so that they would be able to see for themselves how steep and long the upcoming climb is?

LittleWheelsandBig

  • Whimsy Rider
Re: How hard do you pedal on tandem vs solo?
« Reply #12 on: 16 May, 2023, 03:58:19 pm »
My stoker is totally blind, so none of his information is visual. I spend a bit of time mentioning hairy houses and suchlike amongst the bump/ stand/ time to pedal stuff.

You do better than me if you can accurately judge remaining distance or predicted time. I currently just go with 'this is short, pedal up' or 'this is long, settle in', tell him when to ease off and leave Steve to judge his effort accordingly. He would prefer an actual number but I hate getting numbers wrong and my estimates are crap.
Wheel meet again, don't know where, don't know when...

Re: How hard do you pedal on tandem vs solo?
« Reply #13 on: 16 May, 2023, 04:02:46 pm »
Would it be useful if the stoker had a separate GPS on their bars so that they would be able to see for themselves how steep and long the upcoming climb is?

Good thought, but he's blind, I'm afraid, so not going to help!

Re: How hard do you pedal on tandem vs solo?
« Reply #14 on: 16 May, 2023, 04:04:43 pm »
He would prefer an actual number but I hate getting numbers wrong and my estimates are crap.

I'm sure my numbers are wrong, but I'm not so bothered by that - only whether they are helpful or not - and I need to ask on that point.  If my errors are more systematic than random, I'll be content!

Re: How hard do you pedal on tandem vs solo?
« Reply #15 on: 16 May, 2023, 04:45:09 pm »
A technique for rollers that you may or may not do when solo, is to shift to a big gear and really build up the speed as much as you can on the downhill and let momentum carry you a fair bit up the other side whilst still in a big gear. 

We do this a lot- but judging when the transmission can cope with a rapid change is a dark art.

Re: How hard do you pedal on tandem vs solo?
« Reply #16 on: 16 May, 2023, 04:49:19 pm »
I try to give him a good bit of info about the hill

I find the climb alert and subsequent flip to the altitude / gradient profile page on the Wahoo Bolt and Roam to be really handy when riding unknown roads with unknown hillage. I think Garmin has an equivalent. Would it be useful if the stoker had a separate GPS on their bars so that they would be able to see for themselves how steep and long the upcoming climb is?
Newer Edge Garmins have Climb - which shows the steepness and length of the upcoming climb. Generally I'd rather not know. Hard to judge how much info I'd want/need if I were blind.

Re: How hard do you pedal on tandem vs solo?
« Reply #17 on: 16 May, 2023, 04:58:06 pm »
You do better than me if you can accurately judge remaining distance or predicted time.

I find the predicted time to be fairly good. But mainly I find it good for bastard hills as it gives me a target. Much better than nothing.

The thing that annoys me about the feature is that it takes too long to revert to the normal map page. That can lead to missing an uphill turn, where the turn off is also a bastard hill and it is that profile you are seeing on the screen. I noticed today that the feature comes into play even when you are not following a planned route.

Anyway, sorry to interrupt, back to people that know about tandems.

Re: How hard do you pedal on tandem vs solo?
« Reply #18 on: 16 May, 2023, 05:28:10 pm »
And after the weekend's 400, my legs were not sore the way they normally would be the morning after a long ride.

That’s probably because you didn’t immediately jump in a car to go home, but relaxed at finish with beer and food, in the sunshine.  ;D

Re: How hard do you pedal on tandem vs solo?
« Reply #19 on: 16 May, 2023, 06:14:16 pm »

Newer Edge Garmins have Climb - which shows the steepness and length of the upcoming climb. Generally I'd rather not know. Hard to judge how much info I'd want/need if I were blind.

Haha, I'd forgotten about that function!  Turned it off after the first ride with my new Garmin.  And, a couple of years later, here am I trying to guess what it would tell me!  But I only ever want a GPS to give me a line to follow, no smart-arsed functions that get in the way of that, making me miss turns, etc. 

Re: How hard do you pedal on tandem vs solo?
« Reply #20 on: 16 May, 2023, 08:05:42 pm »

Newer Edge Garmins have Climb - which shows the steepness and length of the upcoming climb. Generally I'd rather not know. Hard to judge how much info I'd want/need if I were blind.

Haha, I'd forgotten about that function!  Turned it off after the first ride with my new Garmin.  And, a couple of years later, here am I trying to guess what it would tell me!  But I only ever want a GPS to give me a line to follow, no smart-arsed functions that get in the way of that, making me miss turns, etc.
Which is why I'm still using an Etrex (20 or 30x).  Plus the replaceable batteries.

LittleWheelsandBig

  • Whimsy Rider
Re: How hard do you pedal on tandem vs solo?
« Reply #21 on: 17 May, 2023, 11:27:13 am »

Newer Edge Garmins have Climb - which shows the steepness and length of the upcoming climb. Generally I'd rather not know. Hard to judge how much info I'd want/need if I were blind.

Haha, I'd forgotten about that function!  Turned it off after the first ride with my new Garmin.  And, a couple of years later, here am I trying to guess what it would tell me!  But I only ever want a GPS to give me a line to follow, no smart-arsed functions that get in the way of that, making me miss turns, etc.

Some folks ride with 2 x GPS on the bars to have 'all the info, all the time' (+ redundancy).
Wheel meet again, don't know where, don't know when...

Kim

  • Timelord
    • Fediverse
Re: How hard do you pedal on tandem vs solo?
« Reply #22 on: 17 May, 2023, 12:14:48 pm »
I've only done a little bit of tandem riding, in which performance mostly came down to the compatibility or otherwise of our ideas of what constituted a comfortable cadence.

But I note that:

a) I find it very hard to put a proper effort in when riding with e-assist, except when I can go fast enough to exceed the limiter.
b) What seems like a 'natural' amount of effort seems to vary as much with comfort/handling of whatever I'm riding than the actual performance of the machine in question.