Tandem bikes seem quite fun at first glance but don’t necessarily look or seem to be efficient. They seem to be dependant on both rides skills & performance to even preform adequately.
So are tandem bikes faster than average bikes?
Research has proven that Tandem bikes are faster than average bikes but only on flat terrain and downhill whereas it is actually slower uphill.
Even with a slow and inexperienced rider, you will still be faster than you were on your own on an average bike.
Let’s take a look at some research done on this as well as what to expect when first riding a tandem as well as it’s pros and cons.
How Much Faster Are Tandem Bikes
According to a research paper entitled “The physiological effects of cycling on tandem and single” the researchers concluded that cyclists were able to ride around 4.8–8.0 kph faster on a tandem than on a single bicycle at similar physiological stress. Not only are they faster but the study also concluded that cycling on a tandem resulted in lower physiological stress than when cycling at a similar pace as on a single bicycle.
Tandems are more efficient due to their build allowing for double the pedal power while maintaining a lightweight aerodynamic build. The average bike can weigh anywhere from 21-29 pounds whereas a tandem bike average weight is around 35 pounds thus allowing for more pedal power without much extra weight. The wind resistance of a tandem bike is slightly higher than on a single bike but this is overcome with double the pedaling power.
When Are Tandem Bikes Least Efficient?
Tandem bikes are least efficient when going uphill and there are a few reasons for this firstly as mentioned above the reason random bikes are able to go quicker on flat and downhill terrain is because of its aerodynamics and the weigh of the bike being almost similar to an average bike providing for double the pedal power with less weight. But when it comes to going uphill the dynamic changes the bike is no longer aerodynamic therefore coordination becomes crucial & the skill & power of both riders must match in order to ride uphill as smoothly and easily as an average bike.
To cycle uphill at a faster pace uphill requires both riders to cycle in unison the reason being is going uphill increases the drag and reduces pedaling power. The weight of both riders come in to play as well this adds additional resistance to an individual who may not have the power to pedal that extra weight leaving the other rider to carry additional weight which in turn reduces speed when climbing uphill dramatically.
What To Know Before Riding A Tandem?
Practice On Your Own
Everything from the length to the weight of a tandem bike is different than an average bike, turns will be much more difficult and will take some getting used to. So riding on your own especially if your the captain is crucial before you start riding with your partner.
Communication Is Essential
Communication Is essential on a tandem both riders are in charge of the others well being. Everything should be communicated to with your partner including:
- Turning right / left
- notifying partner on branches, bumps..etc
- slowing down to wait for on going cars without the need to stop the bike
- changing gears
Communication can make your rides easier & more efficient. The captain has a better view of what is ahead, and the stoker can see & should notify the captain on what’s going on at sides & the back.
The First Ride
When first riding a tandem you will notice balancing the bike effectively will seem quite difficult. You should get used to riding as a unit, it will be quite difficult at first but over time it will be an easy & enjoyable experience.
When going on your first ride it’s recommended that you start somewhere with fewer people and less traffic. The park will be the perfect place to start allowing you to practice with fewer distractions & obstacles.
Pros & Cons Of Tandem Bikes
Ride At Your Own Pace
The biggest advantage of a tandem is that it allows two cyclists with different skill levels to cycle together without reducing the higher skill rider’s performance infact they will notice a massive increase in average speed. Also, this allows both riders to ride together without the less skilled cyclists getting left behind providing for a more enjoyable experience. This is also a huge advantage if traveling together you don’t have to worry about your less-skilled partner being left behind.
Tandems Are More Efficient
Tandem’s are built to be aerodynamic and are only slightly heavier than the average bike while generating double the pedaling power.
An advantage of a tandem is there quit safe, the captain just needs to focus on what’s ahead whereas the stoker focuses on what’s going on at the back if there’s oncoming cars..etc and can notify the captain.
Completely Different To Riding a Normal Bike
If your new to tandem’s you have to pretty much re-learn cycling, it’s a completely different experience even if you’re a pro on your normal bike. Since the bike is longer turns will be much more difficult, communication will also take some getting used to notifying your partner in every situation is a must.
Hard to maneuver in tight Areas
Turning on a tandem is quite difficult and might take getting used to. The captain must be extremely cautious that there is enough space when making a 90-degree turn or a U-turn.
Cant Ride Whenever You Want
One of the biggest cons of a tandem is you can’t just decide you want to ride at any moment, there might be times where you want to ride and your partner doesn’t & it might ruin the experience slightly.
Tandem bikes have proven to be quicker and more efficient than an average bike allowing riders with two different skill levels to pedal at their own pace without adding much resistance to the other rider. Research also proves that riding on a tandem bike significantly reduces physiological stress especially for the stroker while maintaining a similar pace. This is due to the tandem bike being only slightly heavier than the average bike and more aerodynamic increasing efficiency by allowing two riders with less weight than two separate bikes. Where a tandem bike lacks loses efficiency is when the ride progresses uphill this shifts the weight removing the strongest aspect of a tandem bike being aerodynamics and thus forces the riders to pedal in unison. This also puts additional strain on the Captain requiring additional pedaling power with added resistance and drag.