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Is a Tandem Bike a Divorce Machine, or a Marriage Binder? Tandem Cycling for Noobs

I read a lot of cycling posts and articles but not much on tandems, so I thought I’d throw in my two cents on a topic commonly bandied about when riding with single-cyclists (not marital single, one rider per bike “single”). Is the tandem a marriage maker or breaker?

A friend of mine, and a helluva strong cyclist, used to say that on the tandem with his girlfriend was the one place that everything was as it should be in the world.

On the one hand, they’re no longer together. On the other, and with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek, he did have a point.  For the seasoned tandem cyclist, the tandem isn’t a struggle because you either learn to love it, or you go back to single bikes.  For the noob, it gets a little interesting, so if you’re new to cycling and think you might want to try a tandem with your spouse, read on…

First, a few important rules of happy tandem cycling (remember, the captain is up front, the stoker is in the back):

  • The captain is the captain. If you can’t accept this, stick with the single bikes.
  • The stoker makes no mistakes. Of course they do, right? Oh no they don’t! D’you wanna be right or happy? Happy it is! The stoker makes no mistakes.  If you can’t accept this, your marriage will be very short.  Stick to the single bikes.
  • The stoker is there for one thing: pure, unadulterated power.  Yes, you get to look around and talk to everyone, that is the benefit of not having to pilot the bicycle equivalent of a semi.
  • The captain is the stronger cyclist for a reason – you’re going to work a lot harder on a tandem – and you still have to keep the thing on the road! Figure 25-30%, give or take. That’s the job.  Muscle up, bub.
  • Stokers, watch the fidgeting.  Every shift you make throws the bike around and it gets a little tricky keeping it on the road sometimes.  Don’t worry, you still don’t make any mistakes.
  • Captains, the stoker gets every bump on the road and has no time to prepare for them.  Miss the road bumps for your stoker’s sake.  At the very least, let your stoker know they’re coming so they can brace for it (or get a thud buster seat post).  Unlike stokers, captains do make mistakes.  Don’t let this be one.

Tandem bikes are a lot like canoes. If you want to know how solid a foundation your marriage is built on, take your spouse for a spin on a tandem. You’ll find out pretty fast.  To look at the initial question posed in my Title, though, a tandem is both a marriage maker and a breaker.

A tandem is a relationship intensifier.

This photo is of some friends on the Assenmacher 100 – The photo just fit the post.

Whatever you’re going through in your relationship, a tandem will intensify it.  For my wife and I, typically this is a very good thing.  Every once in a while, though, WOW!  Just remember, on those bad days the goal is to stay married.  And the good days?  Well, they’re really good.  Just enjoy them.

To wrap this up, if you’re going to give the tandem a try, hold onto the single bikes.  Every once in a while a break might be needed so you remember how much fun it is to ride together.

I hope this was helpful… or at least a little entertaining.