Dear TR team
I’m a passionate enthusiastic road cyclist, but more often than not, I’m reliant on my Smart Trainer with the wonderful TrainerRoad app to train as I’m blind and struggle to entice regular reliable tandem pilots. I fully appreciate the joy of cycling is often being independent, to ride from your own doorstep and ultimately only having the responsibility for yourself, and in spite of being a member of a local cycling club with 300++ members, I still cannot secure any regular willingness for others to pilot me.
I’m an accomplished cyclist, recently completing a 110 mile Etap de Dales ride around Yorkshire with 10,000ft of ascent, being the only tandem on the sportive event, passing ample of solo carbon bike cyclists walking up some of the 18/20% climbs.
However, I just love cycling, so riding with anyone for 1 hour or 8 hours, on flat or mountainous more challenging routes isn’t an issue, I’m just keen to get out and cycle.
Can you suggest any tips to entice other members of my cycling club, to overcome any fears of an added responsibility or any other fears that is inhibiting any volunteers to ride with me?
I’ve an FTP of 270 and have no trouble keeping in a peloton bunch on ascents in spite of the tandem being 20Kg, in case a fear of being dropped is putting people off riding with me.
Any thoughts on tandem riding in general, and why it isn’t as popular?
Dear TR team
Hell, if I was local to you, I’d ride with you in a heartbeat……showing up at a group ride with your power on the back would be an absolute blast!!!
As for finding partners, it sounds like you are already in a club? What conversations have you had with other members re: riding with you?
Seems like if you could find just one person to take the step, and then you guys lay the wood to everyone on a ride, you would then have people lining up to ride with you.
Is there a track near you? Anyone I’ve known on a visually impaired Tandem has started in on the track.
This strikes me as a bit of a big ask honestly. If you were local, I’ve love to hop on for a couple rides as well. But a long term partner…that’s a different story.
If it were me, I’d be looking at this more from the angle of trying to find a friend that wants to ride bikes, rather than a bike rider that wants to rides tandem bikes.
Yep, I think this is the exact issue. Even though my local club has over 300 members, they are established solo cyclists, although each seem to love posting FB messages about a new challenge they’ve achieved, either a route, a PB on a hill climb, a 12 hour endurance ride, variations of a normal ride, and so if I just found 12 willing to ride just once a year as an alternative challenge, then I’d be guaranteed at least one ride per month!! You solo cyclists all know what it is like when your bike is in the shop, being repaired, off the road and you can’t cycle, extremely frustrating, so this is my experience every weekend, and keen not to beg for a ride / charity offering of a pilot. Thankful for my new WattBike and TrainerRoad which goes some way towards my own alternative cycling experience
I do have 2 or 3 pilots still, but I just need more offers to spread out the joy and be sure I’m not constantly asking the same few to drive to my place, ride with me and then they drive home, which is obviously not the same experience as them just riding from their own front door, on their own saddle, fitted bike.
The tandem of course always attracts attention, which some cyclists / pilots might not enjoy, and its obviously harder to go up hills, but personally, I take that as more of a challenge to conquer and master. On the flats, the tandem can average significantly higher speeds, and its certainly more of a ‘team’ paired activity, working together well makes a difference.
I’m just baffled why so many solo cyclists are reluctant to just try it out. No doubt it is the inconvenience, logistics of having to come to me first to ride from my door, compared to riding from their own place, and the added responsibility for me too perhaps?
I’ve been cycling 20 years now, with just a little light perception left, but I make up for that with enthusiasm and an easy going approach to ride any time / any where and any sort of distance / style of routes. I just like the wind in my face and the outdoor sense of cycling.
Certainly, TrainerRoad and its power measuring has also given me the confidence to be certain its not just my pilot putting the power down as I now have my own FTP / numbers on file I’d be rich if I took a dollar for every person who said ‘he’s not pedalling at the back!’.
Thanks for your time
One option (assuming they don’t live too far from you) is for them to ride their bike to your house and then hop on the tandem with you. Alternatively, they can get the tandem at their convenience and then ride it by themselves to come get you and then return it at their convenience.
I wonder if you could start a FB group for it, to find like-minded cyclists?
I know there’s a charity that takes visually impaired people on bike rides, but its more for people who wouldn’t ride at all otherwise. I think their pilots are volunteers, maybe some of them would be up for longer rides with an experienced stoker? Stupidly I can’t remember the name at all!
There’s always one or two tandems in the TTs around here, but yes, usually they are married couples, or decades-long partners. I’ve been asked once to be a stoker for a TT, but it quite frankly scared the hell out of me, not knowing how the pilot would ride and having no control over it. I’d have thought its much harder to find stokers, than pilots!
Keep asking and eventually you will find some folks willing to pilot.
I’ve done a lot of tandem riding and would suggest that it might be the pilot having responsibility for the team, plus the skill set needed to be a good driver are the biggest barriers.
Most tandem teams are parent + child or spouse + spouse. That makes logistics easier, but also is a specific and clear “responsibility” dynamic.
As the stoker, am sure you don’t want to entrust yourself to just anyone. Finding some good drivers to partner with and then becoming a team will definitely take some effort!!
Best of luck!!
Ha, well, I’d do a TT with anyone, I literally just need someone to be my eyes, to steer and do the gears, and show willing with the pedals. I’ve been on the tandem on club rides, and always get questions from fellow club riders, asking if the tandem is harder / easier, and occasionally questions like how do we decide who is at the front, where I always resist saying that the one with the working eyes gets that job
However I do always respond with a gentle suggestion to just try it sometime, anytime, I’m happy to go out with anyone, lets go for a 20 minute test ride etc, and no one wants to take up the offer.
I’ve even had one guy from the peloton while we’re cycling together reference a dedicated blind tandem club 20 miles away, and I have to respond and say, why should I use that when I’m already in a cycling club with 300 members already? Surely there would be just 12 from that pool of cyclists willing to offer one ride a year, to allow me 12 guaranteed rides a year?
Just not sure what the fear, resistance is to those solo cyclists is to considering a tandem ride. Perhaps there is a social stigma attached that being blind I’m unaware of, not reading ‘body language’ and the appearance that on a tandem, it’s a sign of not being able to ride on your own some how?
I also have to refrain from viewing the 300++ cycling Facebook page post-ride postings, where they’re all describing conquering various challenges of a ride, self-promotion etc, but none have the selfless notion that one of their fellow members is unable to participate / join in without a pilot stepping up.
I’ve had to resist posting references to the lack of club inclusiveness, diversity, awareness etc several times ….
At the same time, I don’t want forced pilots, doing it out of duty.
Just baffled why there is a reluctance, and trying not to be paranoid that its actually me
Ah well, so glad I can vent here and burn off my cycling energy on TrainerRoad in the garage later
Hi, thanks for your reply.
True on the ‘responsibility’ factor, but not convinced on the skillset.
At the end of May, my planned pilot for a 110 mile bike ride sportive event, 10,000ft of ascent cancelled due to illness.
Through networking, the cyclist husband of a friend met up with me on Sat morning, a 30 minute test ride, and then 8am the next day, we set off on that 110 mile tandem ride. He is a seasoned cyclist, but hadn’t been on a tandem for over 20 years until that short test ride. So I only met him once before my big event and it went perfect, we nailed it!! I seem to find more pilots outside of my club for some reason
I’m a chilled / relaxed stoker, and as long as the pilot announces changing front ring gears and is able to handle the ‘longer vehicle’ thing with the tandem for corners, breaking, then once you’re rolling, there isn’t much more complicated to a tandem ride.
Stopping / starting is simple communication, and the rest is cycling confidence.
So, fear of the added responsibility, or not having great road sense / confidence to begin with could be a big factor, so I get that.
Most cyclists enjoy the challenges roads / routes throw at them, the feeling at the end, and tandem cycling is just another variation of that sense of achievement, with the added dimension of it being a proper team work based achievement.
I promise not to steel gels from rear pilot pockets and always pay at café stops, and can even do the turn by turn navigation with my bone conducting Komoot set up, so roll-up, if anyone is in South Manchester, or even visiting SW France, near Lauzun 47410 before October where I’m based for now, then let me know if you’d like to meet up and pilot !!!
If you want to make it work with the club, here is what I would do.
Get organized about it. Asking is clearly not working. I think for a lot of legitimate reasons. No experience with tandems, logistical headaches, and it’s very easy to say no. None of them are not able to be overcome of course, but they are impediments.
So rather than ask, organize. Go to the club leaders. See if you can get a sharable spreadsheet with dates you want to ride distributed to the 300 members where they can sign up for 1 or more dates. Off a casual “instructional tandem course.” I bet you’d get a much different level of engagement there.
Yep, dead right, clearly asking, hinting, begging of a fashion isn’t working!
A more structured ‘leadership sanctioned’ activity is a good way to go.
If nothing comes of that, then, its just the wrong club, mix of people for me
Do you know if there are any small barriers you can remove? For example what pedals do you have for the pilot? Switching cleats or buying new shoes might be enough for most people to say no. Or riding a different saddle/having to adjust the seatpost/stem. Maybe they want their own power meter for the ride? Probably all small things that could add up. What is the range of pilot heights you can accommodate?
If you lived by me, I 100% would ride with you just for that adventure aspect you mentioned, but maybe people are worried that you wouldn’t like switching partners every week/month? Sorry, no real answers, just random thoughts by an internet stranger.
Have you thought about setting a goal for the Special Olympics or Pan Am games? It would obviously be a huge accomplishment for you, but might also be the type of goal that a pilot may be excited to train for.
Kind of you to reply and all thoughts to ponder about welcome.
Yep, I can accommodate flat and road / MTB SPD shoes, and the tandem is very dynamic especially for the stoker position, but the pilot does have to be 1170cm or more as it’s a high cross-bar and L is size, which rules out a range of people.
I even have the adapter for the garmin or Wahoo device options, and a saddle post fitting that does allow for an easy saddle swop too if necessary.
And as I said, I off er the bribe of a coffee/cake on me Not sure what else I can do.
I should say, I try not to come across as being too desperate as well
Hi, nice suggestion, and that could entice some group / club support towards helping me to that level of achievement, but I’m just not that competitive, or perhaps more realistic in knowing I don’t think I’d really get a lengthy sustained amount of continued support and it’d just put more pressure on me to secure a pilot for regular training rides.
I’m just happy to ride, letting any pilot choose the route / duration etc.
I have done velodrome racing in the past, a tandem omnium and hated the butterflies on the start line, and on one race, when I sat up with a half glimpse of a white stripe on the floor, wrongly thinking it was the finish line and allowing another tandem to beat me 2m off the real finish line, I realised then that I’m not competitive enough. A real racer would keep full gas 5m beyond the finish line, not sit up at the first hint from the little vision I did have at that time
Good idea though!
Its definitively not you. There is a reluctance to help out with anything in most clubs these days, I think. Be that marshalling, taking a club ride out, taking a newbie out, whatever. Everybody thinks someone else will do it.
Maybe thats why there’s a dedicated tandem riding club - others had the same problem, of finding like-minded riders
I think it would probably be pretty awesome to ride tandem (with you) but I am not in your neighbourhood.
Not gonna lie…I would really like to try this out. 550+ watt ftp between 2 people on 1 bike would be able to drop a lot of fast group rides I bet haha.
I’ve been on a couple of group rides with someone riding a tandem. It’s a bit like riding with someone on a recumbent or even to a lesser degree a tri-bike. They will definitely raise the group average if they pull on the front on the flat. They can spin it up crazy fast and keep it there. Hills are a bit of another matter. They couldn’t drop the group, but they can definitely raise the average speed.