Tandem training tips

My wife and I have decided to start doing some ‘racing’ with our tandem. We have years of experience just riding, but now we want to focus on being more effective on the tandem. We have opted for Power meters on our rig and after our first ride there are some glaring issues we should address that should have a productive impact on our pace.

She made the comment(Not ME!) that it seems like there are times when our effort levels don’t jive with each other, usually to the end that she feels she isn’t holding up her end of the bargain. Not for lack of ability, but something is causing her to not produce power in certain situations. These are generally on flatter sections. Climbing we don’t seem to have much issue with this.

When we finished the first ride with our PM’s on the bike, we found a 10% difference in IF. She asked my opinion on what to do and about all I could come up with was ‘Pedal harder?’ :rofl:

any ideas from the hive mind on what might be helpful?

Wow, that’s potentially tough. First step might be to recognize that all the typical issues with power meters (differences between any two devices for one) and the fact that people don’t always perform the same relative to their potential (FTP) on any given day. You more than doubled the difficulty by adding power meters into the mix.

If you have single sided power, you get all the same issues, again doubled. Then there’s the issue of how accurate are either of your FTP’s in the first place. Building on that, each person could be on opposite ends of good/bad days regardless of that info above.

So, I would be extra cautious about taking either value in isolation like normal, not to mention comparing them. I don’t know that it’s at all practical to expect similar, let alone the same effort, even though you are connected on the same bike. We aren’t machines and just connecting like that is no reason to expect similar effort / output, even if you ignore the messy reality hiding in the weeds.

All that ends with a basic suggestion to not put too much faith in those numbers alone. Look at a full picture, like we recommend overall. If either of you honestly feels like there are differences in power production, it may well be down to pure differences in your two bodies and what they excel at or don’t. If you can identify that reasonably well, consider the training that might typically be prescribed to fill that gap.

Probably not much help despite all that typing :stuck_out_tongue: but it seems like a very complex issue to my eyes.


No doubt it is complicated!

We are running the Garmin Rally pedals in the dual sided option.

Her FTP is fairly accurate I believe, she has been working the TR plans for a solid 6 months now and seeing great gains and testing frequently.

My ftp for that ride was set high(just retested this week), making the disparity even greater.:rofl:

I agree, there is way more too it than just the numbers, but the numbers did confirm her mid-ride assesment that she didn’t feel like she was able to pick up her end of the bargain. She wasn’t cooked, she just was struggling to push the watts. I just want to be clear, she wasn’t suffering, I don’t mean that she was out of gas. It’s hard to explain.

She has no issue going out and nailing a 2-3 hour ride in the area of .75if on her single bike. Same goes for me. Just trying to figure out what can be done to bridge her feeling like she isn’t doing her part.

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It almost sounds like what I experience with my smaller size and FTP while riding with a friend who is heavier and 50+w higher FTP. I struggle to keep up on the flats, which is the raw FTP issue that exists between riders sometimes. Not sure if that kind of disparity can be felt on a tandem.

Could be kinda like that or maybe like the difference of pushing watts on flats vs hills?

How about cadence and such, are you both training at similar cadence and inertia otherwise (inside, outside, etc.)?


When it comes to Inside, I would guess she is using the trainer at a slower speed than when I use it(She is on a 1x and I’m on a 2x using the big ring.) Cadence wise our native cadence is fairly close to each other(+/- 3-4 rpm)

There are significant sections on flats that she is merely ‘spinning’, looking back at the data. sub-20watt output, where as I’m sitting solidly in my endurance zone. My hope, like many things with the Tandem, are that it just needs to be something we focus on and discus and that is what helps it gel. To be fair, we have only done one ride on the tandem with the PM’s so its far from conclusive, but I would venture she was in a much fresher state than myself.

She is new to the whole, power outside(first power meter other than the Kickr) so it might just be that she needs to learn that aspect of it.

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Based on the trainer speed comment, it might be interesting to verify that, and maybe try getting here to move to a higher gear, and faster flywheel speed. That may well lead to need to retest FTP inside, since that speed difference can be enough to impact the testing result in some cases.

Report back in any case, it’s an interesting challenge to address and I hope you get something figured out :smiley:

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I wonder if placing the cranks out of phase with each other would help? No doubt about it that my ftp is significantly higher than hers, placing them out of phase from each other might allow her to ‘feel’ the effort rather than feeling me pushing the pedal ‘away’ from her foot.

Interesting idea. I have wondered if the matched timing was necessary or just a common practice. Might be somewhere on the web that discusses the pros/cons of that.



Pedal strike could be a concern depending on how they are set up. I’m sure certain phasing might have different feels.

On a side note, I could use the data from the garmin pedals to phase them to create one long power stroke by having her stroke start as mine ends.


Reporting back.

set the cranks 90* OOP and did a 55 mile out and back. Stoker reported a much better ability to put force into the cranks, and I noted that there seemed to be less negative impact on my power stroke.

Starting was a bit goofy with them OOP compared to what we were used to when in-phase.

Gonna roll this for awhile and see how we feel about it after a few more rides.


This thread is fascinating. My initial gut reaction was that whomever is putting the most force through the pedals will be making things easier for the other because they don’t have to put as much force to get the same effect. And it sounds like that’s definitely part of the puzzle here. I wonder now if you’ve stumbled into a more efficient pedaling style because now every quadrant has a downstroke of force from a rider rather than it only occurring at the halves, meaning you’re actually using the full potential of four legs.

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It also seems to have had the negative effect of actually increasing the effort I felt. She never reported that it felt like I was dragging her feet around but I could for sure notice that my stroke felt much better aswell.


I was thinking, maybe it’s also because she can see less of the road than you (if she’s the stoker)? So she doesn’t immediatly pick up the changes in terrain and adjusts her power later. On climbs that wouldn’t be an issue, you can just feel it.

Was wondering how your power would compare if you rode side by side on road bikes.

Also agree about the gearing, but not sure how easy it is to tweak that?

Agree it’s a fascinating problem!

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Man, that is so interesting. Sounds like at least some notable change if not improvement too. Keep up the testing and hopefully you can dial in something that gets what you both need on the bike. :smiley:

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If you set the stoker 90 back from the pilot, and let the pilot control the pedals in the turns (which should really be the case regardless), pedal strikes are almost impossible if you coast through the turns - at top dead center for the pilot, the stoker will be horizontal. If you want an extra measure of protection, ensure the pilot brings the top pedal forward in the turns, this will lift the stoker’s top pedal further.

Many say you should put the strongest rider as stoker, and the more agile one as pilot…

I assume crank length has been set for each rider, meaning neither has to endure cranks that are too long or too short?

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