General Tandem Questions Answered

Is it easier or harder to ride a tandem?

Our answer to that is neither…it’s just more fun! For one thing we always end up at the top of the hills at the same time. No more waiting. And we can talk to each other easily during the ride.

We just saw this response to the same question at the Portland Tandem Club: Tandem bikes are a great equalizer when one rider is stronger than the other. Some couples have trouble riding single bikes together because one wants to ride faster. That’s not a problem on a tandem. You each put in as much effort as you want. If you’re not moving, it’s probably a sign a tandem is not right for you :-). One wife commented to her daughter, “We rode for 18 miles and I kept up with your dad the whole way!”

Can you help me with the lingo?

Sure! In the US typically the person in front is called the Captain and the person in the back is called the Stoker. You’ll also sometimes hear Admiral and Rear Admiral.

Who works harder to ride a tandem?
It’s a team effort which is part of what people love about it. You both work hard. The Captain manages the weight of the bike and makes all the gearing, steering and braking decisions. The Stoker adds power, navigates, tends to food and drink needs as well as calling out the sights and wildlife that Captains often won’t notice due to the needed focus on the white line! The Stoker is also the social center, waving to all passing cyclists.
Who rides in front? Do you take turns?
The Captain (in front) is typically the stronger and more experienced cyclist as they’re commanding the “ship”. Sometimes you’ll find a tandem team who can switch positions, but it’s rare. In addition to the need to be very strong, unless the two riders are very similar builds, the two compartments are not going to be interchangeably suited to two different size riders. While you can adjust seat height, the location of the handlebars from the seat for a shorter Stoker could interfere with the knees of a taller Captain should they attempt to switch.
Are tandems faster or slower than singles?
Again, that really depends. In general tandems have two engines and the same wind resistance as a single bike. So we’re often faster on the flats and have the extra weight benefit going down hills where we’re really fast. Climbing is another matter. Tandems have a reputation of being slow on the climbs. But this is somewhat engine dependent.
We could never do that...we'd get divorced!

The common wisdom is that tandeming will escalate the trajectory of any relationship. So if it’s good it gets even better and if it’s in trouble, tandeming may not be for you! Another way of saying this is “Wherever your relationship is heading, it’ll get there faster on a tandem!”

I've heard "the stoker is always right". Why?

Tandeming is a team sport.  If the Captain ignores the wishes of the Stoker, neither are going to have much fun or possibly even go anywhere! It’s just good teamwork to keep the stoker happy. So when the Stoker says my butt hurts, I need a break, it behooves the Captain to find a convenient place to stop, SOON. (And preferably with access to a bathroom and or refreshments.)

Any tips for singles riding with tandems?

Our customers, Spencer and Sheila, who just upgraded from an In2itiion Global to a Tailwind II have written a post called Playing Well with Tandems offering their personal views on this subject.

da Vinci Questions Answered

What's so special about the da Vinci?

It’s our innovative drivetrain. Instead of locking the captain and stoker together with a timing chain, as every other tandem does, we at da Vinci developed a new drive set up. We’ve built in an intermediate drive shaft to which separate captain and stoker chains apply power. Those chains are on freewheels so they can independently coast. This also gives you an incredibly wide range of gears with short easy jumps between them.

Is the independent coasting system (ICS) efficient?

Yes, our ICS is efficient; there is very little drag in the intermediate shaft. On a locked-together tandem every time one person stops or starts pedaling without their partner fully prepared, there is friction and muscle fatigue from fighting each other.

Can we each pedal at a different cadence?

Yes, but the person pedaling slower is not contributing and would feel no resistance, like when you are riding your own bike in too low of a gear.

Is it hard for both people to pedal the same cadence?

Not at all, as long as you can physically keep up with the other rider, you catch up to the resistance and you naturally pedal the same cadence. If one person truly can not keep up with the cadence, then they are essentially freewheeling at that point. If the same two people were on a locked-together tandem, the person with the faster cadence would actually be pulling the slower peddler’s feet around and robbed of energy.  It only takes a couple minutes riding one to see how intuitive it feels.

Is starting easier?

Absolutely! With the da Vinci ICS (Independent Coasting System), the stoker can be seated, clipped in and ready to pedal. Then when the captain pushes off and takes a moment to get the second foot clipped in, the stoker will be pedaling, thereby keeping the team’s momentum. This is especially helpful when you are forced to start off uphill, or at a busy intersection.

What if we both like to pedal at a different cadence, or want different gears?

This is very common and the reason da Vinci Designs makes so many difference crank lengths (150mm to 200mm). If we give the person that likes to pedal slower, a shorter crank, their foot speed will be slower due to the smaller circumference. This makes it easier and more natural to pedal faster. This may sound counter intuitive, but it really works. Look at a child riding a tricycle. They can easily pedal over 100 rpm because their cranks are super short.

Does the stoker ever hit their pedal on the ground if they are not ready for the turn?

No, it just doesn’t happen.

What happens if you do not ride in synch?

That depends on how smoothly you both pedal and how far out of synch  you are. If you both pedal smoothly (in circles), you probably won’t even notice being out of phase. If you stomp on the pedals, you’ll probably want to be pretty close. I find that we do not need to synch unless we are on a big or steep climb.


Is it hard to get into synch? How do you do that?

Most teams get it their very first ride. Other teams take a few rides, but everyone always figures it out pretty quickly. It is usually easiest for the stoker to coast for a second and watch the captain’s foot come around and just step right into phase, like jumping rope. For some, it just happens naturally with little or no effort. For a blind stoker, they can extend their finger(s) on the stoker bars and feel the captains leg hit them and step into phase. All of this is easier than being locked together for most teams.

Is standing (pedaling out of the saddle) harder?

It can be, only because it is much easier to stand when you are both in phase. As long as you can do that, it is about the same as a locked-together tandem.

Is it harder for one person to stand while the other remains seated?

No, that is actually much easier with the ICS.


Why can’t I find a used da Vinci?

People keep them forever or only sell them if they are upgrading.

What is the maintenance like? Is the drivetrain hard to work on?

The system is really very simple. There is one extra pair of bearings in the intermediate shaft and the coasting is accomplished by a pair if single speed freewheels like you would find on a bmx bike.

Can I add a motor to my da Vinci?

Yes, but you’ll need a new frame. If your current da Vinci tandem is new enough and all the parts are compatible,  we can sell you a frame kit and allow you to save money by reusing most of your components.

Do you sell direct?

If you are anywhere close to one of our dealers, we think you would be very well served by working with them. If there are no dealers near you, we are happy to help you find the perfect tandem for your needs. We do have a showroom in Denver, and can ship around the world.