Thursday, July 24, 2008

"On your left...on your right...whatever"

"On your left...on your right...whatever." I actually heard this call from an overtaking rider at the Katy Flatland this past weekend and it represents one of the interesting twists in riding a back to back tandem. The passing rider meant, of course, that he was coming up on my left. Then he made eye contact with my stoker who was in the back facing him. Although he was passing on my left, he was passing on her right. On the Flevo, or any back to back tandem for that matter, all directions are reversed between the captain and stoker.

This phenomenon wouldn't be a problem except for the fact from the stoker's perspective riding backwards and blind requires a good deal of trust. One of the things a good captain must do on a back to back, at least initially, is to keep the rearward facing stoker informed of the road ahead. This means announcing bumps, gravel, turns, slowing, stopping and any other significant event accurately and well in advance. Announcing a left or right turn on the back to back takes on another dimension. The captain's right is the stoker's left and vice versa. On our first few rides the stoker just tried to make the mental adjustment and reverse all the turn directions I gave. It didn't always work. Often the stoker was distracted or focusing on other things and didn't take time to make the mental translation of right into left and left into right.

It was only after I asked Danny over at Cycle Genius to work on the bike that he came up with the perfect solution. The front and rear chain rings are both on the same side of the bike. So if I signal my stoker that we are turning towards the crank, it needs no translation at all. The same for turning away from the crank. This system made sense immediately and has served us well ever since. Now we use it not only to announce turns, but to point out things of interest while riding the bike, such as "Check out the cool tandem dropping back on the crank side."

Thanks Danny for another great idea!