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Crashing a tandem

    The following thread is from the Double Forte Forum and contains replies from various members for a captain who failed to properly manage the direction of his ship (crashed) and feels terrible about dumping his wife. It has happened to all of us and it will happen again. Read on for some sage advice from seasoned captains and a few techniques the stokers may use for communicating their displeasure with the skipper. Please visit the forum and search their archives for other useful and entertaining information.

-----Original Message-----
From: Colin Levy
Sent: Tuesday, August 12, 2003 4:25 AM
To: DOUBLE_FORTE@yahoogroups.com
Subject: Re: [DF] Newbie's On The List (Colin & Anita)
Well you asked, so here is a bit about ourselves.

I found DF a while back and asked a series of questions regarding the purchase of our first MTB tandem. Being based in the UK it wasn't an easy search as we don't appear to have any specialist shops supplying MTB tandems or bits. Eventually we decided on a Dawes Doubledge which has proven to be great fun to ride. The majority of our riding has been in the Peak district towards Ladybower reservoir with the odd trip to Scotland thrown in for good measure.

One problem we encountered, or at least I did as I do the steering, braking etc is the feeling of guilt when it all goes pear shaped. Whilst out last Sunday in the peaks we were descending a rocky track towards the cafe when without warning we hit the floor, HARD! To be more precise Anita hit the floor first and appears to have somewhat broken my fall.

Thankfully no broken bones or bikes but just a dull sense of guilt on my behalf. Is this normal? Do all captains feel responsible when it goes wrong? Anita is thankfully very proud of the huge bruise on her thigh and has merely commented that perhaps disc brakes would be a good idea after all. (after the crash the rims were so hot that I burnt my leg on one as I picked the bike up off Anita) Colin & Anita


From: brimtb
Sent: Tuesday, August 12, 2003 6:04 AM
To: DOUBLE_FORTE@yahoogroups.com
Subject: Re: [DF] Newbie's On The List (Colin & Anita) 

Guilt is something all captains live with when they lose the bike. Luckily, sharing the experience, as you only can on a tandem, usually is a really good thing.  Glad to hear that aside from the bruise, everything's okay.
Looking forward to hearing more from you,
Brian Warner


From: Alex Nutt
Sent: Tuesday, August 12, 2003 6:14 AM
To: DOUBLE_FORTE@yahoogroups.com
Subject: RE: [DF] Newbie's On The List (Colin & Anita)


Rule # 1: The Captain always cushions the Stoker's fall during unscheduled trips off the bike. The resulting bruises and bumps the captain receives from that noble deed will far outstrip any silly guilt he/she/it may still be suffering.

The exception to rule # 1 is when the stoker takes it upon her/him/themselves to fly over or past the captain, in true Jules fashion.

Rule # 2: Any mishap that results in permission to upgrade some bike parts is not all bad.

Glad to hear Anita's okay, and almost as important, willing to go riding again. As for that nagging guilt, You might worry more about a couple of sizeable pinches on your bum or pulling your shorts down around the saddle while you're riding. Stoker's revenge is not a pretty thing. Anita, you should solicit advise on that very subject here. The results are usually pretty entertaining!

Alex Nutt


From: Mark P. Livingood
Sent: Tuesday, August 12, 2003 :05 AM
To: DOUBLE_FORTE@yahoogroups.com
Subject: Re: [DF] Newbie's On The List (Colin & Anita)

Colin Levy asked:

Is this normal? Do all captains feel responsible when it goes wrong?

I would say that:

a. It's normal for the stoker to take the brunt of most crashes.
b. It's normal to feel responsible since you are responsible for it.
c. It's normal to feel awful as well, but don't over apologize for it and never "promise that it won't happen again" because it's going to happen again if you keep riding off-road tandems.
d. It's even worse when it's a guest stoker who was terrified to begin with which makes piloting a tandem on technical single track significantly more difficult and, thus, a crash all that much more likely.

Here's a re-run of a posting I made sometime back. I think most of it still applies:

For anyone who has yet to "go down" on their off-road tandem the stoker is at least twice as likely to end up on the ground vs. the Captain, notwithstanding a head-on collision with a tree where the captain will likely take the brunt of the impact: Alex can back me up on this.

Seriously though, if you have a front wheel wash out or some other kind of forward motion crash the captain has two major advantages:

a) Timing - He knows what's coming before his stoker does and will begin to take evasive maneuvers well before the stoker does.

b) Escape Route - Just like on a single mountain bike, you can usually bail over the handle bars or hop off to the side in a crash whereas the stoker can't go off the front and usually doesn't have time to get off to the side either since your body usually blocks their route.

Debbie has been a real trooper when it comes to FDGBs (Fall Down Go Booms) on the off-road tandems. She had a huge fear of falling when we first started but, after our first crash that problem was taken care of -- turns out, it wasn't that bad and we laughed about it a few hundred yards later. We've had some hard falls, but nothing that's resulted in any broken bones or trips to the ER. She trusts me to keep the bike under control with respect to hitting speeds in conditions that could result in serious injury.

As it turns out, most of our FDGBs occur when we are negotiating technical stuff at slow speeds where gravity and poor wheel tracking does us in. In those cases, we've been pretty good about landing on things other than BFRs (Big Frigging Rocks) so again, no major harm done other than to pride.

I subscribe to Jack's "Ride to Ride Again" mantra but I also subscribe to the downhill skier's motto, "If you don't fall you're not trying hard enough". So, go forth and be sure you ride within your capabilities, always remain under control and expect the unexpected -- including the occasional FDGB.

Mark Livingood
Near Atlanta, GA (USA)


From: Dave & Vanessa Seto
Sent: Tuesday, August 12, 2003 7:33 PM
To: DOUBLE_FORTE@yahoogroups.com
Subject: Re: [DF] Newbie's On The List (Colin & Anita)

Ah, Colin, Dear Colin....

Welcome to the DWC (Dim Witted Captains) fold.  You have made a rite of passage that every Captain and stoker must get through, unless of course your name is Seattle Jack.  At 21, Jack sold his soul to a man at the crossroads on the edge of town, and he has never since dropped a stoker.

It is something we all do, every once in a while, but more often when trying new things like riding at night in the snow in areas with which we are not familiar.  You and your stoker must decide the level of risk/reward you are willing to endure together.  The first time is always the worst, unless your name is Jules, in which case the last time was probably the worst. (See thread about disc brakes and quick releases).

Vanessa (my stoker) and lovely Jules (James' stoker) take delight in bashing their captains about the head and kidneys whenever the steering goes "pear shaped" and the rubber side ends upwards.  Thus, they encourage a higher level of captain risk-taking, so as to have as many opportunities as possible.

Karen (Brian's Stoker) is a genteel lady of a fine family, and would not deign to succumb to any such outburst. She would merely make a phone call to some people in Detroit and Brian would learn where Jimmy Hoffa went. Brian is therefore careful not to provoke her with any shenanigans at the front end.

At least Anita was not 6 months pregnant when you dropped her.

Do try to keep the rubber side down from here on out, but don't fret about the occasional bail.  It happens when you are pushing and trying to get better.



    This is from a different thread but applies as well as the above comments. I quoted Jack in the story "Tandems in the desert".

From:  Jack Tomkinson
Date:  Thu Nov 29, 2001  10:47 am
Subject:  Let the size of your injury be the measure of your love.

Mark wrote:
"crash with an audience on a hill near by. We were awarded major style points and rode away with only a 8" raspberry on Mark's right hip and a couple of abrasions on Debbie's right arm to show for it. The Ventana was unfazed as usual."

This is an important point. The captain must always sustain the larger wound, especially if he is married to the stoker. If you must trip while getting up to bring your injuries up to par, do it. Even if she accuses you of faking it, blood and torn flesh do not lie. They show your commitment to your spouse on whatever level.

It's a little different for unattached couples - single stokers can be expected protect themselves and they don't have so many ways to torture you for your mistake. These situations vary as widely as do all other agreements between consenting adults, so make your own rules.

When your married however - make sure every injury is a bonding experience.

All that being said. Most of us try very hard to avoid all injury. Don't underestimate the ability of tandem mountainbiking to maim. As we say in our local mountainbike club, "Ride to ride again." No whining is worse than that from a laid up mountainbiker. This is why you want to be the last to heal. You'll get pampered and begged for that next ride.

Happy trails,