Training on a Tandem
by William Townsend on May 02, 2019
Cyclists Cat Dixon and Rachael Marsden begin their world record attempt to become the quickest tandem around the world in June. Below, they describe some of quirks of training together.
Training together when you live at either end of the country can be tricky. As TandemWoW we get together as often as we can to practice riding on our Tandem in advance of our world record attempt to be the fastest women to circumnavigate the globe on a tandem. There are a few myths about tandem riding which need busting. It's fun to get comments whilst we are riding along – the most common being suggesting that the person on the back isn't peddling. Believe me, as the pilot (the person on the front), I really do know if the stoker, (the person on the back), isn't peddling! There is a timing chain which means that our pedals are linked and we cycle at the same cadence. We can both tell if the other is “having a break” – or more likely needing some food!
Another comment we receive is that tandem riding is “cheating”– it really isn't. It's actually much harder to ride a tandem uphill than it is to ride a solo bike. All that said it's fun to receive banter when out riding – although if you do see us on the road and make a comment - I very much doubt it will be the first time we've heard it!
In terms of riding together we do it as often as we can. Last weekend for example we rode the Way of the Roses coast-to-coast from Lancashire to Yorkshire (which includes up some pretty steep climbs!) on a fully loaded tandem (full panniers). The rhythm of riding a tandem is different to that of the solo and we grind the hills out, enjoy the flats and as pilot I make sure I'm paying attention on the downhills – as you can go pretty fast!
We also train on our solos – at the end of April we rode Liege Bastogne to get in some big hill climb training. Communication is important on the tandem – but you do get to a stage where you intuitively know what the other person is doing. If Raz is taking a drink I know that the bike might wobble a bit – I also make sure we are in the right gear – you really can't get away with being in the wrong gear on a tandem particularly up hills and therefore I will say when I'm making a gear change - especially with the front derailleur.
But overall we managed pretty well – most of the time it's just fun to be out training – clocking up the miles in advance of June 29 when we set off on a world record attempt. Wish us luck!
If you are interested in following Cat and Rachael's progress, check out their site here: https://www.tandemwow.com/