Is it feasible for an experienced single seat cyclist to serve as captain of a tandem bicycle and effectively "pull" the stoker behind as if the said stoker was riding in a trailer?

It's understood the said stoker will be required to maintain some cadence and balance, but it seems possible that a sufficiently skilled single seat cyclist would theoretically be able to compensate for significant stoker errors. Additionally, I know it would help if the captain had tandem experience, but some experienced single seat cyclists may not have time to try out a tandem before pairing with an inexperienced stoker.

  • 2
    Are both members of this tandem team adults? Commented Mar 27, 2015 at 3:53
  • Both members are adults of similar build and size.
    – Shawn Eary
    Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 1:54
  • 2
    My 12 year old gets tired when stoking, so I made up a clamp-on footrest that went around one of the middle tubes, and had just enough space for a foot but in no way held the foot. When he wants to pedal or stop he calls and we coast for a bit. If stopped anywhere he has to help to get going again, that's the rule.
    – Criggie
    Commented May 21, 2016 at 3:39

3 Answers 3


Yes, you can pull the stoker along. Equally, they can push you along! I've tried both of these. However, there are some important points to note:

  • Tandems are slower up hills (or maybe just faster on the flat and downhill). This will be especially noticeable if one of you is not putting much effort in. So it may be worth sticking to flat routes.
  • Unless you alter the tandem, both riders have to at least turn the pedals, although that alone doesn't mean they both have to put in the same effort. Saying that, if one rider is doing 110rpm, then it will be hard for the other one to relax!
  • It's not very comfortable to sit on a bicycle saddle without pedalling. This is probably because extra force on the pedals and the movement of the legs relieves some of the pressure on the saddle.
  • Starting and stopping is the hardest part on a tandem and requires communication and cooperation so that no one gets a pedal in the shin or embarassing pratfalls. Practice this somewhere quiet with plenty of space and minimal traffic.
  • Both riders should at least be aware of what is going on and communicate. My wife wanted to read a book on the back on the tandem, but found it was too bumpy, but in any case it's not in the spirit of things and it helps to have an involved stoker. It's sufficient for a stoker to remain completely upright and let the captain do the balancing, but if you're going quickly through a corner, the bike feels much better if the stoker leans gently into it.

If you remember that it's all about communication and compromise, tandems are a lot of fun.


As an experienced cyclist with a lot of tandem experience: you are way over thinking this whole thing.

Assuming both of you are adults and not complete klutzes, you'll have it figured out well enough in a few minutes of trial and error. If you're not both adults, you'll still figure out within a few extra minutes.

Getting to be real slick starting and stopping instantly takes awhile to develop as a team, but just getting going is pretty easy. As andy256 said, the captain can ride around on it for 30 seconds to get a feel for it, then add the stoker.

Two of your comments to address:

  1. The stoker can't just maintain "some" cadence, they have to maintain exactly the same cadence as the captain, unless the tandem is very fancy. Normally, both cranks are always in sync. It will be up to the team to manage it between themselves what the ideal cadence is.
  2. The stoker should not maintain any balance per se. This is one thing some teams struggle with early on. The stoker should always be sitting 'upright', in line with the plane of the bike. The stoker should not lean to help steer. All steering is to be done by the captain exclusively. Attempts to steer by the stoker leaning can make it difficult for the captain to control the bike and maintain balance.

Also, while the captain is in control, the stoker is in command. The stoker decides how fast the team goes, where it goes, when it stops for a snack or to take a picture of a puppy, etc. The stoker has no control of the bicycle whatsoever, so by the stoker having control of the trip, will help make everything go much smoother.

Read http://sheldonbrown.com/tandem.html for instructions on how to get started, or don't, it's really not terribly complicated. And have fun, it's a blast.

Wherever your relationship is going, your tandem will get you there faster.


As an experienced cyclist with a little tandem experience: yes, it is feasible.

It takes some adjusting though. It's worth riding the thing by yourself to a get a feel for it's geometry, gears, brakes and starting and stopping before adding the stoker. Everybody gotta start sometime!

But it does depend on having a head for cycling. I have seen fairly experienced cyclists who struggled. Everything gets easier with a more experienced stoker too.

I would add ... It is important to agree on verbal and non-verbal signals, especially for starting and stopping. If my four year old daughter kept pedaling it was really hard to stop at traffic lights! (Yes, she was (and is) quite strong).

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