About 4 miles away from me, there is a bike hire shop that has tandems. I'm trying to work out the logistics of getting the tandem to my house to pick up the other rider.

I'm an experienced cyclist, but have never ridden a tandem before. It's not convenient for both of us to go to the shop. Is riding a tandem particularly difficult for one person?

I suppose I'll get the bus there...

  • 2
    I roller bladed 10 km to pick up my new tandem, then rode home with the blades in a backpack. I got a lot of useful info from gtgtandems.com/tech/newriders.html
    – Criggie
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 0:41
  • 13
    As long as you pick the front saddle instead of the one in the back, you should be fine :-)
    – Mast
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 15:15
  • 1
    Other posters have answered for adults, but as a pre-teen I tried to ride a tandem solo without much success: it was just too heavy. So it depends on you :)
    – Max
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 22:41
  • 1
    So its a year later - have you succeeded in hiring a tandem and riding it to the pickup?
    – Criggie
    Commented May 13, 2016 at 4:52
  • I haven't got around to it yet. Only just persuaded my better half to try and ride on the normal bicycle I built for her, so baby steps ;)
    – Ne Mo
    Commented May 13, 2016 at 7:04

6 Answers 6


I have a 1990 steel racing tandem, and sadly it gets more miles solo than with a stoker.

The main differences between tandems and solo bikes apply when riding a tandem on your own (rear wheel cuts corners more, you can't bunny hop) but points to note:

  • Cars may not see the rear of your bike, and may not anticipate the extra space required when pulling up or allowing room to turn.
  • Steering is a bit odd - it may be unique to mine, but if the solocaptain doesn't commit to a corner with enough lean, the bike tries to stand up straight and go straight.
  • Braking - its still possible to raise the back wheel clear off the ground when doing an aggressive brake with just a captain. And the stoker's bars may get in the way of your backside if you lean backwards.
  • Drag brake is less effective with no stoker. So big descents you have to ride more like a solo bike.
  • You may get heckled with "Your passenger fell off!" so have a witty retort like "Bugger - so that's why she stopped nagging!" or "Damn I thought we were going slower than normal!"

Speed is generally not an issue - I've topped 40 km/h solo on my tandem, and the previous owner exceeded 70 km/h on it on a race, with two riders.

enter image description here

  • 2
    A race tandem? Awesome! I want a ride. On a serious note, I did not notice a tendency to "stand up", mine is 80ies city bike style one.
    – chichak
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 0:51
  • 1
    Yeah, I've ridden upright tandems solo, and I've seen one that had a tube over the seat so the owner could carry an extra 4 "rear" panniers. I rode my tandem recumbent trike solo a few times, but that was very heavy. It worked fine apart from that.
    – Móż
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 3:16
  • 5
    Great answer. The main point to watch out for is that the rear brake will be almost useless without the weight of a stoker. With a stoker it's better than the rear brake of a solo. Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 8:04
  • 4
    The cages (if installed) on the rear pedals might hit the ground. Some riders carry pants elastic bands to link them to the front pedals and keep them horizontal.
    – Carel
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 8:10
  • 6
    +1. The "witty" comments are probably the biggest issue! Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 11:45

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Doesn't seem like too big a deal.

It should be similar to having someone on the back who's not pedaling, only lighter and faster.

  • 3
    I love the second one.
    – gerrit
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 11:13
  • 5
    I'm not convinced the third one isn't photoshopped. The make FS mtb tandems?
    – Holloway
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 12:46
  • 4
    I recognise the location of that first one! It's behind the catedral in Helsinki. goo.gl/E2nQLm Oh, and looking more closely at the rider's pointy shoes and hair, that must be a Leningrad Cowboy [fan]! Edit: Found the source: prime-junta.net/gallery/galleries/cowboys/IMG_2115.html
    – Hugo
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 14:32
  • 3
    @Holloway: calfeedesign.com/calfee-ellsworth-witness Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 18:54
  • I'd like to see one second after the third picture was taken [snap]
    – Matt Wilko
    Commented Mar 17, 2016 at 11:42

I have a tandem and I have ridden it solo. It's not hard from a handling point of view, and at least with mine it's easier than riding tandem – it's just riding a bike with an exceptionally long rear end. Sure, more friction and a lot more weight, but overall something any cyclist with a tiny amount of experience can handle.


Riding a tandem solo isn't a big deal. It's just a big long heavy bike; as others have said easier than riding a tandem with a stoker if they're not putting much power in.

Apart from the "funny" comments you get, the only actual issue I've noticed is that you don't get so much grip on the back wheel without the weight over it. I tried standing on the pedals going up a hill and found the wheel would spin.

  • Same problem coming down a gradient solo while using a drag brake. There's less weight on the rear so it can skid easier. Not good in a fast downhill turn.
    – Criggie
    Commented May 13, 2016 at 4:50

It will certainly be more difficult than riding a standard bicycle. Although I don't feel like it would be impossible by any means. The factors to consider are:

Weight - the Tandem weighs a lot more than a standard bicycle

Wind - larger surface area means more effect from crosswinds

Length - This will play very little with the transport as far as riding it to a friends house, other than turning, but plays a major factor in future transport by car or bus

Tandems have a pilot, and a stoker, the rear rider being the stoker, and all steering is done by the pilot or front riding. Therefor the stoker is only there to help out with pedaling and enjoy the ride.

So yes it will be more difficult but I wouldn't rule it entirely impossible. You will look lonely however ;)

  • 5
    My steel tandem is about 22 kg, where my steel MTB is 17 kg. Its not a massive difference. As for lonely, could be a good way to pick up a date!
    – Criggie
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 0:39
  • 2
    "...pick up a date" - Daisy, daisy...
    – Holloway
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 12:49

It's usually easier than with a partner. I've been on one home-welded tandem where the front and back pedal cogs had different number of teeth and thus were not synchronized. That posed a problem for leaning into curves since the reflex of putting the inner pedal up did not match with the other pedal pair.

It's astonishing how much of a nuisance this can end up being (and when going solo, you had no warning). I don't think that this happens with a stock tandem however.

  • That would be hard to take off as well - normally the stoker is seated and does the first power stroke while the captain gets on. You're right normally the link chain is synchronised.
    – Criggie
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 22:18

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