Tandem Etiquette for Pilots

Thanks for wanting to share the ride! You may be unsure of what to say and how to behave around a person with a visual impairment, so experienced pilots and stokers created these words of advice. The tips will give you confidence so you can relax, be yourself, and enjoy the ride!

Communication Tips

  1. When greeting your stoker, identify yourself and others who may be with you. For example, “Hi Pam, its Christine, and Greg and Kevin are here, too.”
  2. Speak directly to your stoker, rather than through his/her sighted companion.
  3. Talk with your normal conversational volume. Unless your stoker has a hearing impairment, you don’t need to raise your voice.
  4. When the two of you are in a group setting, and you want to ask your partner a question, say your partner’s name before you ask the question. For example, “Sue, what did you think of the route today?” This way, your partner knows the question is directed to he/she and not to someone else in the group.
  5. In your conversations, it’s completely okay to use common expressions that refer to vision. So go ahead and say, “See you later,” or ask, “Did you watch the ball game last night?” Your partner won’t be offended.

Off the Bike Guiding Tips

  1. When you meet your stoker, if it is not evident, ask, “Will you need my off-the-bike guiding assistance?” Some cyclists who are legally blind have enough vision to walk and navigate on foot without help. They just can’t bike independently. So, before you assume your partner needs guiding help, just ask.
  2. If the answer was “Yes”, ask, “Which arm do you prefer? My right or left arm?” Your stoker will grasp your arm above the elbow. Then, you should walk at a normal pace, staying one step ahead. Slow before a step, curb, barrier, or turn. Describe the route ahead, for example, “There is a flight of stairs ahead, going down”, and your partner will adjust.
  3. To guide your stoker to a chair, place the hand of your guiding arm on the seat. He/she will find it by following your arm.
  4. Before you walk away, if even for a minute, tell your stoker. For example, “Jose, I’m walking to the fountain to fill up our water bottles. I’ll be right back.” Then, guide him/her to a stable object, like a chair or the bicycle. That way your partner doesn’t keep talking to you when you aren’t around.
  5. Occasionally ask if your stoker needs anything. Such as, “Karen, we are riding by the city park, which has restrooms. It may be a while till we have another opportunity. Would you like to stop?” To not seem like a burden, your partner may hesitate to mention a need.
  6. When giving directions, use “right” and “left” rather than, “over there”, “that way”, or “the red door”.

Courtesy Tips

  1. Respect your partner’s ability to do things for him or herself, just like other cyclists. So, allow your partner to complete personal tasks, like unwrapping a PowerBar or fastening a helmet. If it looks like a struggle, then it may be appropriate to ask, “May I help you?” Just always ask before hastening to help.v
  2. Include your partner in cycling related responsibilities, like loading/unloading the bike and fixing a flat. Your partner will want to be helpful and is capable of assisting you.
  3. We recommend that you refrain from asking how your stoker lost his/her sight.
  4. When with your stoker in public, let your stoker speak for him or herself. It’s not appropriate for you to tell others that he/she is visually impaired or to draw any attention to the fact.
  5. Refer to your partner as “a person who is blind” or as a “person who is visually impaired”, not as a “blind person”.
  6. Your stoker may own a guide dog. Although, the dog would probably love the ride, the dog will not come with you on the bike.
  7. If you do see a remarkable guide dog, remember that when in harness, the guide dog is working. So, don’t pet, make noises at, call to, speak to, or make eye contact with the dog. This distracts the dog. Even if the dog doesn’t look like its working, it is working.
  8. If the guide dog is not in harness, you still need to ask before you pet or interact with the dog.
  9. Do not give food or water to a guide dog without first asking permission of the owner. Doing so could disturb the dog’s consistent relief schedule.

Lastly, you can always ask your stoker, “How am I doing? Am I communicating well?”, “How is my guiding?”