Tandem Etiquette for Stokers

We’re glad you want to ride a tandem! If you are new to tandem cycling, you may be unsure of how to work in partnership with your captain. We’re here to help, so a group of experienced stokers created these words of advice. The tips below will give you confidence so you can get outside and ride!

  1. Be on time to meet your captain.
  2. Be dressed, with your equipment (helmet, gloves, and water bottles) gathered and ready.
  3. If using your bike, do your best to have the tires pumped, the chain lubed, and the bike ready to roll out the door when your captain arrives.
  4. Keep a pump, spare tube, and a basic repair kit on the bike.
  5. If your captain has not cycled with or spent time with a person who has a visual impairment, he/she will have many skills to learn. Think of yourself as a teacher, because most likely, you will need to educate your captain about your abilities and the abilities of all people with visual impairments.
  6. Your captain will need to learn new communication habits and possibly how to guide you when off the bike. Your captain may be a little nervous at first from fear of saying or doing the wrong thing. So, be gracious and encourage your captain during the learning process.
  7. Your captain might say or do something you don’t like, such as offering to help you when you don’t need any help. Before getting offended and making a hostile comeback, like, “What? You don’t think I can do it for myself?” consider that your captain never meant to slight you or offend you. He/she was simply trying to be helpful. As occasions arise, demonstrate your capabilities. Your captain will observe and learn more about all you can do.
  8. Understand the level of responsibility the captain feels towards your safety. Your captain would feel the same level of responsibility with a sighted stoker. It is a huge responsibility to avoid cars, to steer clear of road hazards, to obey traffic signs, to brake smoothly, and to shift gears accurately. It requires far greater skill to captain a tandem bicycle than to drive a car.
  9. Tune in to your captain’s communication style. Some captains will be very chatty, while others may pedal in silence.
  10. If you and your captain meet new people and he/she doesn’t introduce you, offer up your name and introduce yourself.
  11. If you want, ask your captain to tell you about things of interest along the ride, like fancy sports cars, ice cream stores, and grazing cows. captains can get mentally absorbed with riding and forget their stokers don’t see the same things they see. So, it’s okay to remind them to tell you what they see.
  12. Also, feel free to ask how far you’ve ridden and how fast you are going. Many bikes will have a computer on the front handlebar that calculates ride information.
  13. Be assertive in discussing your needs for food, water, the restroom, and so forth. Your captain may not ask if you need to stop, and instead just assume you will say if you need something.
  14. Ask your captain for feedback on your cycling skills, like starts and stops, your cadence, and your balance.
  15. It helps to be flexible about which foot you start off on. If the captain is balancing the bike, it’s courteous to go with whatever foot is most comfortable for your captain.
  16. Understand that occasionally your captain may have to stop or turn the bike when you aren’t expecting it. Cars, dogs, and children can be unpredictable. In such case, stay loose and let the bike move under you, within reason. Keep your weight over the bike and give your captain time to drive the bike. A calm, quiet stoker is best appreciated in such situations.
  17. Finally, think of yourself as an ambassador for persons with visual impairments. Please be patient with your captain and do your best to make the partnership a positive, enjoyable experience for you both. Good captains can be hard to find and you don’t want to lose a tandem partner or a potentially good friend.

Have an etiquette question we didn’t answer? Email us at info [at] bicyclingblind [dot] org and we’ll be glad to help.