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Learning to Stand

By Mark Livingood


Posted by Mark Livingood on T&H April 21, 2002

Mark asked:

> We are wondering what may be the safest and easiest way of learning to
> stand on steep hills is.

Just do it! OK, perhaps that's oversimplifying it a bit too much.

One of my favorite analogies for describing what it's like to ride a tandem
is dancing and riding out of the saddle is perhaps where you can see who the
really nice dancers are -- not to be confused with the strongest or fastest
but it often times follows suite. Anyway, like dancing, when you ride out
of the saddle on a tandem somebody has to lead and somebody has to follow.
While there are a few couples who can do it gracefully from day one without
a lot of communication and practice, they are the exception. So, assuming
you're like most teams decide how you're going to dance (waltz or jitterbug)
and make sure you both know the cues for when to start and when to stop.
Initially, as with all things on the tandem the cues at first may involve a
lot of talking but, over time, will likely become almost intuitive with an
occasional mandatory command or cue thrown in for really important stuff,
e.g., BUMP! is perhaps the most important. Anyway, less I digress

Details: When you say you have different styles that usually implies one of
you is a smooth, technical climber and the other is a bike throwing animal.
One of you is going to have to give in to the other's style to make this
work. You may later decide to change your style to the other's preference
but starting out there has to be agreement on how you're going to ride out
of the saddle. Here's some food for thought to guide your style selection:
Going with a higher cadence and striving to keep the tandem and your
heads/shoulders stable is perhaps the best model to strive for. Not only is
more efficient than throwing the tandem back and forth beneath you, it will
allow you to each ride out of the saddle when each of you feel like --
independently -- instead of always having to stand at the same time. Bike
throwers MUST stand together otherwise the rider standing will feel like
there's a sack of potatoes flopping side-to-side on the bike (making the
bike difficult to handle if you're driving) and the rider who remains seated
will get sea sick from all the flopping.

So, once you've decided whose style you'll adopt the next part is
communicating on the bike during the ride. It really doesn't matter who
calls out when it's time to stand and sit, but somebody has to do it when
one of you decides there's a need to get out of the saddles. Like the out
of the saddle style, it's best to decide ahead of time who'll be the one who
calls out, "ready to stand... one, two, three, up" (or words to that effect)
and "Okay... aaaand sit". For us, I call the signals after one of us asks
the other "you feel like standing?". At this point, I think all I say these
days is, "Ready" and Debbie follows my lead by standing when I stand. As
for when to sit, I think all I say is "aaand... sit" and Debbie once again
keys off my movements to sit at the same time.

Over time you'll find the right words and timing that works best for you
and, if you get into racing you may even adopt hand and/or touch signals
that'll allow you to pop up for a sprint without forewarning the other
riders around you. But, as I say, you'll work that part of it out over

So, with that:

1. Decide which style to adopt.
2. Decide who will say what to signal the "NEED" or "DESIRE" to stand.
3. Decide who calls out the commands to stand and sit once you both agree
it's time to stand (you both retain the right to veto an unreasonable
request, e.g., sometimes you just don't feel like standing).
4. Find a flat, wide open quiet road or an empty parking lot to practice
standing and sitting in BEFORE trying it on steep hills (frankly, it's a bit
harder to do smoothly on the flats which is one of the reasons the flats are
a good place to practice).
5. Practice, practice, practice. Just keep on doing it until it becomes
second nature. We often times find ourselves riding out of the saddle on
the flats during longer rides as a form of spirited "butt break" vs just
standing and losing momentum.

As you get comfortable with your technique you'll find you stand whenever
you want for a variety of reasons, like sprinting for Green Signs at the
city, county and state lines!!!! And, remember, if you adopt with a
smooth, stable style you'll also be able to let your partner get up and
stretch their legs when they need to even when you don't.


Mark & Debbie Livingood
Near Atlanta, GA (USA)

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