How to get a new couple hooked on tandems
Many enthusiastic tandem riders out there try to get their friends interested in tandem riding. Sometimes they offer to loan their friends a tandem to 'try it out'. We find that if a couple has a hard time on their first tandem ride, they are extremely un-likely to purchase a tandem. If they are inexperienced tandem riders, they need some help before the 'try it out'.
To become a successful Tandevangelist, you must follow one important rule. Our goal is to make any new tandem team have their first ride be an enjoyable experience. We have to take the fear and the stress out of it.
The following recommendations describe the process that we go through at R+E Cycles when we give a customer one of our 'Tandem Lessons'. We charge customers $150 for the lesson, and it is refundable upon the purchase of a tandem from our store.
First, you want to plan for at least an hour or two for proper training. If the captain is not used to riding modern bikes, then I would add at least another 1/2 hour for training him or her on the shifting.
Shifting and brakes: 10 minutes to 1/2 hour
We forget how long it took us to get used to our shifting systems. Add to that the things that one also has to learn about riding a tandem during their first ride, not to mention the stress of possibly crashing. To make their first ride as trouble as possible, try to set them up on a tandem that has the same type of shifting as their regular bike. If this is not possible, or the captain doesn't even ride a bike currently, send the captain out on the bike for 1/2 hour or so, to familiarize them with the shifting. If they aren't familiar with the shifting on modern bikes, then set the tandem up on a trainer to teach them about the shifting first, then send the captain out on the bike. Don't go any further until you are confident that the captain can shift the bike well.
Next, its time to train the stoker to be a stoker: (20 minutes to 1/2 hour)
You captain the bike with the new stoker. Teach them how to mount the bike with you holding it up. Demonstrate that you can hold the bike up just fine with them all the way on the bike. Teach them what to do with their feet at stop signs and stop lights (I teach them to stay in the clips, but you can teach them what ever method you use). I tell the stoker that they are responsible for arm signals for turning and stopping, and also for getting the pedals in the captains favorite start position. The most important thing to teach the new stoker is to listen to the captains verbal signals about shifting. When the captain says "shift", the stoker needs to know that they want to just let their feet go around, but not to apply pressure to the pedals until the shift has been made. This is usually the thing that you'll have to practice the most, and you'll need to use consistent verbal signals. Remember that you are not with your regular stoker. Important note!! A new stoker will need to be warned about bumps every time, and will usually want to stop pedaling while you go over bumps.
Now its time to train the captain to be a captain: (1/2 hour to ??)
The first part of this training is to train him or her to be a stoker. You want to captain the bike with the new captain as the stoker. Train them to do everything just the way you trained the new stoker, and then show them all the things about being a captain. This teaches the captain what they can expect from the new stoker, and takes away some of that uncertainty. It also shows them what its like back there when you hit a bump, or stop pedaling suddenly. After they have mastered the stoker skills, start showing them what you do as a captain. Exaggerate the verbal cues so they learn about communication. Show them how to captain exactly the way you captained the new stoker. Then comes the fun part. Let the new captain captain, while you stoke. Stoke just the way you taught the new stoker, and stay out there until this captain is good at captaining. Practice stopping and starting until they are very comfortable with it. Sometimes, depending on their level of experience, it may take quite a while. I have been out there over an hour just training a captain before.