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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

Tandem Biking

Tandem biking is a great recreational activity for people with vision loss of all ages, and is really good for muscle-toning and aerobic exercise. While people with adequate vision are able to ride a single bike, most people with vision loss opt for a tandem, or "double bike" that can be ridden by two. A sighted rider sits at the front of the bike and communicates what's ahead to the person with vision loss in the back seat. If you're interested in tandem biking, here are some tips:

Selecting and Maintaining a Tandem Bike

Selecting a bike frame that fits both the "captain" (the rider in the front seat) and the "stoker" (the rider in the second seat) improves comfort and safety. Sales staff in bike shops can help you find the right size frame.

When selecting a bike it is important to choose one that allows you to adjust seat height and handle bar positions. Many non-custom-made tandems have a smaller frame size for the stoker since manufacturers traditionally presumed a woman would ride in back. However, some bike brands and models do provide more space in the back for taller riders.

Having the gear shift levers mounted on the rear handle bars makes the stoker a more active participant in the ride. If you ride with more than one captain, you'll be familiar with how changing the gears works on your bike, making for a smoother and more trouble-free ride. Also, most captains make decisions about which gear to be in without consulting the rider in the back seat. If the stoker controls the gears, it forces the team to communicate.

Finding a Captain

It's important to ride with someone who shares your endurance level and objectives for riding, in addition to someone who employs safe riding habits and has good communications skills. Consider joining a tandem biking club, or finding a tandem biking partner through an ad in newsletters of agencies for people with vision loss.

Communication

It's very important to communicate about riding style. For example, how do you prefer to mount the bike, or start rolling? How do you know when to speed up? Or how do you know when to stop peddling and just coast? When you're riding in tandem, you should work out an agreeable system with your partner. It usually takes a little while when riding with a new captain but once you get used to each other, it's easy and looks very graceful. If you're a new rider, consider talking with other blind or low vision tandem riders to get tips and suggestions—and maybe even some practice!

Suggested Reading

The following book contains a wealth of information on tandem biking and is available through the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Disabled.

  • The Tandem Book, by Angel Rodriquez and Carla Black. A guide to buying, riding, and maintaining a bicycle built for two. Includes information on the history of the bike, and on touring, traveling, racing, and pedaling with children.

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