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Tandems and toe clips

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Tandems and toe clips

Old 11-10-20, 04:03 PM
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SouthSanDiego
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Tandems and toe clips

I just bought my first tandem bike and am new to the site. In looking at all the tandem bike photos, i don't see any with toe clips. Are toe clips not typically used on tandem bikes?
Tia.
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Old 11-10-20, 04:36 PM
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Originally Posted by SouthSanDiego View Post
I just bought my first tandem bike and am new to the site. In looking at all the tandem bike photos, i don't see any with toe clips. Are toe clips not typically used on tandem bikes?
Tia.
Toe clips - sometimes for stokers, not for captains. Using the Proper Method, stokers never unclip except for coffee. Captain's have to be able to put a foot down in an instant. Precious cargo and all that, plus with a stoker back there, it's a lot easier to get wrong-footed. By far the most common is SPD pedals for both seats. Flats w/o clips are particularly bad for more than casual use because neither seat has control over pedal rotation.
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Old 11-10-20, 05:33 PM
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I'd venture to say that toe clips have pretty much fallen out of favor with the times. We used toe clips on our tandem throughout the '80s and '90s until we finally settled with SPDs. I was reluctant to make the switch at first but, once I did, I've never looked back.
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Old 11-10-20, 09:57 PM
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Precious cargo, indeed. I'm new to the terminology, too. SPD as in clipless/cleated/click-in pedals? Don't those interfere with quick removal of the feet from the pedals, too? As a tandem beginner, I think i'll stick to flats for now, until I become more familiar with this bike. Thanks much for your very helpful responses.
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Old 11-10-20, 11:40 PM
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My stoker's foot came off the pedal when we first started riding. Her shoe got bit by the timing chain, but luckily no injury. We prefer riding casually in our street shoes, so, I pulled a set of pedals with toeclips off another bike, and she learned how to clip in right away. I like toeclips, and both of us use them on our new bike, but I still have flat pedals on the captain's cranks on our old tandem.

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Old 11-10-20, 11:43 PM
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With a few days of experience, unclipping from SPD pedals becomes instinctive and instantaneous, much faster than toe clips. After decades on SPDs, it’s tough to keep my feet on platform pedals.
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Old 11-11-20, 01:53 AM
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Originally Posted by reburns View Post
With a few days of experience, unclipping from SPD pedals becomes instinctive and instantaneous, much faster than toe clips. After decades on SPDs, it’s tough to keep my feet on platform pedals.
This statement is HIGHLY debatable. (No offense reburns, but I have to rebut your advice here.) And I say this as a true devotee of clipless pedals. I first used clipless in 1987 when racing road. At the same time, I was doing a lot of mountain biking as well. I struggled mightily to get the ideal foot security I had come to love with Look pedals. I used cleated mountain bike shoes and double toe straps, but my feet still moved. And getting out? NO WAY without undoing the toe straps. Then Shimano released the M737 for mountain riding and I jumped all over them and LOVED them. I ride everything clipless except the unicycle (oh, and a bike I use as my wheelie practice bike). Road and mountain tandem, single mountain and road, city bike. Without a doubt, I will not go back to anything else.

BUT, I would NEVER make a statement like the above to a new rider using clipless. And to a tandem captain? Not in a million years. I say this because I've seen the range of riders out there and I know that many of them will have a much tougher time learning clipless pedals. (I think it took me about six months for releasing to be second nature and require no active thought or effort on my part.) And some people will give them AMPLE time to learn and NEVER feel comfortable riding clipless. Some riders are completely freaked out by being "attached" to the bike. This is really ironic, considering the history of the clipless pedal. It was designed so the rider WASN'T fully attached to the bike (with cleated shoes and double straps). The pros' feet were so well strapped to pedals, feet didn't come out in crashes, causing all sorts of injuries.

So please take this simply as a word of caution: you may end up loving clipless pedals as much as me, or you may absolutely hate them! It all depends on you, your experience, you needs and how much you invest in fully learning clipless. If I had to make a blanket statement, I'd say a new clipless pedal rider would probably want six months of use under his or her belt before captaining a tandem with clipless. Sure, there are variables, but this would probably apply to the majority of recreational riders who aren't riding 24/7. Or, if you really want to expedite the process, then jump into clipless with both feet (pun!) and ride off road and do your best to progress into more and more technical riding. If you're 100% comfortable traversing gnarly roots & rocks & boulders in clipless pedals and never fall over, then you're ready for clipless on the tandem.

At the least, take the quoted recommendation with a grain of salt.

Good luck.
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Old 11-11-20, 07:34 AM
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As captain I use "toe clips" on a wide platform pedal, the plastic ones you just slide your shoe/toe under, no straps. my stoker clips in with SPDs. Its all a personal choice, most teams use SPDs in both positions.
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Old 11-11-20, 08:35 AM
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My stoker has tried but does not like clipless and insists on riding flat pedals. I'm OK with this - Happy stoker, happy life.

I have been riding SPD's for onwards of 25 years and love them, however, the few times we have fallen on the tandem I have never been able to unclip in time. I run mullet pedals "flat one side, SPD on the other" for me on all my tandems. I clip in once up to speed and I can start, and also ride unclipped for those situations where I might have to react quickly. I think they are the ideal pedal system for a tandem.
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Old 11-11-20, 11:24 AM
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Originally Posted by SouthSanDiego View Post
Precious cargo, indeed. I'm new to the terminology, too. SPD as in clipless/cleated/click-in pedals? Don't those interfere with quick removal of the feet from the pedals, too? As a tandem beginner, I think i'll stick to flats for now, until I become more familiar with this bike. Thanks much for your very helpful responses.
Yes, SPDs are clipless pedals, i.e. they are not toe clips but have cleats mounted to the shoe sole which click into clipless pedals. So "clipless" because of no toe clips, but one does "clip in." Yes, confusing. There's comment upthread where someone claims to "clip in" to toe clip pedals. That just makes the confusion worse.

I assumed, as perhaps others have, that you already ride a sport road or mountain bike, in which case you already use clipless pedals. If not, definitely do that before mounting clipless on your tandem. Captaining a tandem is about 4 times trickier than riding a single road bike. I'd been riding road bikes for 65 years and the first time we tried a borrowed tandem, we made it 20' before we fell over. On another try, in a parking lot, I almost hit a couple parked cars. We now have about 20,000 miles on our tandem and love it, which mileage is like nothing to experienced teams, but we started late.

Just expanding on the cautions in previous comments.
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Old 11-11-20, 12:23 PM
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We use these pedals that have metal studs for grip. I would not recommend them to someone starting out because they can do some damage to a stoker if her feet come off the pedals and her leg gets whacked by the pedals. But, after you've been riding for a while, they are good for extra grip, particularly when it's a bit wet out, and there is no problem getting your feet off the pedals because only friction is creating the grip. YMMV. As a bonus they come in colors to match your bike.page1image25908672 page1image25908864 page1image25909056 page1image23741248RockBros Road Mountain Bike Platform Pedals Flat Aluminum Sealed Bearing 9/16 in
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Old 11-11-20, 12:56 PM
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loosen the SPD allen bolt for the novice

My prized novice stoker became attached (literally) to her double sided spd's the minute i put them on the bike, with the tension screw set fairly loose. This permits a rapid detachment with the twist of the ankle, and there is no prolonged learning curve or mystery about it - it's intuitive after one or two dismounts.. One can titrate the tension of the screw to the anxiety of the stoker and increase the tension after he or she becomes more experienced. I have relegated the singled sided SPD's and the flats to the spare parts box and never looked box. The Captain has always had SPD's, after 20 years in toe clips.
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Old 11-11-20, 01:58 PM
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We used clips when we started tandemming. We'd used them solo, and they worked fine on the tandem. A little awkward getting in for the pilot when taking off, but no big deal.

Then I switched to spd on my commuter. I didn't realize how great they were until I briefly went back to clips.

After that, I put dual spd/flat pedals on the tandem, and we'd never go back. I feel more tied-in, stable, and able to pedal more in circles than up-down. Stoker loves them. I've never fallen because I couldn't unclip. I've never been unable to unclip when losing balance. We use the flats when, say, touring and we need to jog to the store from the campground; but can't wait to get back to the spd side.
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Old 11-11-20, 02:06 PM
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It might also be worth noting that Shimano makes an SPD cleat - the SH-56 Multi-Directional - that makes it much easier to detach your foot from the pedal in comparison to their standard SPD cleat. I'm not terribly fond of them myself, but my wife (stoker) really likes them. She particularly likes them on her mountain bike for their ease of detachment. If I was considering an SPD pedal for the very first time, it would likely be the first cleat that I would try.
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Old 11-11-20, 02:57 PM
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Originally Posted by LV2TNDM View Post
This statement is HIGHLY debatable. (No offense reburns, but I have to rebut your advice here.) And I say this as a true devotee of clipless pedals. I first used clipless in 1987 when racing road. At the same time, I was doing a lot of mountain biking as well. I struggled mightily to get the ideal foot security I had come to love with Look pedals. I used cleated mountain bike shoes and double toe straps, but my feet still moved. And getting out? NO WAY without undoing the toe straps. Then Shimano released the M737 for mountain riding and I jumped all over them and LOVED them. I ride everything clipless except the unicycle (oh, and a bike I use as my wheelie practice bike). Road and mountain tandem, single mountain and road, city bike. Without a doubt, I will not go back to anything else.

BUT, I would NEVER make a statement like the above to a new rider using clipless. And to a tandem captain? Not in a million years. I say this because I've seen the range of riders out there and I know that many of them will have a much tougher time learning clipless pedals. (I think it took me about six months for releasing to be second nature and require no active thought or effort on my part.) And some people will give them AMPLE time to learn and NEVER feel comfortable riding clipless. Some riders are completely freaked out by being "attached" to the bike. This is really ironic, considering the history of the clipless pedal. It was designed so the rider WASN'T fully attached to the bike (with cleated shoes and double straps). The pros' feet were so well strapped to pedals, feet didn't come out in crashes, causing all sorts of injuries.

So please take this simply as a word of caution: you may end up loving clipless pedals as much as me, or you may absolutely hate them! It all depends on you, your experience, you needs and how much you invest in fully learning clipless. If I had to make a blanket statement, I'd say a new clipless pedal rider would probably want six months of use under his or her belt before captaining a tandem with clipless. Sure, there are variables, but this would probably apply to the majority of recreational riders who aren't riding 24/7. Or, if you really want to expedite the process, then jump into clipless with both feet (pun!) and ride off road and do your best to progress into more and more technical riding. If you're 100% comfortable traversing gnarly roots & rocks & boulders in clipless pedals and never fall over, then you're ready for clipless on the tandem.

At the least, take the quoted recommendation with a grain of salt.

Good luck.
You’re wise to point out that there is variability across individuals regarding use of such pedals. I can only speak from my own experience, which doubtless is dominated by years of MTB on very technical north Idaho single track. Not being attached to the pedals in some way on such trails would be akin to skiing on skis without bindings. So I had a lot of experience using SPDs before I ever got on a tandem, and I would certainly not advise anyone to attempt piloting a tandem using pedals that they haven’t already become completely proficient using on a single bike. My own introduction to SPDs ended up with me lying on my side in my driveway with a bruised hip and unable to detach from my bicycle 🥴 But as best as I can recall the distant past, it did not take long to become comfortable with them, at least in my case.
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Old 11-11-20, 08:52 PM
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Originally Posted by reburns View Post
You’re wise to point out that there is variability across individuals regarding use of such pedals. I can only speak from my own experience, which doubtless is dominated by years of MTB on very technical north Idaho single track. Not being attached to the pedals in some way on such trails would be akin to skiing on skis without bindings. So I had a lot of experience using SPDs before I ever got on a tandem, and I would certainly not advise anyone to attempt piloting a tandem using pedals that they haven’t already become completely proficient using on a single bike. My own introduction to SPDs ended up with me lying on my side in my driveway with a bruised hip and unable to detach from my bicycle 🥴 But as best as I can recall the distant past, it did not take long to become comfortable with them, at least in my case.
Thank you. I appreciate it. Yes, I still vividly remember tipping over on my new Bianchi Limited with Look pedals. It took a while, but I was immediately "hooked" to them. This is after about ten years of road riding with toe clips and I had had enough of them. (But still before my mountain bike experience mentioned above.)

As someone who worked with novice, intermediate and experienced cyclists, I found over the years it almost doesn't matter which user group you worked with: a certain segment of them all would NEVER warm to clipless pedals. And I have no problem with that. Definitely use what makes you happy. (And yes, I have fought the current popular "discovery" of flat pedals off road.) I'll add that in 23 years of mountain tandemming with clipless, I have NEVER dropped my stoker wife. (I did, however, drop a novice on the back on a single track hair pin turn once. I'm embarrassed still to this day!

The stoker position is the IDEAL way to introduce a rider to clipless pedals if you ask me. Perhaps that cyclist will then go on to use them on their half bike. But I'm sure there would be a percentage of stokers who would never use them anywhere but on the tandem. Hey, whatever works!

PS I HATE the misnomer "clip in" pedals. I understand where it came from; I get it. But it was brought into existence by ignorance. Toe clips have been a tradition in cycling for well over a hundred years. Their position in cycling history is not in question. So when the industry finally finds a new, better pedal "technology," it has the prerogative to name that new technology. And it's called "clipless pedals." Don't like it? Too bad! Are you a new rider who doesn't understand? I DON'T CARE! It's "CLIPLESS PEDALS" whether or not you like it. Learn it. Use it. LOVE IT! And "clip in" pedals are TOE CLIPS by the wrong name! So, just please if you're new to cycling or pedals, just take a moment to learn the vernacular and USE IT CORRECTLY! And experienced cyclists should do everything in their power to banish it from existence!!!

/end rant
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Old 11-12-20, 12:56 AM
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It is a matter of personal preference. I use SPD pedals as the captain and have never had any difficulty getting my foot unclipped and down when necessary. But I have always had toe clips on the stokers pedals as it lets a lot of folks ride as stoker, including those that "just want to try it out."
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Old 11-12-20, 08:50 AM
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This is an interesting and enlightening thread. We have been riding tandems for over 30 years. My stoker would never feel comfortable/safe with any kind of clip to her pedals and would not likely feel safe with me doing that either. We ride on some busy city streets where the culture is not as friendly to cyclists as it should be, so those are also factors.
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Old 11-12-20, 10:23 AM
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I think this also depends on how you ride. If you're just tooling around the neighborhood, you probably don't need clipless. pedals. If you're going to be riding hard and at a decent cadence, I think they're safer. I'd be way more concerned of the instability caused by coming off a pedal in a standing sprint, or spinning down a decent at 120 rpm, than the slight risk of tipping over at a stop.
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Old 11-12-20, 11:35 AM
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I (captain) always clip in. My stoker was reluctant, but our bike mechanic suggested it was a safety thing since on flat pedals if we hit a bump her feet could come off the pedals. That could be inconvenient, or it could be injurious. We got some "learner" Shimano clip-in pedals (Click'r). The release tension is very low. She is very happy with them. She has no problem unclipping, but more than once has remarked after going over a bump that without them she would have lost contact with the pedals.
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Old 11-12-20, 12:27 PM
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I seem to recall seeing toe-clipped tandems with bungie cord between the front of the stoker's toe-clip and the back of the captain 's pedal. That always seemed to me pretty ingenious.

I/m not a tandem rider. Bought one before our marriage and it was a disaster. 20 miles, 2 crashes. (The marriage didn't survive either.) But I've now ridden the week long Cycle Oregon on my "half tandem", a fix gear. And when I encounter tandems, share that concept with stokers. They get it!. My rider plus rig is cockpit (front wheel, handlebars, controls steered by (waist up) the captain who picks the route, the gear (and refuses to either coast or change gears except when stopped!). The other half is the stoker (waist down), rear wheel and pedals driven by the timing chain (rear wheel, not captain but the effect is no different). So I am in the stoker's corner. No gear choice, not coast choice, (Uphill and downhill are rather different and there are only some tandems I can have the conversation with. The rest are just too fast.)

Pedal-wise, my issues are a little different. Downhill on the fix gear, I NEVER want to pull a foot off the pedal. EVER. Getting a Achilles slammed by a 200 RPM pedal would be life changing and not in a good way. (I would heal far faster from the ensuing 40 mph crash.) I ride toe-clips, quality leather straps pulled tight. Aluminum slotted cleats like we raced half a century ago.

I admire you all. I know I am too clumsy to be a good captain and have never looked for a ride as stoker. Good teams are a pleasure to watch (and every once in a while, I've been treated to some tows that were memorable).

Ben
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Old 11-12-20, 02:56 PM
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My wife was also reluctant to go with clipless pedals. Then one day we were in our LBS getting her some shoes for an upcoming tour. There was another couple in there who also rode a tandem, and the stoker of that couple told my wife that feet locked to the pedals were a great idea. We bought a set of Shimano dual sided pedals, SPD on one side, platform on the other.
One ride and she was firmly in the SPD camp when riding the tandem. Since then the tandem has been fitted with some very lightweight one sided SPD pedals, because saving 200 grams IS important when the bike flies and the airlines charge extra for over 25 kilograms.
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Old 11-12-20, 04:39 PM
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I've ridden for years like many in this group. I rode with straps, clips and cleats for years and did well. Our first tandem was before clipless pedals were available. We used toe clip and straps with no tension and no cleats and were successful for several years. We sold that tandem and went several years without a tandem, I continued to ride and started using clipless in 1987 with good results. When we got back into tandem riding we used platform pedals for a couple of years before switching to SPD pedals, (I had been using Look pedals only) we had great results. When I found the platform one side and SPD other pedals and we began using those and that is what I use in the captain's position to this date. My wife stoker has developed some knee issues so had moved to the Speedplay FROG pedals as they have practically no tension on the release.
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Old 11-12-20, 07:47 PM
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I use SPD's. My stoker spouse uses flats.
@Carbonfiberboy, I'm much stronger than she is, and I have control of the cranks. When I want to coast, I just stop pedaling. I can even backpedal. I guess she detects what I'm doing quickly and gives into it. That's the bright side of it. The dark side is that she doesn't contribute much to propulsion. Riding the tandem is hard for me.
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Old 11-12-20, 11:31 PM
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Originally Posted by noglider View Post
I use SPD's. My stoker spouse uses flats.
@Carbonfiberboy, I'm much stronger than she is, and I have control of the cranks. When I want to coast, I just stop pedaling. I can even backpedal. I guess she detects what I'm doing quickly and gives into it. That's the bright side of it. The dark side is that she doesn't contribute much to propulsion. Riding the tandem is hard for me.
My stoker put out almost exactly half my watts and is only 10 lbs. lighter. So the tandem is hard for me too, which is one of the reasons that almost all my outdoor rides are on it.

We both use SPDs but my experience is just like yours. When a team is synced up, neither seat will really feel the pedaling of the other because both team members operate the pedals just the same. Not telepathy, just experience with the other person's mentality, finishing each other's sentences and all that. When I was 70 and Stoker was 66, we rode the tandem on a local event, 154 miles and 10,000'. Took us 15 hours. The last pass, we rode 15' (1 mile), took a 1 minute break, then another mile, etc. It was 104° at the bottom and 87° at the top. No wind. Stoker is not interested in repeating that ride but we have the matching jerseys!

Anyway, grazing the surface of this thread, that's why we use clipless pedals. It's really fun to make a tandem go. It's sorta like driving a way, way underpowered sports car. I used to have a real Mini, a hopped-up 850cc. I could make that thing fly on the right road. On the tandem, we rule on downward-descending rollers..

I once did a century with a local strong man as stoker. Whole different experience not being synced up. We were fast enough, but it was a little frustrating for both of us.
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