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Tandem Bike – Who Goes In Front? Solved!

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Who rides at the front of a tandem is usually the strongest rider out of the two (though there are times when this might not be the case).

The cyclist at the front of the tandem is called the ‘Captain’. They are typically the more powerful of the two and are also responsible for the steering. The cyclist at the rear (the ‘Stoker’) helps to pedal.

However, there are definitely times when this may not be what you want to do. I have a friend, for example, that went on a date on a tandem. He found it far more gentlemanly to sit at the back. There is no cut-and-dried one-size-fits-all-answer.

In this post, I’ll take a look at:

  • Who normally sits at the front on a tandem bike
  • Where does a child go on a tandem bike?
  • Tandem bike riding tips
  • Are tandem bikes hard to ride
  • Pros and cons of riding tandem bikes

I have a friend, for example, that went on a date on a tandem. He found it far more gentlemanly to sit at the back.

Couple cycling on a tandem bike, with the man at the back, and the woman at the front

Who Goes In Front On a Tandem Bike?

To understand tandems, you need to know the traditional roles of the tandem bike’s captain and stoker.

Both of these roles are important.

The Captain of a Tandem Bike

The captain, or the pilot, is the person that sits at the front of a tandem bike.

They’re responsible for steering and navigation in general. They’re also in charge of the brakes and gears.

The captain is usually the stronger rider between the two riders.

The Stoker of a Tandem Bike

The stoker, or the rear rider, helps pedal the bike, so it moves at a reasonable pace.

This doesn’t mean that their role is unnecessary. Without the stoker, the bike would be heavier for the rider to navigate alone.

The stoker should be able to trust the captain and not tense up as this would result in a rather problematic ride. If an individual can’t do this, then they should probably go at the front!

The stoker can enjoy the chance to take pictures of the scenery and even stop for a snack along the way because they aren’t in charge of steering.

Just be careful not to shift around too much or the bike might become unstable.

To sum it up, this table will demonstrate the role of each individual based on their assigned seat.

Assigned RoleSeat PositionMain ResponsibilitiesIdeal Physique
The CaptainIn the frontSteering and road inspectionThe stronger / bigger adult
The StokerIn the backPedalingAnyone that can reach the pedals

Where Does a Child Go on a Tandem Bike?

A child will only be able to go on a tandem bike if they can reach the pedals when the seat is adjusted to be as low as required.

Children over the age of about eight are normally fine, depending on the dimensions of your tandem. The child should be the stoker, and you’ll be the captain of the bike.

Even with a child on board, speed isn’t affected much! Sometimes children are more laid back and are more likely to synchronize their pedaling to yours. (though this is not always the case!)

However, before you start your ride with the little champ, you have to know some essentials for a safe ride for both of you.

Some tandem bikes aren’t customized for a child stoker. However, you can adjust the rear seat to go low enough for your child to reach the pedals.

When having a child as a stoker, you should also pay attention to their feet in case they come off the pedals.

If you want to avoid this situation altogether, you could get toe clips to keep their feet on the pedals.

If you’re interested in tandem biking with your children, I found the following Youtube video that I found mind-blowing! It’s how-to bike pack with four kids and two adults. You can check it out here:

Tandem Bike Riding Tips

The most problematic parts about riding a tandem bike are the start and end of the ride. Basically getting on and off without looking like a fool!

So, here are some tips you should keep in mind to make the ride smoother and safer for both riders.

1. Don’t Forget You’re a Duo

At the beginning of the ride, if you’re the captain, you should hold the brakes while keeping your feet on the ground.

Leave the left pedal at the bottom so the stoker can use it as a bracing step.

That way, you avoid the stoker spinning the pedals backward when stepping on them which could be pretty painful!

2. Communicate Through The Ride

Talk to each other, people!

Once you’re on the bike, you should remember to communicate with your partner about the details of what you’re doing.

Communicate when you start pedaling. Synchronization is essential!

If you’re the captain, don’t forget to tell your partner when you’re turning, standing, or seeing a bump ahead.

You should also encourage their feedback and listen to their thoughts about the ride.

For instance, double-check if the gear is comfortable for them and if the speed you’re at is OK as well.

The captain should definitely communicate with your partner when to start, slow down, and stop.

3. Keep an Eye on The Stoker

Sometimes the stoker, as the weaker cyclist, will fall behind or start to struggle.

Make sure you keep them engaged through the ride and don’t forget that a tandem bike is generally for socializing with a partner during the journey.

4. Pick the Right Bike Size

If you’re renting a tandem bike, ensure its size is appropriate for both riders. If your sizes vary broadly, the bigger person should definitely be the captain in the front.

This will help balance the tandem bike and keep it as stable as possible on the road.

Are Tandem Bikes Hard to Ride?

Tandem bikes are heavier and require more power than regular ones. As a result, they’re harder to ride if you’re riding solo.

On the other hand, however, it has to be said that riding a tandem bike with a partner can be easier than riding a solo bike. This is because the tandem bike’s long wheelbase makes it easier to stabilize.

The best advice to help you ride a tandem bike effortlessly is to synchronize the pedaling with the other rider.

Try to pedal at a tempo that your partner would also be comfortable with.

If you practice enough with a partner, it might be more comfortable and faster for you to ride a tandem bike together, rather than go for two singles.

Can You Ride a Tandem Bike Solo?

A tandem bike is meant to be for more than one person yet it’s possible to ride it solo.

For instance, if you’re going to pick someone up for the ride, you’ll have to ride it alone first.

It’s going to be harder to ride such a heavy bike on the road alone, though. Even the steering can get a little weird and the corners take a fair bit of practice.

Another hardship that you could face on the road as a solo rider is that sometimes cars coming from in front of you can’t see the rear of your bike. Consequently, they wouldn’t predict the extra space needed when they’re allowing room to turn.

Advantages of Riding a Tandem Bike

There are plenty of advantages to riding a tandem bike:

For instance, they’re a lot faster than regular bikes.

So, if you’re usually commuting to work, you can meet up with a colleague and ride to work together. This will save you both a lot of time, and you’ll arrive a bit less sweaty (especially if you’re the stoker!).

Another advantage is that it helps you get closer to your riding partner. That’s because you get to communicate clearly and frequently while spending quality time together.

It can help you get closer to your romantic partner or even to your child. So, make sure you enjoy the friendly atmosphere and take lots of pictures and videos to savor the day.

Disadvantages of Riding a Tandem Bike

Tandem bikes, as fun as they are, can be very limited in certain situations.

For instance, they’re slower than a regular bike when going up a hill. It would be difficult for you to oppose physics and try to go faster, so just accept that it’ll take some time to get there!

Tandem bikes are also harder to store and transport because of their big size.

So, if you don’t have a garage that could fit your tandem bike around your other stuff, you may want to reconsider buying one.

Another option is to invest in a coupled tandem that could be split in half and ready to be boxed or stored.


Riding a tandem bike isn’t only about who goes in front and who sits in the rear seat. It’s more about learning how to communicate and have a fun ride with a partner.

Take advantage of the experience that a tandem bike allows you. Get to know your partner better, and, most importantly, stay safe during every ride.