There is a good letter in the latest March - April 2006 Australian Cyclist magazine about riding a tandem (page 16).
Like Captain Karl and his stoker (Dear Cyclist, Jan-Feb 2006), my husband and I have been avid tandemists for over 10 years. For the two of you to get the most enjoyment from your shared cycling, communication is the key. As the stoker of our machine I'd like to add the following tips to his advice for tandems:
1. Emergency clip out/stop
- make sure you agree and practice, BEFORE any incidents, which side of the bike you will BOTH eject to in an embergency. Thankfully we discovered we both had a preference for left when our drive chan jammed going uphill and the bike stopped suddenly ("why's he stopped pedalling?" I wondered). Funnily though, we each eject to a different side when we're on out single bikes.
2. The captain must call obstacles - things like "bump" (the back of most tandems tend to be a hard ride, like buses, and cop serious jolts. An alternative is to invest in a sprung seat); "slowing" (for traffic lights etc, so that the stoker knows to back of pedalling); and "branch" (to cater for overhanging dangers, such as tree branches). My captain used to call "duck" for branches and we unfortunately learned that - when shouted at speed and from the front away from the stoker - "duck sounds terribly much like "bump", so I'd brace my nether regions for a jolt and cop a branch full in the face.
3. Until you get used to your captain's cadence, and adjust to a pace that's suitable for you both, it is kinder on your trusty steed if the captain calls "change" for gear changes.
4. "Hey mate - she's not pedalling!" Well, if I had a dollar... I used to get very offended at this comment, but realised it was just an opening gambit for other cyclists to have a discussion with tandem funsters. The kindest retort is offered by my husband, who informs them that, in a sports car, the engine always goes in the back. The loveliest converation starter I have heard though is: "WOW! That looks like fun."
The stoker can't see much of the road conditions, and has no control over gears, brakes or steering, so my husband placates me by providing the cycle computer to monitor, making me the all important trip statistician.
It also means I can poke him in the kidneys to slow down when the speedo reaches 86km/h down the Toowoomba range - our highest ever recording.
Borrow someone's tandem if you can and sicover the joys of cycling together. I'd never keep up with my husband and our other coffee-riders on my own bike, but on a the tandem, I'm only ever 20cm behind.
Jennifer Reid, Hill End, Qld.
I hope this helps! I hope your dad enjoys his trip.