Three short lists + one bike for 2 = 1 awesome tandempacking adventure! Ah, tandem riding!  If we wrote down all the comments shouted, asked, and whispered as we pedal by, we could fill a novel.  All I will say is, Dr. Seuss was right when he wrote Green Eggs and Ham.  Try it before you say ‘eww gross’ or ‘we can’t do that.’  I believe there is good reason Salsa is making a mass production mountain tandem and races in Europe attract 200+ happy tandem teams.Tandem Bikepacking First up, 6 of the many reasons we love tandem riding
  1. No one has to wait or play catch up.
  2. Conversation is easier.
  3. We can go really fast downhill!
  4. We share the magic and the misery of adventure.
  5. “Can we ride that….?”  Singletrack is a nonstop experiment.
  6. The tandem helps our marriage.  Trust and communication.
Tandem BikepackingNext are 6 tips to getting started on a tandem
  1. Start slow – Riding a tandem can be quite an adjustment from singles.  The first ride can be awkward, the second can be ungraceful, and the tenth can be like dancing.  Find a clunker townie tandem and go for an easy ride down the bike path for starters.  Avoid starting in a busy parking lot with lots of sudden turns and stops.  The thrill of pedaling out of the saddle together as you accelerate out of a gravel corner will come with time. Tandem Bikepacking
  1. Communicate– Establish some terms to let each other know if you are stopping, coasting, shifting, or coming up to some big bumps.  Also establish what the stoker gets to say if they are scared. Captains…scared stokers usually don’t want to ride again.  See #1.  Listen to your stoker if they are scared.
  1. Trust– Both riders get to practice trust…the stoker trusting the captain’s steering ability and the captain gets to trust the stoker is doing their best pedaling and following.  Don’t make assumptions the other isn’t doing their job.  Do speak up if something isn’t working for you.  Trust comes with time and practice and listening to your teammate.
  1. Mix it up – If possible, switch riding positions to know a bit about what it is like to be in the other person’s shoes.  Captain, you might be surprised how difficult it is to be a really good stoker! Tandem Bikepacking
  1.  Find the laboratory! – Experiment, come up with a hypothesis, frame a ride in how to be teammates, identify a common goal for the ride and work together towards it.  Try a move a few times until you get it. Tandem Bikepacking
  1. Congratulate each other! – High five’s, fist bumps, ‘nice job’ and such make it a pleasant experience.  When your teammate scores a goal, powers up a hill or aces the turn, celebrate with them.
And to embrace adventure…. 6 Tips for Tandem Bikepacking or “Tandempacking”
  1. Go light – Tandems have less carrying capacity per person, which is a good thing!  Don’t take the kitchen sink with you!  To ease this process, start out with a credit card tour, tow a trailer or use a rack and panniers as you develop packing systems to get it all on the bike.  (A light rack and panniers or stuff sack actually has a great weight to capacity ratio and who cares if it looks less cool than all the custom kits out there). Tandem Bikepacking
  1. Share gear – Take this as far as your tandem strengthened relationship allows!  A team automatically benefits from having two people with just one set of tools, navigation equipment, shelters and more.  Next, look to share extra layers and any eating accessories.  Then one sleeping bag and pad, one toothbrush… Get creative, and play nice!
  1. Trick out the stoker dashboard – There is a window of space for bags on a tandem between the stoker and captain that can be quite spacious and also accessible.  This works well since the stoker can usually futz around (gracefully) to get at stuff on the go.  In an effort to minimize stops, we put all the items commonly used on the go in front of stoker such as food, upper layers, sunscreen, maps, etc.  The captain just has a small stash of food, a water bottle, and items needed only when the bike stopped, such as rain pants or tools.   Utilizing this space is doable with a combo of stock bag options, or get some custom bags made.  Just check captain heel clearance, stoker toe clearance, and stoker knee clearance when standing.  We use this set up. Tandem Bikepacking
  1. Go gravel – Tandems can be surprisingly adept on singletrack, and, it takes practice.  Start out playing to the strengths of a tandem.  Moderate grades with few technical obstacles, dare we even say fast?  You will break less gear, have fun looking around, and master riding in sync.
  1. Get comfortable – This is an implicit rule of bikepacking, and, it takes on extra significance on a tandem. If one person is uncomfortable and wiggling around on the seat, all those wiggles reverberate through the whole bike, usually making the ride less pleasant.  Practice pedaling with both riders out of the saddle to give everyone’s butt a break.  Stokers can even be on duty for back rubs on the go!
  1. Share the fun – Akin to riding shotgun on a road trip, the stoker can do a better job of reading a map than the captain can while the bike is moving!  Give the stoker a computer, maps, poems, camera, all DJ responsibilities (and scanning duties for wildlife, or cops).  The captain gets to focus on driving really really well and communicating really really well, and perhaps request a song or two.
And the journey can keep unfolding from there.  Each team develops it’s own little language and routines to make any tandempacking adventure sweeter in it being shared with a partner. D71_4016 - Version 2Feel free to be in touch if you have further questions, thoughts or want to ride a tandem in the Durango area.


  1. Nicely written article and your fully laden tandem is impressive! We’ve been riding singletrack and gravel on our tandem for 18 months and tackling the Durango to Moab, San Juan Huts route this summer, can’t wait!

  2. Pingback: Tandem fahren, Tandem schieben, Tandem bepacken | de velo

  3. Thanks for writing this. My wife and I are excited about getting into tandem mountain biking. Are you guys still in the Durango area? We’d love to pick your brains.

    • sam and katie

      Yes. We are on and off. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch! In Nepal right now, but will be returning to Durango beginning of February.

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