July 2, 2011 in City

An event built for two

Northwest Tandem Rally will draw 600 pedalers
Mikep@Spokesman.Com, (509) 459-5454
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Brian Money and his wife, Nancy Dyer, of Victoria, B.C., affix a Canadian flag to their bicycle before heading out from Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute to Riverside State Park on Friday. They were celebrating Canada Day and are participating in this weekend’s Northwest Tandem Rally.
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Map of this story's location

26th annual Northwest Tandem Rally

The main event kicks off today with a Spokane police escort and a mass ride leaving Mukogawa at 8:30 a.m. Teams will be riding today through Monday along the roads and trails southwest of Spokane.

If you start seeing double around Spokane this weekend, it’s not your eyes playing tricks.

The Northwest Tandem Rally for two-seat bicycles is in town through Monday.

Nearly 600 riders, or 300 tandem pairs, are converging on the Mukogawa Fort Wright campus for their 26th annual get-together.

They will be riding today through Monday along the roads and trails southwest of Spokane, many of them passing through the cities of Cheney and Medical Lake.

The main event kicks off today with a Spokane police escort and a mass ride leaving Mukogawa at 8:30 a.m.

“It’s a niche kind of activity and exercise,” said Marla Emde of the Spokane Regional Sports Commission and a tandem rider herself.

She and co-worker Juli Jones rode a tandem two years ago at the rally in Victoria, B.C., to learn the ins and outs of putting on the event, which is organized and sponsored by the sports commission.

Emde is a former U.S. tandem racer who met her husband, a Belgian, during competition in 1994.

The front rider is called the captain and the back rider the stoker. With couples, the man usually rides as captain because of his extra weight and strength, but Emde said she’s fully capable of taking the lead seat.

Riding tandem can be a test of marriage compatibility.

“Some people can’t do it,” she said. “Some people would call it a divorce machine.”

Steve and Phyllis Lay, of Tacoma, have survived 31 years of marriage and even more years tandem riding.

They met on a cross-country bicycle event in 1976, then as a couple they took up the tandem a few years later. They rode across the country in tandem for their 20th wedding anniversary and made a third cross-country trek for their 30th.

The healthy retirees are both in their 60s now and recently finished a bike ride from Florida to Maine. “We just rode until we got there,” Steve Lay said.

“We try to ride every day,” added Phyllis Lay.

The couple uses their tandem for trips around town, but they have a custom-designed motor home for traveling to excursions like the one this weekend. They are camping in their motor home on the Mukogawa grounds.

Childhood friends of Steve Lay, Phil and Helen Burgess, are parked next to them in their own motor home. The Burgesses are brother and sister from the Gig Harbor, Wash., area. For them, the annual tandem rally is a chance to see old friends. Many of the participants show up every year.

The event was last held in Spokane in 1998, a year Steve Lay remembers because it rained, he said.

Spokane’s weather this weekend, with highs in the 70s to lower 80s, is going to help erase that memory.

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