The 15th annual Georgia Tandem Rally is returning to Covington this week, and 133 tandem teams of cyclists will be putting their mettle to the pedals while also giving a boost to the Newton County economy.
The Tandem Rally May 16-19 is one of the county’s largest tourism events of the year.
Registration for the event closed weeks ago, but residents should be prepared for the spectacle of what ride director Roger Strauss calls "a rolling party on wheels.’’
Here’s the riders’ schedule:
• Friday, they will head to Madison, traveling through Covington, Newborn and Rutledge and back again.
• Saturday, they will head north to Jersey and then back down to Social Circle.
• Sunday, they will travel south on Ga. Highway 81 through Porterdale, then head east through Starrsville and Mansfield.
This is the bike rally’s first visit to Covington since 2010, when a last-minute hotel closing near Augusta led the ride to relocate in Covington on short notice.
"We wanted to do Covington again because we were welcomed by everyone. The mayor came out and (tourism director) Clara (Deemer) did a nice job with the visitor’s center. We wanted to give them the full treatment and do it right this time," said Strauss.
Teams have booked more than 130 hotel room stays, which will contribute $40,000 to those businesses.
The ride will generate another $15,000 in catering (some of which will be spent in Conyers at the Georgia International Horse Park), and thousands of dollars more in miscellaneous spending at local gas stations, restaurants and retailers, Strauss said.
He estimates participants and event organizers will spend around $75,000 total.
In tandem cycling, riders must work together in a rhythm, and it’s harder to go uphill because of the increased weight and force of gravity.
However, going downhill and cycling on flat land is easier.
"The greatest thing about tandem riding is that it brings the cycling ability of both people more or less up to the level of the higher-ability person," Strauss said.
To sign up for next year’s rally or learn more about the event, visit georgiatandemrally.com.