The 15th annual Georgia Tandem Rally is returning to Covington May 16-19, and 133 tandem teams of cyclists will hit the streets and spend tens of thousands of dollars in Newton and surrounding counties during one of the county’s larger tourism events of the year.
Registration for the event closed weeks ago, but residents should be prepared for the spectacle.
The tandem bike rally is returning for the first 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 ride director Roger 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.
The hotel spending also will add to the public coffers, as the 8 percent hotel/motel tax will bring in more than $3,000, while local sales tax (3 percent) on the remaining spending will bring in another $1,000-plus.
For those who want to see the cyclists in action or avoid them on the roadways, here’s a basic schedule:
• Friday, the riders will head to Madison, traveling through Covington, Newborn and Rutledge and back again.
• Saturday, the riders will head north to Jersey and then back down to Social Circle.
• Sunday, the riders will travel south on Ga. Highway 81 through Porterdale, then head east through Starrsville and Mansfield.
“It’s a rolling party on wheels,” Strauss said.
Tandem bikes are also much less common, so tandem riders feel like they’re part of a more exclusive club, and this particular rally is open only to tandem riders.
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.
When Strauss and his wife Eve Kofsky, used to ride on single bikes, he would get too far ahead and have to continually stop and wait. With a tandem bike, they’re able to ride together at a high speed with no chance of getting separated and both cyclists riding at their maximum ability.
If you’re interested in signing up for next year’s rally or want to learn more about the event, visit georgiatandemrally.com.