COVINGTON - There will be quite a charming sight on local streets next weekend, as 135 couples will be looking sweet upon their seats on bicycles built for two.
The Georgia Tandem Rally will take place May 16-19 and will feature tandem cyclists from 16 states and Canada. The annual event is organized by husband and wife team Roger Strauss and Eve Kofsky of Marietta and held at various locations throughout the state. Covington was host in 2010, after another location fell through, and the couple was impressed with the hospitality of the locals.
"We were really welcomed when we came three years ago and we said, 'We'll be back,' and here we are," Kofsky said.
Kofsky said riders will occupy about 130 hotel rooms per night, roughly 400 rooms for the duration of the rally, with riders staying at Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn Express.
She said the ride will bring additional tourism dollars with riders filling up their vehicles at local gas stations, eating at local restaurants and shopping at local stores. Strauss estimates the economic impact of the rally will be around $75,000, with hotel room nights at about $40,000.
Registration for the ride has ended.
Georgia Tandem Rally kicks off Thursday, May 16, with a party at Porterdale Mill Lofts, sponsored by the Covington/Newton County Visitors Bureau.
On Friday there will be a remote start from Social Circle, with four route options of 31, 41, 51 or 62 miles. Most of the routes will run through Madison, past host of the Georgia Tandem Rally. After the ride, cyclists are encouraged to eat at Blue Willow Inn or head back to Covington for lunch. That night, they will reconvene at the Georgia Wildlife Federation Center's Alcovy Conservation Center for an ice cream social furnished by Scoops.
On Saturday, the ride will go through rural roads of the county and through Jersey and include a catered lunch at Georgia Piedmont Technical College. That night the 15th Anniversary Gala Dinner of the Georgia Tandem Relay will be held at Georgia International Horse Park in Conyers.
Kofsky and Strauss started riding tandem in 1996 and were inspired to host their own event after riding in Social Circle and eating at Blue Willow Inn. The first rally in 1999 drew 50 couples and the ride has nearly tripled in size, though the couple prefers to keep it more intimate to keep the social atmosphere in place. Riders often converse as they ride together in small groups.
"It's really fun. We consider it like a rolling party. It's very social. However there are teams that are very serious, very fast racer types," Kofsky said, although the event itself is not a race.
The couple began riding tandem because Strauss typically got far ahead of Kofsky during rides and would have to wait for her at turns or spend much of his ride looking over his should to see if she was nearby.
"So the tandem is like the equalizer. It makes you go faster than the woman was going to go by herself in most cases and probably not as fast as a guy could go alone," she said. "It allows you to have that teamwork and companionship and you're never alone when you're on a bike ride."
Any spectators are asked to stand far back to give riders plenty of room, to wave and be patient as they make those uphill climbs.
"We appreciate their patience and enthusiasm," she said.