From uprights and recumbents, to trikes and triples, 281 tandem bicycles will be cruising around West Michigan at the 43rd Midwest Tandem Rally Aug. 31 to Sept. 3 – the largest tandem bicycle event in North America.
Organized by the Michigan United Tandem Society (MUTS) with support from the West Michigan Sports Commission, this event comes to Michigan for the sixth time, and Grand Rapids for the third time (previously here in 2005 and 1987). Michigan also is one of only four Midwest states that has hosted the event six times since its inception in 1976 (in addition to Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin).
“This event is a great way to learn more about tandeming, meet other cyclists, and promote the sport,” said Diana Hugo, event co-chair. “Plus, West Michigan is a great region for tandem riding, with easy access to less populous roads plus bike-friendly state laws like the recently passed three-foot safe passing law.”
The event has 556 individuals registered to date, which equates to 281 tandem teams (most are two-seaters, though three triples are registered). Riders are registered from 24 states plus Ontario, with the majority from Michigan at 181 riders – of which 63 are from West Michigan and 34 from the Grand Rapids area. Other states with a large number of riders include Illinois (81), Indiana (62) and Ohio (62). The event is expected to generate approximately $614,000 in economic impact plus 722 hotel nights booked at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.
“This is the first time the West Michigan Sports Commission is supporting MUTS in this event, and we’re thrilled to welcome this enthusiastic group of cyclists to show off our bike-friendly region,” said Mike Guswiler, president of the West Michigan Sports Commission (WMSC).
This non-competitive cycling event features four days of rides with daily routes ranging from 25 to 100 miles, and participants can register for any or all days of the event. Registration can be done in advance or the day of the event. Cyclists also do not need a tandem to participate. Daily activities include:
Friday, Aug. 31 – Team registration and package pick up from 12 to 9 p.m. and an ice cream ride in the evening.
Saturday, Sept. 1 – Group ride begins at 9 a.m. with a mass start on Monroe Avenue between Lyon and Michigan Streets, heading north to Richardson-Sowerby Park in Rockford for lunch. Cyclists can ride one or more loops after lunch. Six mileage options are available, ranging from 27 to 100 miles. Afternoon and evening tandem seminars are offered 4 to 8 p.m. at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.
Sunday, Sept. 2 – Group ride begins at 9 a.m. with a mass start on Monroe Avenue between Lyon and Michigan Streets, heading south and west along the Grand River Valley. The main route takes cyclists to Allendale Community Park for lunch and loops back along the Grand River. A longer, 75-mile route heads to Lake Michigan and Kouw Park in Port Sheldon Township. Riders also have the option of joining a remote start, 41-mile loop to Lake Michigan from Allendale. Ride options are 31, 41, 75 or 100 miles.
Monday, Sept. 3 – Riders can do their own breakfast ride of 13 miles that goes out to Reeds Lake.
In addition to tandem cyclists, MUTS encourages people interested in learning about tandem cycling to participate, even if they don’t own a tandem. Saturday afternoon seminars offer information about owning, traveling with and tuning tandems. Exhibitors at the Amway Grand (including Grand Rapids-based companies TerraTrike and Velocity USA) will feature a variety of tandem products, including tandem bikes available to demo.
Registered riders for this event range in age from 2 to 81 with the average age of 57, and tandem teams are comprised of couples, parents with children, and other combinations.
“Tandem cycling is a good way to spend time with your riding partner, get exercise and be outside,” said Hugo. “Plus, it’s a great equalizer. I could never keep up with my husband on single bikes. It’s also wonderful for people who are visually impaired. We have at least two couples where one of the team members is visually impaired, and it’s a way for them to bike ride.”
The Midwest Tandem Rally has been in existence since 1976, rotating annually between 10 states in the Midwest: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio and Wisconsin. Each year, the event is hosted by the respective tandem society of the hosting state. For more information, visit mtr2018.org.
About the West Michigan Sports Commission: The non-profit West Michigan Sports Commission (WMSC) identifies, secures and hosts a diverse level of youth and amateur sporting events to positively impact the economy and quality of life in the region. Since its inception in 2007, the WMSC has booked 664 sporting events and tournaments that attracted more than 1 million athletes and visitors, generating $307 million in direct visitor spending. For more information, visit westmisports.com and Facebook.com/WestMichiganSportsCommission and follow @WestMiSports.
About the Michigan United Tandem Society (MUTS): The Michigan United Tandem Society (MUTS) is a group of 100-plus Michigan tandem enthusiasts who get together several times a year to bike and socialize. Established in 1986, MUTS promotes the joy of riding and having "fun on two wheels.” All riders are welcome to participate in MUTS events, even non-members and non-tandem riders. For more information, visit muts.club.