Hundreds of tandem cycling enthusiasts throughout the Midwest block off Labor Day weekend on their calendar every year. At least they have since 1976 when the first annual Midwest Tandem Rally was held. In 2012, the place to be for tandem bikers was Middleton, Wisconsin.
The 2012 Midwest Tandem Rally - hosted by Couples on Wheels (COWs), the tandem bike club of Wisconsin - drew 857 tandem cyclists from 25 states and Canada. Sending more tandem teams to the event than Wisconsin's 59 were Illinois (69) and Michigan (65), many of which were members of their home clubs, the Chicago Area Tandem Society (CATS) and Michigan United Tandem Society (MUTS), respectively.
The more than 380 total two-person teams in attendance also included 38 from Indiana, 38 from Minnesota and 25 from Iowa. Tandem club members in Indiana are known as HOOTS (Hoosiers Out On Tandems) and in Iowa they're PIGS (Paired Iowans Going Somewhere). Keeping with the state animal theme but dispensing with the need for an acronym are The Loons, what Twin Cities Tandem Club members call themselves.
The GOATS (Greater Ohio Tandem Society) sent 29 teams and MULES (Missouri Union of Longbike Enthusiasts) comprised 22 teams at the four-day event. Also sighted: at least one quad, or a four-seater, and one lonely standard bicycle rider.
This was the first Midwest Tandem Rally held in Wisconsin since 2007. That year the annual event was held in Appleton, as it was in 1996.
Each day of the event, the tandem riders had their choice of several routes. This being Dane County, some routes were hillier than others. The rides included stops at ice cream shops and the National Mustard Museum (where a specialty MTR-themed mustard could be purchased) in downtown Middleton, as well as rest stops and lunch in Lodi and Sauk City.
The event was headquartered at the host hotel, the Marriott Madison West, located in Middleton - not far from the Capital Brewery, whose bike club threw a party in the beer garden for 500 of the tandem riders on Saturday afternoon.
COWs Co-president Joan Laabs of Waupaca said a six-person steering committee coordinated the efforts of 52 volunteers and worked closely with the Middleton Tourism Commission and Madison Area Sports Commission.
"We experienced a very successful event and worked with some extraordinarily committed volunteers," Laabs said. "We also had the fantastic cooperation of numerous chamber of commerce associates, area police departments, city and village clerks and local businesses."
The 2013 Midwest Tandem Rally will be held in Green County, Ohio, where the GOATS will act as hosts. The event will then roll into Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 2014 where the HOOTS will take charge. For more information about next year's rally, go to mtr2013.org.