STORY: James Combs // PHOTOS: Bob Anderson
Many people jokingly refer to tandem bicycles as divorce machines. In fact, tandem bikers have a popular saying: “However your marriage is going, riding a tandem will get you there faster.”
That’s understandable, as couples who typically argue over everything may find that sharing intimate space on a bicycle can be potentially disastrous.
However, it has had the opposite effect on Bob Anderson and his wife, Jan, of The Villages. For them, tandem biking has helped strengthen their marriage. The couple took up the sport in 1999 while residing in Fort Lauderdale.
“Back when we were riding single bikes, I was always doing maintenance on both bicycles,” Bob says. “I figured it would be easier if I only had to do maintenance on one bike. We got sized and fitted for a tandem bike, and the rest is history. We enjoy each other’s company so much and also appreciate the health benefits you receive from bicycling.”
Since then, the Andersons have pedaled and pushed together in beautiful locations such as Europe, Colorado, Vermont, and Georgia. Bob, 72, is the “captain” in front who steers, brakes, and shifts, while Jan, 66, is the “stoker” in back who pedals and signals to traffic.
“The stoker gives up control to the captain,” Bob says. “I know two couples where the stoker cannot ride on a single bicycle but does an excellent job on a tandem bike. The key is to pedal in sync and become coordinated with the bicycle and your partner. For instance, you want to get off the bike together gracefully rather than wobbling like a duck.”
The couple has enjoyed tandem riding so much that several years ago they formed the Panthers Tandem Club (Panther is an acronym for Partners Aboard Neat Tandems Happily Enjoying Riding Simultaneously).
Today, the club features 61 couples, 18 of which are from The Villages. The remaining couples are scattered throughout the United States, including Minnesota, Louisiana, Texas, and Idaho.
“We have really been blessed to meet so many wonderful tandem bikers around the country,” Bob says. “Tandem bike riders get along well and have a great attitude about life.”
Twice a year, club members host the Florida Tandem Rally. The first is held in March in Sebring and the second rally is held in October at the Waterfront Inn in The Villages. This month’s rally is Oct. 25–27 and is expected to draw nearly 70 couples. Rides of varying lengths and destinations are scheduled throughout the three-day event, and participants will enjoy lunch and dinner at several restaurants in The Villages.