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100 miles on a bike built for two


Photo: Matthew Staver for the Wall Street Journal

After years of each cycling at their own pace, Hank and Alida Alberts finally found a way to finish long-distance bike rides together: They bought a tandem bike.

“Tandem cycling is the great equalizer,” says Mrs. Alberts. “We both work hard and we end up at the finish line together. Hank isn’t wondering where I am.” 

When the Alberts moved to Parker, Colo., 10 years ago from East Palmyra, N.Y., they were quick to embrace the state’s cycling scene. She and her husband started riding on weekends to keep fit and lose weight. Soon they were signing up for 50- to 100-mile rides. “Everyone bikes here. The number of bike lanes and organized rides made it really accessible,” says Mrs. Alberts, 60 years old.

License plate

The license plate on their bike.
Photo: Matthew Staver for the Wall Street Journal

Mr. Alberts, 59, is the vice president of sales engineering for Charter Communications Inc.,the broadband communications and cable company that recently agreed to buy Time Warner Cable in a $55 billion deal. Two years ago, he received a company email encouraging employees to try tandem bikes as a way to stay fit. He forwarded the message to his wife, who immediately went on Craigslist and purchased a used tandem for $1,200. “We took it out for some gentle, careful rides and realized it was really fun,” says Mrs. Alberts, who works as a registered nurse in the post-anesthesia-care unit at Parker Adventist Hospital.

They eventually upgraded to a Co-Motion tandem, which can break down to fit in two suitcases, and started traveling to long-distance races. Last year, they completed six 100 mile, or century, bike rides on their tandem. “We can never climb a hill as fast as someone on a single bike, but watch out for us on the downhill and the flats,” says Mrs. Alberts.

Mr. Alberts is always in the front seat. “The stronger person sits in front and steers, shifts and brakes,” he explains. “Alida is the social butterfly chitchatting with everyone and anyone. I focus on the road ahead.”

Mrs. Alberts says there’s an element of trust involved as the backseat rider. “Hank isn’t a daredevil but if he’s going too fast down a hill I poke him until he slows down,” she says.

This year, the Alberts have five rides on their calendar, including the Pan-Mass Challenge, a two-day ride that covers 170 miles across the state of Massachusetts. “Between the two of us, we’ve lost almost 100 pounds,” says Mrs. Alberts. “We have enjoyed many scenic rides, burned tons of calories, [and] spent many quality hours together riding more than 2,000 miles on the tandem each year.”

The Workout

During the week, the couple trains alone on single bikes due to their different work schedules. Mr. Alberts typically rides after coming home from his Denver office around 6 p.m., if there’s still sunlight, or he puts his bike on an indoor bike trainer and pedals in the basement. Mrs. Alberts works two 10-hour shifts from 9 a.m. 7:30 p.m. during the week, which allows her to cycle most afternoons. “I enjoy the peace and quiet riding by myself, but I do miss my husband when I get a flat,” she says.


The Alberts at the Tour of the Moon ride in Grand Junction, CO, in October 2014.
Photo: Matthew Staver for the Wall Street Journal

On weekends, the couple rides their tandem, varying their miles and terrain based on upcoming rides. They recently trained for the 100-mile Buena Vista Bike Fest century in Buena Vista, Colo., on June 6, which started at an elevation of 7,954 feet and involved climbing more than 5,000 feet on a bike. “We incorporated a lot more hills into our training for that race,” says Mr. Alberts. “Luckily where we live it’s nearly impossible to only ride flats.” Weather prevented them from participating in the ride but they plan to do the Denver Century on June 20. The route goes through the city’s neighborhoods and includes a climb up the south side of Lookout Mountain.

In 2013, they joined the Colorado Tandem Club, and will occasionally join eight to 15 other pairs for group rides that range from 35 to 45 miles. The couple rides year round but when the roads are icy, Mrs. Alberts will jog on the treadmill or use the elliptical in the basement of their home.

The Diet

Mrs. Alberts has an egg-white omelet or yogurt and fruit for breakfast. She packs a salad, yogurt, fruit and cheese for lunch and snacks at work. She’s been on Weight Watchers the past four years and although she’s at her goal weight, she continues the meetings. “Having to weigh in keeps me honest,” she says.

Mr. Alberts has a bowl of whole-grain cereal and a banana before he leaves for work. He packs a turkey or ham and cheese sandwich on whole-grain bread for lunch along with an apple or orange. The Alberts eat dinner at home together, cooking low-fat protein like chicken and lots of vegetables. On rides, they snack on granola bars and bananas. Their splurge is ice cream, beer and wine.


Photo: Matthew Staver for the Wall Street Journal

The Gear

Mrs. Alberts has a Trek carbon frame Domane 5.2 women’s road bike, which retails for $3,680. Mr. Alberts rides a Canondale CAAD 8 model, which retails for $870. Membership dues for the tandem club are $35 a year. Their Co-Motion Colorado Supremo tandem bike retails for $8,345. They spent about $4,000 on their treadmill and elliptical machines.

The Alberts like Pearl Izumi, Primal Wear and Pactimo cycling apparel and often match their biking outfits. “When we bought the tandem, we were told we should dress alike because we’re a team,” says Mrs. Alberts. “I think my two grown sons think it’s silly we dress like twins.”

Original article from the Wall Street Journal.

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