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David, Anthony, Chris and Leanne Cooper ride a quad bicycle Saturday during the 25th annual Northwest Tandem Rally, which kicked off near South Medford High School. Mail Tribune Photo / Jamie Lusch - Jamie Lusch

A zest for cycling in synch

Dave Cooper of Yucca Valley, Calif., doesn't wear a T-shirt with a warning on the back reading, "No U-turns."

But his wife, LeAnne Cooper, figures it would be a good idea for her husband when he's riding at the head of the family's 121/2-foot-long four-seater quad bicycle in the 25th annual Northwest Tandem Rally, which began Saturday morning in Medford.

"U-turns are horrible to try to do," she said. "We've done them but they are not easy. You need a lot of room."

The elongated bicycle is one of 360 tandems carrying more than 700 people in the rally which continues through today. While most cyclists in the event are from the West Coast, participants also came from as far away as Canada, Hawaii and Maryland.

Several safety and fix-it vehicles follow the riders along the course. As with Saturday, the riders have three round-trip options to ride today — including a 25-mile route to Eagle Point, 55 miles to Evans Valley or an 85-miler that takes them through Sams Valley, Wimer, Rogue River and Gold Hill.

Home base for the riders is South Medford High School, where pup tents have popped up and motor homes are parked for the weekend. The rally was organized by tandem cycling enthusiasts Edgar and Karen Hee of Medford.

Most participants ride two-seaters, but there also are several triples and quads, as well as one quint — a five-seater carrying a family from Washington state. Several folks brought along their young children, and some invited the family dog, to ride in mini-trailers towed behind.

Medford participants bid for the rally three years ago, explained event volunteer Pam Wooton of Medford. She and her husband, Randy, were busy delivering food to the Gold Hill rest stop on Saturday but planned to ride today.

"It's a lot of fun, and it's something my husband and I can do together," she said.

In the hierarchy of tandem riding, the person sitting up front is the captain while everyone else is a stoker.

"We add power," explained stoker Sheila Hoffman of Seattle, who operates a home-based design business when she isn't stoking behind her husband, Spencer Beard. The couple have a two-seater whose pedals are independent of each other.

"Let me tell you, you can tell when they are putting the power in and when they are not," said Beard, a teacher.

Joining them in the rally were longtime friends and fellow Seattle residents Kathy Kost and her husband, Pat Taylor. The four friends rode to Eagle Point and back Saturday.

There was a fiery orange ball in the sky that took some getting used to, Kost joked.

"We thought it was a blue cloud," she said of the blue sky. "Our weather has been so horrible this spring — cold, rainy and drizzly. This is like heaven to us."

Two-seaters Kate Dopheide and Steve Dehlinger, a married couple from San Francisco where they are artists, came with a tandem bicycle which comes apart and fits into two suitcases.

"We've even taken it to England," she said. "For this trip, we just folded it and put it in the back of the car. We just unfolded it at the hotel and — poof! — it's a bike."

An artist in Bend made the unique wooden fenders for their pedaling machine, Dehlinger said.

"He puts a nice double coat of marine lacquer on them so they stay in good shape," he said.

After riding to Eagle Point, the couple returned to the school for a bite to eat, rest or perhaps even to take advantage of the massage station.

"The weather was great and the farmland beautiful," she said.

And the local drivers in motorized vehicles were respectful, they report.

"Much nicer drivers than at home," Dehlinger offered.

Dave Cooper, the captain on the four-seater, agreed it was a nice ride.

"Beautiful country, fabulous weather, can't complain," said the CPA, who originally hails from Reedsport.

In addition to his wife, the stokers included sons Christopher, 7, and Anthony, 12.

The family's 27-speed quad weighs 45 pounds, sans the Coopers. Special pedals for the children can be raised or lowered as needed.

"We put Chris on the bike at 3 years old," LeAnne said.

"It's not hard," Christopher said.

Older daughter Kate, 22, rode along on a solo bike for the Saturday ride.

"Good drafting," she observed.

Although they had a slight crash during a rally last year, they encountered no problems Saturday.

"If anything happens on tandem, it is always the captain's fault — always," LeAnne said.

"That's the only way you keep your stokers happy," her husband countered.

"That's how we've stayed married 31 years," she added.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or e-mail him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.

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