Jeff Ruppenthal/Sunday News Photo

Steve Erickson, front, and Trace Oberholtzer ride their tandem bicycle on South Queen Street in Lancaster.
Jeff Ruppenthal/Sunday News Photo

City residents and co-workers bike to jobs in Lititz on a bicycle built for two.

November 8, 2009

See article at Lancaster Online site Tandem Commuters

By Mandy Stoltzfus, Sunday News Staff Writer

Like other city dwellers, Steve Erickson and Trace Oberholtzer bike together to work. Unlike other cyclists, they literally ride together: two men, two wheels, one bicycle.

Erickson and Oberholtzer ride a tandem bike to their jobs at Landis Homes Retirement Community in Lititz.

“We live a short walk from each other in Lancaster city, so the sharing of a tandem was logistically simple,” Oberholtzer said.

A tandem bicycle is designed to be ridden by more than one person. “Tandem” refers to the placement of the seats in a row, not the number of riders.

Oberholtzer said people ride bikes to work, but they are the only ones who share a single bike.
He continued, “Our company thought this is a great way to be connected to the green movement and it also builds community.”

Oberholtzer, a human resources manager at Landis Homes, and Erickson, the maintenance coordinator, live about five minutes apart downtown and take turns picking each other up.

They said Landis Homes has been accommodating with their arrival time, as they work out the kinks that have come with sharing transportation.

Deborah Laws-Landis, who is Landis Homes director of community relations, said they want to continue to be flexible with the commuting arrangement.

“It’s great they are doing this from a green, sustainable point of view. We hope maybe more people will take notice and consider this,” Laws-Landis said.

“When we spotted a classic 1980s Santana Sovereign tandem for sale at Cycle Circle Bicycle Shop in Lancaster, we knew instantly it was the one for us,” Oberholtzer said.

The price was right and “our vision began to develop,” he added.

Both men already biked to work, so it was a natural step to begin bike-pooling.

Both the front and the rear riders pedal the bicycle. The front provides most of the power to the stroke, where the rear mainly helps maintain the pace.

Turning is often initiated by leaning in a given direction. Here, technique and collaboration are essential: Both riders must commit to leaning the same direction or the bike and its cyclists might not make it.

The front rider, or captain, has total mechanical control of the tandem, including shifting, braking and steering. The back rider, or stoker, gets to look around and pedal.

“We plan to set our tandem up so both the captain and the stoker have access to the braking system. This gives both riders a larger sense of control, as well as added braking power,” Oberholtzer said.

The pair bought the $300 tandem for economic reasons but also out of curiosity.

Oberholtzer said they are learning that a tandem takes a “good bit of skill to do it well,” so riding the bike is making them better cyclists in general.

Oberholtzer and Erickson live in one-car households and said the bike is literally “their second car.” This alternative form of transportation saves on insurance, maintenance and gas.

Oberholtzer added that cycling is great for your health: It keeps your weight in check and your energy level high.

For environmental reasons, they are committed to riding their tandem to work as much as possible and using mass transit the other days, so “there are two less cars on the roadways, and two less tailpipes emitting greenhouse gases,” Oberholtzer said.

Come winter, nothing will change. “The aerobic aspect of bicycling can keep you quite toasty,” Oberholtzer said.

As for including their wives, Erickson said the women are not avid cyclists but are both open to trying a tandem.

“We will introduce our wives to the tandem when we are seasoned professionals,” Erickson said.

“A tandem is a great way for an experienced bicyclist and an inexperienced bicyclist to enjoy riding together.”

© 2009 Lancaster Newspapers