As you’ll note below, links for the older Florida clubs we’ve had listed here at www.thetandemlink.comfor many years were recently removed from the site as these clubs have quietly retired. As we wait for more updates during our annual update of rally and club information I’m also reminded that Pennsylvania’s TOYS disbanded a couple years ago when founding members were unable to attract newer members to fill cub leadership / organizer roles. We recently heard from another club who report membership as well as registrations for one of the historically more popular mid-size tandem rallies has been in steady decline since 2003, with club membership down from 112 to the mid-60’s and rally attendance falling from 125 to 57 in ’09. I suspect this year’s Tandem Club of America membership list will also show a continued decline from last year, a trend that’s not changed in the 8 years or so that I’ve monitored it.
Now, it’s not all bad news as we’ve learned a new central Florida tandem club based out of The Villages is nearly ready to ‘launch’, with members made up of folks who have retired from their primary careers or who are making that shift and migrating from northern climates. We’ve also noted that as tandem clubs fade away, the more active members realign themselves with larger, cycling clubs like the Florida Freewheelers or middle-Tennessee’s Harpeth Cycling Club which could actually be a good thing given the added exposure of tandems to other cyclists on club rides with the single bike crowd. It’s also noteworthy that the tandem tour business, to include the higher-end trips, continue to do a strong business and sales of high-end tandems remains strong.
Taken in aggregate this seems to suggest ‘change’ is a constant within the tandem community. Our own Georgia-based tandem club and inner-circle of friends has seen similar changes over the years that have caused us to see long-time friends with young children less often as school and extracurricular activities now have priority. Career moves and other life-events also thin membership roles and there definitely seems to be a general shift away from traditional ‘club membership’. However, we’ve also gained new members because of those very same changes, e.g., new folks relocating to the region and/or ‘new couples’ discovering tandeming later in life.
In closing, it will continue to be interesting to see how rallies and club evolve. We may even need to find a different way of capturing information regarding tandem ridership since those traditional barometers such as club membership, rally participation and even internet discussion group membership become less meaningful indicators.