More than 80 couples will ride near Venice this this weekend

Debi Katzman likes to joke that tandem bicycle riding is like “a marriage accelerator.”

It brings couples closer together, or it drives them farther apart.

“It depends which way you’re going,” she says, laughing, “but you get there faster.”

She and her husband Steve have been enthusiastic tandem riders for the last 15 years. They’ve got 42,000 miles on their Co-Motion bike.

They pedal near their home in Osprey. They’ve ridden on vacation in Austria and Japan. They take part in tandem festivals.

This weekend, the Katzmans are hosting the Southern Tandem Rally in Venice.

More than 80 couples are doing group rides that started Friday, continuing Saturday and Sunday. They’ll also share meals and an annual banquet with couples they’ve known for years.

It’s like a tandem reunion.

“Just the people and the excitement,” Debi says. “I hope everyone’s safe. I hope everyone has a good time.”

A + C = B riders

The Katzmans are in their mid-60s, but look a decade younger than that.

They’re fit and tanned from riding and working out at the YMCA. Steven is also a competitive table tennis player.

He used to be a runner, too, but switched to cycling. Debi joined him, but they could never ride in the same group.

“He was an A rider and I was a C rider, so now we’re B riders,” Debi says. “It’s an equalizer."

“Yeah, I can’t drop her,” Steve jokes. “No matter how hard I try.”

Before they retired, he was a mechanical engineer and she was a schoolteacher. They have two children and seven grandchildren. Three years ago, they moved to Osprey, in part because it's convenient to the Legacy Trail.

Most years, they ride in the Southern Tandem Rally. A few years ago, they volunteered to host one. They planned rides of different lengths around Venice, then had to redraw everything because of construction delays on the Laurel Road overpass.

"Tandem riding makes it harder to handle tight turns," Steve says. "So we had to change some things."

After their first tandem weekend in 2003, the Katzmans bought a blue Co-Motion bicycle. It's still their bike. A bag on the back carries tubes and tools, while gauges on the front include an odometer, compass and inclinometer.

An inclinometer? To measure hilly slopes?

"It's ridiculous in Florida, because it's so flat," Debi says, "but in Austria it was pretty good."