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Date night: Sneak away on Mackinac Island with a tandem bike

Picture your most romantic evening. Are you strolling hand in hand down a waterfront boardwalk? Riding in a horse-drawn carriage like a princess out of a fairytale? Cozying up on a blanket for a picnic under the stars?

You can make all of that come true on Mackinac Island. Plus, you can share one of the most beautiful experiences on the planet: An 8.2-mile shoreline bicycle ride that will make you feel like you’re inside a travel magazine!

Each of you can ride your own bike. (There are several shops on the island that rent bikes, or you can bring your own to Mackinac on the ferry boat for a small fee.) Another option is to share a tandem bicycle.

A tandem bike is a little bit of a risk/reward proposition. The reward being that when it’s done well, a tandem bike can bring you closer together than ever. The risk, on the other hand, is that poor teamwork not only can make the ride a challenge, but it might just slam the brakes on your date – or even your entire relationship!

Couple Biking by Lake – Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau Just kidding. It’s not quite that hard. But a tandem bicycle does require both riders to work, well, in tandem. If you can ride a bicycle, you can ride a tandem, keeping this in mind: to keep the tandem bike in balance, the larger person should ride in front and the person in back needs to keep their feet on the pedals instead of waving them around in fear. The front rider on a tandem bike is called the “captain” and the rider in back is called the “stroker.”

The pedals on most tandem bikes are linked together so both riders pedal at the same time. This may be the most challenging part of riding a tandem bike because everyone tends to pedal at slightly different speeds, but the sooner you can start pedaling together the faster you can get up to speed and the easier it is to steer and balance.

Riding a tandem bicycle is as easy as that.

“Essentially, it’s just like riding a bike but you’ve got another person on the back,” said Cayce Leithauser, who manages Island House Bikes, one of the island shops that rents bicycles of all kinds including comfortable tandems with fenders, baskets and big, cushy waterproof seats. “Some people hop right on ‘em and go. Other couples, you swear there should be a divorce lawyer at mile marker four.

“It’s really a matter of the coordination of that couple.”

A few notes about riding around Mackinac Island:

  • There are no cars. M-185 is the only state highway in the country that prohibits motor vehicles. It’s a wide, mostly flat, paved road that’s safe for bikes. For tandem riders, Leithauser recommends taking this outer loop around the island on M-185. Most tandem riders walk the bike up the few gradual hills on the route.


  • It’s 8.2 miles around the island, which may sound like a challenge. But 8 miles per hour is a typical pace for a leisurely ride around the neighborhood, so you can make it all the way around in an hour. Still, go ahead and take your time. About every quarter-mile there’s a place where you can park the bike and dip your toes into the water.Couple Biking Past Carriage – Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau


  • It’s an easy, breezy pace. Guys with skintight Lycra gear and racing bikes are not the people riding around Mackinac. It’s people who are looking for a little recreation, a bit of exercise and a beautiful experience. What fits right into that is the romance of the tandem.


  • The spectacular Arch Rock is one place you’ll want to stop. It’s a natural limestone arch about 150 feet above the water below. It’s the perfect spot for you two lovebirds to snap a selfie of a smooch.


  • Halfway around the island is British Landing. It’s the spot where British troops sneaked onto the island more than 200 years ago and launched a surprise attack on Fort Mackinac. It’s also the place where you can take a bathroom break, grab a drink and get some food on a ride around the island. If needed, there’s also a bike repair station there with a rack for your bike, repair tools and an air pump.
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