So what do you do then? Oh me? I erm… (suspenseful pause), I’m actually a Pilot…yes that’s right, I know…. Well yes, of course it’s dangerous but, well that’s just the kind of person I am… You only get one life on this planet (probably) so I’m not about to sit around wasting it… Shall we get out of here?
But seriously, read this submission from Andrew Devenish-Meares, the Stoker of Tandem Armidale and his fantastic Pilot, Dave Rubie. We’ve all seen them weaving about on our local roads. It’s a great story and signals a great opportunity for not just one person, but for lots of us to help a fellow club member and in doing so gain so much more than the right to use a cheesy chat-up line – and that applies to you girls too!
You get up in the morning; you open your eyes and stare at the alarm clock, and wonder once more just why you’re choosing to get up so early. You get yourself out of bed, and get yourself ready. You pull on the knicks, get that jersey around you, grab the bike and you’re off for a morning ride. It’s easy right? Well, if you have all your limbs functioning and can see.
Friday 21st and Saturday 22nd February saw the first round of the inaugural National Para-Cycling Series (NPS) run in Toowoomba, alongside the Oceania championships. It was an honour and a pleasure to compete. I got to meet and hear about some fantastic para-cyclists, to my follow B1 category racers to people with Cerebral Palsy. And the handcycles? They just sound scary to me, racing along, inches from the surface of the road.
We came away with the Men’s B1 Silver, by the way, but that’s not the point I wanted to make.
A couple of things were discussed, and subsequently things have happened which have lead me to be writing this to you, my fellow Armidale Cycling Club members.
Talking to other blind para-cyclists its the same issue that comes up, finding pilots. Zac Clarkson, who took the gold in B1 is fortunate to have found a pilot in Aden de Jager, who is also an NRS rider. Zac’s problem is that Aden’s schedule very much limits the amount of time they can ride together, so much of his time is left on the trainer.
When I lived in Wollongong we started Exsight Tandems, the idea was to get as many sighted pilots as we could for a group of people who couldn’t ride on their own. For the most part it works, because no one captain felt obliged to turn up every time a ride was on.
We had a great time in Toowoomba, and I’d love to be getting to other rounds of the NPS this year, but that’s not looking so likely. My ability to participate is bound up with my pilot, and he has his own life, job and family that he will rightly place before me in his priority list.
Since getting back from Toowoomba, I was asked by Guide Dogs NSW/ACT if I could contact another blind person in Armidale to talk about tandem cycling. Certainly I don’t have any issue doing so. I have a bike that can be borrowed. But it comes down to that scarce resource again: pilots. The only person I know who can take this new person out to try a tandem is Dave.
I’ve been really lucky that my initial contact with the club landed me with Dave. He’s been acting above and beyond what I ever expected for almost two years now. The initial plan was to get going with him, and then try and get some others to pilot as well, to share the work around. That’s where the plan fell down. Initial suggestions to a few met with quiet, muttered declines. After the underwhelming response, neither Dave nor I pushed it much further.Dave is only one guy, there’s only so much he can do. By no means am I saying this is the end of him and me on the tandem, but I don’t want him to feel solely responsible for my ability to get out and have a ride. Things come up, from family to jobs to other people needing a pilot, and they mean I don’t get to jump on a bike and ride. No one should feel guilty over these situations.
So this is where it gets hard, because I don’t want this to sound like whining or begging. It’s not meant to be that. It’s just me asking for help. I’d like a couple of extra people to learn to pilot. It’s not hard, and you’ve got both Dave and I to teach you. I’m not seeking a lifetime commitment either: tandems aren’t for some people anyway. And the next time someone comes along asking me about learning to tandem, it would be nice to have some other people who can share the experience.