Blind cycle club Tandem Trekkers saddles up in Huddersfield

The pioneering club has been getting those with sight loss wheely fit since it launched in spring

Examiner journalist Chloe Glover (wearing glasses simulating tunnel vision) on the tandem with steersman Jennifer Davies
Examiner journalist Chloe Glover (wearing glasses simulating tunnel vision) on the tandem with steersman Jennifer Davies

Tackling Huddersfield’s hills is no walk in the park for most people , least of all for those who cannot see the road ahead.

But nothing is going to get in the way of one cycling club for those with sight loss, which was set up to combat isolation and explore the great outdoors.

I joined them on one of their training sessions to find out for myself how difficult it is to saddle up.

 

Using tandem bicycles, Tandem Trekkers have been helping their members gain a whole new lease of life since being bitten by the cycling bug earlier this year.

The brain child of members of Kirklees Visual Impairment Network, a group who are all registered blind themselves, they have been hosting bi-weekly sessions on the athletics track at Leeds Road Sports Complex to get those with sight problems wheely fit.

“Having sight loss shouldn’t be a barrier to exercising and living life to the full”, said Martin Eatherley, one of the team who launched the club this Spring, after gaining funding for a set of tandem bikes.

The concept is simple-those with sight problems sit on the back, whilst budding volunteers who can see steer the way.

So far 10 people with sight loss and around 20 volunteers have signed up, travelling from around West Yorkshire to take part.

Wearing a pair of tunnel vision goggles, I saddled up with keen tandem rider Jennifer Davies, who is helping ten members to discover their new passion.

Placing a foot over the frame was the most difficult task, due to having to rely on feeling the height of the frame to see how high to lift my leg.

Yet sat down-and thanks to the help of Jennifer’s good pair of leg muscles-we were soon speeding away down the track.

We even sailed around the corners, due to the job of navigating the steering being left to the one at the front.

“No one has fallen off at all so far”, she said.

“There was one instance where a member struggled with their balance due to being deaf as well so he couldn’t hear my instructions but the bikes are quite sturdy.

“The trick for the person on the back is just to keep your torso still and not forgetting to stop peddling.

“Everyone is so full of enthusiasm that even if we have a bit of a wobble at the start they soon pick it up."

Examiner journalist Chloe Glover (wearing glasses simulating tunnel vision) on the tandem with steersman Jennifer Davies
Examiner journalist Chloe Glover (wearing glasses simulating tunnel vision) on the tandem with steersman Jennifer Davies
 

It is surprising how your vulnerability slips away on the bikes when you are with someone else.

After the training session the group were planning to take their best big step, a six mile cycle along the Greenway to Mirfield, due to being satisfied that everyone is now confident enough to face other traffic.

It’s a route which would prepare them for the more nervy experience of riding on an open road in the future, if they choose to branch out.

It was something to be excited about for 32-year-old Dean Wilcox, who came from Knottingley and was born with retinopathy of prematurity, a condition which means that he only has perception of light.

“Before I started here I hadn’t ridden a bike for 20 years.

“It was a bit daunting at first but you quickly get used to it.

“I feel so much more confident but it’s also given me a chance to get fit and get out to meet new people.

“We really need more clubs like this for people with sight loss because it can make such a difference to their lives.”

Martin and the team are now looking for more budding cyclists and volunteers to take part and a 20 foot storage container where they can store the bikes.

Anyone interested should email martin.eatherley@ntlworld.com.

 
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