Given this is a restart of an old Blog, now lost to the death of Posterous, I thought I’d start with a basic question. Why do I ride a tandem?
On one level the answer is quite simple: because I’m blind, I can’t ride by myself, so if I want to ride a tandem is my only option. But really, this isn’t a very satisfactory answer, at least for some people. If I can’t see, what do I get out of jumping on a bike behind someone and peddling?
Again, I’ll provide a simple answer to start: I get the same things out of riding that anyone else does, it’s just some of it’s a bit different. I’ve heard some cyclists say that if they went blind they couldn’t tandem, they’d give up riding. This comes back to the whole fear sighted people have over going blind: they say they’d give up doing lots of things because they don’t know how they do them without being able to see.
Having been through that, loosing large amounts of my vision in my early 20’s, I’m not going to say its an easy transition to make, but I will say that lots of people have had to do it. Like any new situation you find yourself in, you develop new skills and new ways of doing things. Always remember, as a human you are exceptionally adaptable.
Really, though, do you expect me to sit at home and do nothing just because I can’t see? I have a family, a job and a life just like anyone else. Personally, I can’t sit still most of the time.
So what do I get out of tandem cycling?
- Exercise – OK, this is the obvious one. But really, not being able to see does limit your ability to do aerobic exercise. My spatial awareness is not particularly good (though I know other blind people who have better spatial awareness than I do, most of them were either born blind or lost their sight at young age), so doing a class or something isn’t a great idea; I’m can’t swim in a straight line; and I just don’t get the appeal of running. Yes, I can and do use a stationary trainer, but being outside is so much better!
- Socialisation – I have friends who say that much prefer riding in a group, the social aspect of cycling is important to them. On a tandem you’re always with another person.
- Experience – As I said above, I can and do ride a stationary trainer, but it’s so much more fun to be outside. All I can see is a sense of motion from the ground underneath the bike, or along the edge of the road, but there’s the breeze to give a real sense of motion, the sounds and the smells.
Even beyond that, like any other cyclist, I get to see myself improve with training; I get to experience the great countryside; I enjoy physical challenges in some longer or harder rides.
From my point of view, I’d have to ask, why wouldn’t I be cycling any way I could?