For those of you that are regular readers of my blog, you’ll probably have noticed that I’ve never discussed sport on my blog. I’m not the most sporty person, I did love swimming and riding a bike when I was younger and that was about it, I have always loved music instead.
I’m very lucky that I work with some amazing people who understand my visual impairment, and have good knowledge on disability.
When one of the girls at work mentioned to me that she was a volunteer for a local visually impaired cycling group, I was quite intrigued.
I will admit, I wasn’t sure at first but once I thought about it, I was keen to give it a go. So, I thought I would share my visually impaired cycling experience with you all.
I’m hoping that this post portrays the message that just because you have a disability, it does not mean that you cannot take part in sport or an activity that you love.
The way in which visually impaired cycling works is that a blind or visually impaired person goes on a tandem with a sighted person, the sighted person is obviously at the front and the blind person at the back.
The sighted riders at my local group are volunteers which I think is amazing, they are giving up their time to volunteer and go cycling with blind and visually impaired people. The bike rides are all done on cycle paths or quiet country roads, so it is safe.
It’s something that I have been keen to do for the last few weeks but wanted to wait until we didn’t have such hot weather, so on 31 July my visually impaired cycling journey began!
I arranged everything with my friend beforehand, she gave me all the information that I needed. I arrived at the meeting point in plenty of time, ready for the cycle ride to start at 6pm. My Mum does cycling herself, so I borrowed her cycling clothes and helmet, so I was good to go.
When I arrived at the meeting point I was introduced to everyone. I was a little bit nervous as I only knew two of the sighted volunteers but didn’t know anyone else. However, everyone was very welcoming. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anyone my age, but everyone was lovely and extremely friendly, so I didn’t mind too much.
There were 7 bikes out in total and I was told that this was a good turn out as there isn’t usually that many.
After putting our helmet and high-vis jacket on, it was time to partner up with a volunteer and each get a tandem. I was partnered up with my friend as it was my first ride, she’s an experienced rider so I knew that she would do a great job at being a front rider.
We adjusted our seats on the tandem so that they were at the right height and we were ready to go. I had never been on a tandem before, so it was a new experience for me.
My friend suggested that we have a quick cycle round for me to get a feel of what it was like to be on a tandem, so we did, that really helped me get used to it, ready for the main ride.
Once everyone was ready to go, we decided on a route and set off. It was a bit of a strange feeling being on a tandem at first as it was a new experience for me, but I soon got used to it, and got the hang of it all.
I didn’t struggle as much as I thought I would, as I hadn’t been on a bike for a few years, I thought it would take me a while to get used to it again but that wasn’t the case at all. They say that you never forget how to ride a bike, and that’s definitely true.
We cycled for around 40 minutes, then stopped off at a pub to have a drink so that we were fully refreshed for the cycle ride back. Whilst at the pub, everyone was asking me whether I was enjoying it so far and the sighted volunteers commented on how well I was doing, and how balanced I was. I’m guessing that as I used to ride a bike all the time when I was younger, this contributed to my balance as it was something that I had previously done.
Once we had had a drink and a chat, we all got back on our bikes, and set off back to the starting point.
We didn’t have any problems on the way back and had a successful ride back. We arrived back to the meeting point at around 8.30, we put the bikes away, took off our safety gear and we each went our separate ways home.
Overall, I had a great time and I’m so glad that I tried visually impaired cycling, in fact, I have even done it again since! It’s definitely something that I will do again and I’m hoping that it may even become a regular activity.
For anyone that wants to try visually impaired cycling or another sport then I would encourage you to do so. Having a disability doesn’t limit you and does in no way mean that you can’t enjoy sporting activities just like non-disabled people. If you happen to be from Yorkshire then I can’t recommend Open Country enough!
If you are from the UK and want to find out more, British Blind Sport have a lot of information on sporting activities for blind and visually impaired people and also have a list of events taking place across the country, I’d suggest checking out their website for more details.
What’s your favourite sport? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear from you.