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Brandie

I am a tandem bike rider and a road cyclist and I am vision impaired.  I am legally blind, that said I can actually see a little under 6 metres in front of me.  I was born with a rare eye condition where the cells responsible for daytime vision (the cone cells) never developed in the back of my eyes.  This means my eyes use the cells mostly used for night time vision (the rods) during the day and at night.  So, in daylight without the use of very dark sunglasses I am blinded by the sunlight.  My sunglasses enable me to see well enough to get around and be active.  At night, my vision is much better, in fact, in dull light I see almost as well as sighted people- which is not much at all, ha-ha!

I consider myself to be pretty lucky when we are talking about someone who is vision impaired.  My condition is stable and will only change slightly as I age, like all sighted people.  I live a relatively normal and independent life with the assistance of others from time to time – for which I am very grateful.

As I said my life is pretty normal, but the one thing I will never be able to do (unless my vision is improved) is drive a car.  This has always caused frustration for me being the active, go-getter that I am.  Not being able to drive a car limits a person’s independence, their ability to get around town, socialise with friends, get to places by themselves and do many day-to-day activities such as grocery shopping.   But it’s not the end of the world, because there is always public transport …. hmmm!  I am a big fan of the bike racks on the interchange buses for those days after a hard training session.

I joined the FIT-Ability tandem cycle group in 2005 as a stoker (the person who sits on the back).  I joined the program to help me increase my cycling fitness and make a few new friends.  My cycling fitness was not too bad as I had used my single road bike to compete in a couple of novice triathlons that year and get me to training sessions and do my grocery shopping.

The experience of tandem cycling has changed my outlook on cycling.  It has been extremely empowering.  Riding tandem has also improved my single bike road cycling skills.  I started as a nervous cyclist who would ride short distances on my own and would only feel comfortable at the back of the pack (which we all know can be the worst place to be). 

As my fitness increases and I clock up the kms (riding both tandem and on my own bike), I have realized something.  These two wheels can take me anywhere I want to go.  Who needs a car???  I have a road bike and thanks to the training I received through the tandem group, I know how to use it!

Tandem cycling has enabled me to meet some fantastic and inspiring people.  Through tandem cycling, I have met people who want to share their vision with me, to get out there, ride and challenge them.  In particular, my first tandem pilot and good friend, Rosemary who has helped me break through my self-imposed limits and enjoy the ride.  So to you all, I say enjoy the ride!  And I hope to see you out there on the road.