The blind ambition of Tandem Trekkers

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Joe Burn thinks you’ll wish you saw this one coming if you’re looking for a way to give back and keep fit

Brittany Stead and Jeannie Goff-Daniels are two friends who met whizzing round a velodrome, on a brakeless tandem bike. Last week they rode 180 miles together and on July 28 they’ll be riding from London to Paris to raise money for Tandem Trekkers, a charity based at Leeds Road Sports Complex in Huddersfield. The only twist is, Brittany is blind.

Tandem Trekkers is a unique organisation, they pair sighted riders, or ‘pilots’ as they’re known, with visually impaired riders of any skill level and increase their confidence in a safe environment whilst tandem riding.

“It gives you the sense of freedom, to be able to do something you didn’t think you would be able to do again. You can have a really good conversation and get to know somebody. It combats social isolation, it’s all about peoples health and well being and getting them fit as well,” said Martin Eatherley, vice chairman of Kirklees Visually Impaired Network.

Despite an age gap of almost 40 years, Brittany and Jeannie have similar athletic ability and a shared love for cycling and running. Jeannie confesses to being a jack of all trades when it comes to keeping fit and has had interests in body building, long distance running and completed five Tough Guy endurance events.

Brittany recently ran the Leeds 10k and a 5k run in the same weekend (not to mention the odd casual four mile midweek run). Although she has always been visually impaired, her sight was once good enough for her to do solo rides. Sadly her sight has deteriorated since and for some time she gave up cycling.

“I’ve lost the rest of the sight that I did have, it kind of steered me away from cycling and put a bit of a downer on it. I thought, ‘why should I do it if I can’t do it on my own?’ But in year eleven the PE department decided that they’d buy me a tandem bike to have a go. It started with a tootle around during PE lessons and then it stemmed from there really. Around last year I

got properly into it, I got my own tandem bike I joined Tandem Trekkers and last summer I cycled the coast to coast.”

Now Brittany owns three of her own tandem bikes, the latest edition is Oscar who the pair will be taking with them across the channel in a few weeks time.

Apart from running and cycling, Brittany is also on the goalball squad for team GB. You may remember goalball from the London Paralympics, two teams of three compete to score goals past their opposition while blindfolded. The ball is about the size of a basket ball and contains a bell so competitors can hear the ball and block it with the full length of their body as it’s bowled along the floor.

Jeannie, who works as an NHS care assistant hadn’t ridden a tandem in about 30 years until recently.

“I have always fancied riding a tandem with somebody who is visually impaired or has some sort of disability. I approached Martin and then I went to the velodrome. Brittany and I were riding round and I must admit, she has nerves of steel, she was encouraging me, she has no boundaries whatsoever this girl. We got talking afterwards and she told me she’d like to do the London to Paris.”

Jeannie, a married mother of three and grandmother of two, admits she was encouraged to call Brittany by her husband and eldest daughter after they had first met and offer to be her pilot. Jeannie had initial doubts concerning the amount of training required as they had only a few months to prepare for the long ride.

“When I phoned her up, all I was going by was the power in her legs and I thought, ‘this one is capable.’ I didn’t even know that she had done coast to coast, I was going solely by the power in her legs. You know how some people have engines on their tandems? I’ve got Brittany.”

The pair are optimistic about their voyage to Paris, they rode 100 miles in the Castleford area recently.

“We started off in too slow a group and I had to keep telling her to lay of her peddles because we kept passing the leader,” says Jeannie.

“Then we eventually got into a faster group after dinner and we did do some hills after that. We clip in, both of us, it’s just a matter of telling her if I have to brake suddenly, sometimes I might be coming to a junction and I forget.”

“We did it in six and a half hours,” adds Brittany.

The ride to Paris is just under 300 miles and split up over four days but surprisingly, the only thing they aren’t looking forward to is the hustle and bustle of London St Pancras Station where they will pick up the ten foot long bike.

“We’ve found it quite challenging getting the bikes across because the trains won’t take it,” says Jeannie.

The preparation process for the trip is more complicated than mere logistics.

“It’s like a lot of things, it’s practise. I’d always come off [the bike] when I’d got an audience, you never come off on a quiet road by yourself.”

Brittany adds: “I’ve come off about five times. We’ve done a couple of cycles to feel what the difference is when you’re clipped in or out. We’ve done comparison rides we’ve done some rides on different bikes, clipped in, clipped out, hydration packs, water bottles and we decided on this bike, clipped in with hydropacks.”

Riding a tandem bike is always going to come with its fair share of risks. Most people would imagine those risks increase if one of you is visually impaired but that’s not the case here.

“I am always aware of the situation, when I’ve got Brittany on the back it’s a bit like when I’ve got my grandkids in the car. But believe me, Brittany is more capable of looking out for herself than anybody is. She knows her limits and she pushes them,” says Jeannie.

Tandem Trekkers are looking for more members. Contact Martin Eatherley on 01484 817584.

ON THE BALL: Brittany Stead, pictured in 2014 - she is visually impaired and a member of Team GB Goal-ball team

You know how some people have engines on their tandems? I’ve got Brittany

Trekking tips

The journey will take an average of 80 miles a day over four days

Jeannie has completed five Tough Guy events, including two in winter

Brittany plays goalball for team GB but narrowly missed out on the Rio Paralympics by one goal

Brittany owns three tandem bikes including new purchase, Oscar

Jeannie had not ridden a tandem for 30 years until meeting Brittany

They plan to celebrate in Paris with champagne

Website: https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/brittany-stead

Tandem Trekking - the Yorkshire project pairing blind cyclists with sighted ones

Joe Burn thinks you’ll wish you saw this one coming if you’re looking for a way to give back and keep fit

Brittany Stead and Jeannie Goff-Daniels are two friends who met whizzing round a velodrome, on a brakeless tandem bike. Last week they rode 180 miles together and on July 28 they’ll be riding from London to Paris to raise money for Tandem Trekkers, a charity based at Leeds Road Sports Complex in Huddersfield. The only twist is, Brittany is blind.

Their Just Giving page is here

Tandem Trekkers is a unique organisation, they pair sighted riders, or ‘pilots’ as they’re known, with visually impaired riders of any skill level and increase their confidence in a safe environment whilst tandem riding.

“It gives you the sense of freedom, to be able to do something you didn’t think you would be able to do again. You can have a really good conversation and get to know somebody. It combats social isolation, it’s all about peoples health and well being and getting them fit as well,” said Martin Eatherley, vice chairman of Kirklees Visually Impaired Network.

Despite an age gap of almost 40 years, Brittany and Jeannie have similar athletic ability and a shared love for cycling and running. Jeannie confesses to being a jack of all trades when it comes to keeping fit and has had interests in body building, long distance running and completed five Tough Guy endurance events.

Brittany recently ran the Leeds 10k and a 5k run in the same weekend (not to mention the odd casual four mile midweek run). Although she has always been visually impaired, her sight was once good enough for her to do solo rides. Sadly her sight has deteriorated since and for some time she gave up cycling.

“I’ve lost the rest of the sight that I did have, it kind of steered me away from cycling and put a bit of a downer on it. I thought, ‘why should I do it if I can’t do it on my own?’ But in year eleven the PE department decided that they’d buy me a tandem bike to have a go. It started with a tootle around during PE lessons and then it stemmed from there really. Around last year I got properly into it, I got my own tandem bike I joined Tandem Trekkers and last summer I cycled the coast to coast.”

Now Brittany owns three of her own tandem bikes, the latest edition is Oscar who the pair will be taking with them across the channel in a few weeks time.

Apart from running and cycling, Brittany is also on the goalball squad for team GB. You may remember goalball from the London Paralympics, two teams of three compete to score goals past their opposition while blindfolded. The ball is about the size of a basket ball and contains a bell so competitors can hear the ball and block it with the full length of their body as it’s bowled along the floor.

Jeannie, who works as an NHS care assistant hadn’t ridden a tandem in about 30 years until recently.

“I have always fancied riding a tandem with somebody who is visually impaired or has some sort of disability. I approached Martin and then I went to the velodrome. Brittany and I were riding round and I must admit, she has nerves of steel, she was encouraging me, she has no boundaries whatsoever this girl. We got talking afterwards and she told me she’d like to do the London to Paris.”

Jeannie, a married mother of three and grandmother of two, admits she was encouraged to call Brittany by her husband and eldest daughter after they had first met and offer to be her pilot. Jeannie had initial doubts concerning the amount of training required as they had only a few months to prepare for the long ride.

“When I phoned her up, all I was going by was the power in her legs and I thought, ‘this one is capable.’ I didn’t even know that she had done coast to coast, I was going solely by the power in her legs. You know how some people have engines on their tandems? I’ve got Brittany.”

The pair are optimistic about their voyage to Paris, they rode 100 miles in the Castleford area recently.

“We started off in too slow a group and I had to keep telling her to lay of her peddles because we kept passing the leader,” says Jeannie.

“Then we eventually got into a faster group after dinner and we did do some hills after that. We clip in, both of us, it’s just a matter of telling her if I have to brake suddenly, sometimes I might be coming to a junction and I forget.”

“We did it in six and a half hours,” adds Brittany.

The ride to Paris is just under 300 miles and split up over four days but surprisingly, the only thing they aren’t looking forward to is the hustle and bustle of London St Pancras Station where they will pick up the ten foot long bike.

“We’ve found it quite challenging getting the bikes across because the trains won’t take it,” says Jeannie.

The preparation process for the trip is more complicated than mere logistics.

“It’s like a lot of things, it’s practise. I’d always come off [the bike] when I’d got an audience, you never come off on a quiet road by yourself.”

Brittany adds: “I’ve come off about five times. We’ve done a couple of cycles to feel what the difference is when you’re clipped in or out. We’ve done comparison rides we’ve done some rides on different bikes, clipped in, clipped out, hydration packs, water bottles and we decided on this bike, clipped in with hydropacks.”

Riding a tandem bike is always going to come with its fair share of risks. Most people would imagine those risks increase if one of you is visually impaired but that’s not the case here.

“I am always aware of the situation, when I’ve got Brittany on the back it’s a bit like when I’ve got my grandkids in the car. But believe me, Brittany is more capable of looking out for herself than anybody is. She knows her limits and she pushes them,” says Jeannie.

Tandem Trekkers are looking for more members. Contact Martin Eatherley on 01484 817584.

FACTFILE

The journey will take an average of 80 miles a day over four days

Jeannie has completed five Tough Guy events, including two in winter

Brittany plays goalball for team GB but narrowly missed out on the Rio Paralympics by one goal

Brittany owns three tandem bikes including new purchase, Oscar

Jeannie had not ridden a tandem for 30 years until meeting Brittany

They plan to celebrate in Paris with champagne

Website: https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/brittany-stead

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