Power of the medal

WHETHER vision impaired or fighting depression, cycling is a two-way street for members of Exsight Tandems  Illawarra. 

The group is encouraging newcomers and those who have been letting their bicycle collect dust to pick up the habit again for this weekend’s Shellharbour Bike About.  

A joint initiative of Shellharbour City Council, Heart Foundation, Lake Illawarra PCYC, Illawarra Bicycle Users Group and Illawarra Road Safety Group, it will take place during NSW Bike Week this Sunday.

The Exsight Tandems group, formed in 2008, includes able cyclists riding with people who are blind, have low vision or other disabilities. 

They regularly take part in events such as the Sydney to the Gong Ride. 

A tandem bicycle has two positions. The captain is on the front, controlling the gears, steering and brakes and providing half the pedal power, while the stoker  sits on the bike’s rear, providing the rest of the momentum. 

Group president Geoff Stratton, 69,  has been completely blind since age five. He said events such as the Bike About were a great opportunity to promote the group.

‘‘It means we can get out and do what everyone else is doing,’’ he said.

‘‘You still get the exhilaration of speed, the feeling you’ve achieved something by going a little further than last time.

‘‘I can still feel the breeze, appreciate when we’re going around corners. Things that are taken for granted by most people.’’

One person who doesn’t take such things for granted is Warilla’s Brenda Keays. The 53-year-old cycling enthusiast is one of the group’s captains.

‘‘I suffer terribly with depression ... the one bright light in my life is the tandem group,’’ she said.

The 11th annual Bike About features a short course (eight kilometres), long course (10 kilometres) and a combination of both. All courses start and finish at Reddall Parade,  Lake South. The event ends with a festival  at the Lake Illawarra PCYC.

Registration forms are available from council’s administration centre and libraries or on the day.

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