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- The Thrill of Westmeath Tandem Cycling
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Trisha O’Shaughnessy, NCBI’s Community Resource worker in Longford/Westmeath writes about the Westmeath Sports Partnership.
The Westmeath Sports Partnership, together with NCBI staff and volunteers, organise tandem cycling sessions. During our first year, this activity took place weekly at Lough Ennell near Mullingar, where participants enjoyed the sounds of the water lapping the shore and the wind blowing in the trees as they whizzed past. This proved to be a safe environment for many starting their new journey in tandem cycling with very little traffic or noise to distract.
Mary, the Sports Inclusion Disability Officer, assists each participant in becoming comfortable with the bike before embarking on their new adventure. She is an excellent teacher who coaches each individual in the skills required for tandem cycling and on the benefits of exercise in a relaxed manner.
Mary worked her magic
This year we were lucky to have the opportunity to integrate into the “Meet and Spin” sessions run by the Westmeath Sports Partnership. At first I have to say I was concerned as a worker about going out onto the road and the safety implications that it might present us. However Mary worked her magic and through the support of her team of Craig, Aoife, David and Dean, we were all in safe hands.
On our first night, we set off without realizing what we were undertaking and then completed a 10km cycle. Over the weeks, our group of initially three to four participants quickly grew to 10, as word of mouth spread of the fun to be enjoyed. It has proven to be a huge success and there are always new people to meet every week.
We are lucky too to have some wonderful and dedicated volunteers who turn up week after week to be pilots. Some volunteers come straight from work after a long commute, they jump straight on that bike and off they go. Others drive a long distance to be a part of the group. Without their support and dedication this group could not carry on. We started with two very dedicated volunteers to whom I would like to say a huge thank you for giving their time so generously: Andy, who is with us at least three years now; and Brian, who is with us two years. As our numbers have grown, so has our need for volunteers and we were so lucky to have been joined this year by Mossy, Ronan and Michael. Thank you lads, we really appreciate the time you give up to be a part of the group.
Explore a new sport
Feedback from participants has been very positive. For some people, it is the highlight of their week and a fun and safe way to exercise. Others just love the free feeling of the wind blowing in their faces as they explore a new sport that they might not otherwise be able to participate in.
The best way to discover tandem cycling is to give it a go. The main thing is that it is guaranteed fun. So if you are someone with a vision impairment or someone who would like to volunteer as a pilot please contact us on 090 6473575 for more information.
This article has a separate panel story on the right hand column of page 1. The panel has a yellow background with a red border, the story reads:
My Personal Experience – Ann Casey
Tandem cycling has taken off in Mullingar. Three years ago Westmeath Sports Partnership and NCBI got together to enable blind and partially sighted people in the area to take part in tandem cycling. Westmeath Sports Partnership provided the bikes and for the first two years we cycled in a quiet area beside Lough Ennel. Volunteers did the piloting and it didn’t take long for everyone to gain confidence and to really enjoy the cycling.
This year the venue changed to the leafy suburbs of Mullingar and we joined a general cycling group. Transport was arranged so that people from Longford could take part also and some weeks there would be eight to ten blind and partially sighted people cycling. We experienced cycling in traffic, along the canal and out on winding country roads and before we knew it, we were covering 20km. During breaks, we would chat with the other cyclists and occasionally we recruited a new pilot. The Tuesday cycling has come to an end for the winter but Westmeath Sports Partnership runs a cycling group on Saturday mornings and it is hoped that tandem users will join the group.
Well done NCBI and Westmeath Sports Partnership and a heart-felt thanks to our volunteer pilots. — Ann Casey.