Have you ever been on a tandem? Last summer, three months after my hip replacement, we hired a tandem in France. I happily sat on the back giving as much effort to the team as was available to me, while G had ultimate control of our cycling destiny.

Sitting on the bike, as ‘stoker’ does not require lots of pedal power but trust, patience and the willingness to acquiesce to the ‘pilots’ road-handling, gear changes and speed are a necessity.

I recently had my first pilot experience – with ‘back-seat pilot G’ as my stoker! Why did I put myself through this? Let me tell you …

We have recently (and proudly) joined and an incredible voluntary group called ‘Open Country’. The aim of the charity is to ‘enable anyone with any disability to access the countryside’. We meet each Thursday evening during the long summer months and pilot a tandem. The stokers are adults with disabilities. My maiden voyage needed to be as easy as possible so that I could familiarise myself with the controls, weight and manoeuvrability of my steed before taking responsibility for my special stoker.

We listened to instructions – as a pilot I am responsible for the cadence and control and for letting my passenger know when we are slowing, stopping and turning. Information absorbed and a slightly wavery circuit of the Leisure Centre car park – and we were off on the open roads. My stoker was very keen to play his part. Indeed G told me when to change gear, rocket-propelled us towards junctions as I was slowing and was nearly abandoned by a rather frustrated me when he alighted to go behind a hedge to answer a call of nature!

Having gained my tandem road legs came my first opportunity to convey a special stoker, Karl – to the pub! A pub stop is part of the three-hour experience and is a valuable social time for all of us. And what a happy assortment of fluorescent tabard clad cyclists we are.

The Open Country charity provides the tandems and safety kit for the passengers. The volunteers are a bunch of friendly, interesting women and men of around our age. All in all our new tribe is the perfect mix for a satisfying, interesting, laugh out loud, outdoor experience. Even the showers that Lovely Lucy and I cycled through last night could not remove the sunshine in our hearts.

While the volunteers provide strength, security and opportunity to the stokers, they in return ouze warmth, trust and joy at the simple pleasures in life. Between us, each tandem is one complete, harmonious outdoor adventure. There is so much laughter and warmth that G and I are fuelled with smiles for days. Isn’t it great to be alive!

Our new tribe!

Added to the emotional pleasures of this pastime are the physical benefits of cycling a heavy, cumbersome bike on 15 miles undulating, rural circuits. I have the ‘tandem tattoos’ (thick oil smears) up my right calf – a mark of another fabulous Thursday!

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Published by Carol

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