I can remember walking through Martin Place in the middle of Sydney. I strayed away from my mother to be alone with my tears as we walked to the train station. The upshot of the diagnosis was that my optic nerve was dying off, my vision was going and no one could do anything about it. They couldn't even say how much sight I would lose or how long it would take.
Since then I've learned a lot. Now I use a white cane, I can read Braille and with a screen reader I've been working with computers ever since. And yes, I lost a lot of vision. These days I can barely notice the sun being up.
I've produced and presented a nationally syndicated radio program, I've worked in a peak body in Sydney, and I've set up and been involved with groups of vision impaired people. I've fallen in love, gotten married and had a son. Blindness hasn't stopped me living my life.
I haven't let it stop me doing the sport I love, either. Cycling can be fun on an exercise bike, but it's at its best outdoors. For me that means finding a friend and riding a tandem.
Currently I, with Pilots Phil and Dave lead the blind tandem (B) category of the National Para-cycling Series, despite riding a bike that's 20 years old and almost twice as heavy as the competition.
There's more racing to be done! This is why I need your help.
Tandem bicycles are expensive. The most inexpensive single bike from a large retailer comes in just under $100, while the cheapest tandem is available online for around $600 new. These are not good bikes for any kind of long ride, sure they're fine for a fun ride on the weekend, but that's about all.
The more serious recreational tandems start from around $1,200 and go over $5,000. As a comparison, a good standard racing bike can be had for $2000. A good racing tandem starts from around $9,000 and can extend beyond $25,000 depending on materials and components chosen.
Even simple components cost hundreds of dollars, as they have to be strong to deal with the forces generated by two pairs of legs, and very few of them are produced compared to the regular bike market. A simple bike chain has to be specifically made for a tandem. Because of the scale and availability there's very little opportunity to secure sponsorship from manufacturers.
If we want to race seriously, we need a racing tandem. We've set ourselves a fundraising target of $10,000, which will get us a good bike. We're not going for the bottom of the pile, but we're not going top of the range either.
We're seeking support from community groups in Armidale, and businesses sponsorship, if you'd like more information see our website tandemarmidale.com.
You as an individual can support us too. You can donate any amount, but we're offering some rewards for particular donation levels.
Additional Information (27-MAR-2014)
Firstly our overall target is $10,000 and our GoFundMe target is $2,000. The reason is that we think crowd-funding is only part of our funding solution for such a large amount of money. We're also getting support from community groups and sponsors. You can see the overall progress at our web site.
Secondly, any funds over the $2,000 will be put towards the campaign total. If we got, say $3,000 on GoFundMe, then we need to find less money elsewhere.
Thirdly, if the overall funds exceed $10,000 then we will use the funds either to get some better componants on the new bike, or to keep in reserve for maintinance.
Finally, we do aim to keep out current bike around and working. It can serve as a training machine, and also to let us help other blind, vision impaired people, or others who can't ride by themselves to try out tandem riding without needing to shell out for a bike.
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