Hi, I’m Paul and have been blind for a number of years but I have a passion for riding my tandem, “The Beast”. It’s really my small sports car on two wheels. I haven’t been out on it much over the past few years as it requires a captain and, unfortunately, due to a number of reasons, they have been unavailable.
I was really excited to hear my BT colleagues were entering riding events this year, like the Carten100, and wondering was this the opportunity to acquire a new captain. The Carten100 was a bit too far, 107 miles! But when I heard they were entering the Tŷ Hafan Superhero Cycle Challenge down the Taff trail, 50 miles, I thought this is my chance!
I reached out to Brian and he sent the e-mail out. I felt like a fisherman waiting for the bite. Then Jason replied saying he’ll do it. I was delighted, I could now whizz down hills on “The Beast” again raising money for a great charity. Then realisation sunk in, what had I signed up to! A new captain, not ridden in a while and 50 miles on a trial!
So I swung into action, got “The Beast” serviced, checked the trailer over and chalked up a fitness regime, no cakes for a while. Time was flying by but no sign of a practise run with Jason as it was holiday season. I was thinking the first practise run was going to be on the starting line! I’m brave but not that brave.
29 August 2018
Finally I got the email from Jason, he’s going to pop around tonight for a practise. Better make sure everything is ready. He turns up and we wheel the “the beast” into the street. Jason takes his first solo ride and all seems okay. Then it’s time…I jump onto the back after explaining the logistics and 3,2,1 we are off up the street. Phew, that was the tricky bit out the way and now for stopping…
With now a 30 minute practise session under our belts and with only a few little hiccups, I was ready for the ride. I think Jason was still nervous but didn’t do too bad for his first time.
Sunday 2 September 2018.
Alarm goes off at 5.30, it’s an early start. Need to be fairly quiet not to wake the street up and the dog. Porridge ate and put the bike on the trailer. Now just waiting for the lift. Mind racing with “what if’s” but all calmed down when my lift arrived. The car was full of excitement and a lot of banta, I think it was really nervous energy.
We are at the start line with our T-Shirts on and welcomed by the Rob Jones, CEO of Tŷ Hafan. Great to see a CEO out of bed early on a Sunday morning!!
9:00 “Ready, Go”, we are off and straight into a very narrow canal tunnel, very tight. I could feel Jason concentrate as he steers the beast through. It then settled down and we had our four escorts, two in front and two behind. Jason was describing the scenery and I could feel the morning warmth.
Cruising along, I could then feel the pedalling getting tougher and Jason changing up gears. We had arrived at the first proper hill. I hope the slick tyres will get us to the top! We started at a steady pace and I could feel the beast getting thrown around by the odd stone hitting the back tyre. But we powered through and even span the back wheels. Clearly my training regime was paying off.
We arrived at the first checkpoint and Jason described the stunning views and silhouette of the mountains. All helped by the very warm welcome and smiling faces of the volunteers at the first checkpoint. I think Jason had settled into the Captain’s role and I felt we were a team now we had reached the first checkpoint.
“Ready, Go” we were off again. Jason describing the stunning Welsh mountainsides and the odd sheep. Then we arrived at the Pentwyn Reservoir. The beast was flying along. I was glad I wasn’t in front, as I am sure Jason ate a whole protein meal of flies. Then we hit the next long hill.
This went on for a while! Oh my legs, I am sure Jason eased off at times. Also, looks like we lost one of our riders, Nicolas…no, he was just pushing his bike up the hill. Then Gareth came up with some useful comment: “Lads, it’s all downhill from here!” He clearly hadn’t looked at the route! This clearly set the tone for next few miles to Merthyr.
“3,2,1, going to stop, stop”, smash. Jason puts his right foot down, I put my weight to the right and couldn’t get my foot out of the clip in time. We ended up in a heap on the floor. I am fine, the trusted hand out to cushion the fall and Jason just caught his thumb but he has another one. Knew it was going to happen, it’s just the initiation of a new captain. No harm done and off we go.
A few more checkpoints ticked off with the usual very warm welcome of the volunteers and useful advice. Also, pointing out again the captain isn’t pedalling! By this time we had passed a group of French hikers who gave us a “cheer”, a couple of other riding groups and even more sheep.
We made it to the half way point and the pub. Then Nicolas made it ten minutes later. All refreshed and ready to go for the easy part, all downhill from here. Quickly back into our stride, we reached our maximum speed of 27 mph, we were flying. Great choice to put the slick tyres on the beast. We could have gone faster, but I think Jason was being a bit conservative.
We had been riding for over four hours now and my butt had gone beyond the pain barrier to no feeling at all. Even riding over the roots under the trail and shuddering the bike made no difference. I started to feel the end was nearing as we passed Tongwynlais.
Then our progressed slowed as we had to negotiate our way over and around bike gates. I don’t think the team could believe how light the beast was to lift. Although after the 20th gate, I think it became more of a gym workout than a ride.
Blackweir and the finishing line. Six hours riding and looking forward to getting home and soaking in the bath. No…we had to pedal across the playing fields where the grass brushed our knees. This was surely the hardest part of the ride. We had two out riders, Brian and Gareth, I think Nicolas was still in Tongwynlais, then Marion powered through to take the finishing line!
A great day, with great people for a great charity.
See you all next year
Paul and BT Team
Two Heads Are Better Than One