Graeme Chilvers, an experienced cyclist from Swindon, Wiltshire, will be riding the London Revolution (185 miles around the capital on 14 and 15 May) with Mark Dickinson, who is registered blind, on a tandem.
Mark Dickinson was diagnosed with a rare genetic eye condition in 2007 and is registered blind. Graeme Chilvers has been cycling seriously since 2012 and was looking for a new challenge. He and Mark are riding the Dulux Trade London Revolution on a tandem as part of the Dulux Trade team.
Graeme said: ” I started cycling in September 2012 when I agreed to join the Dulux Trade team for the Deloitte Ride Across Britain. I had never owned a bike until then, so I had to quickly find one on E-Bay and learn how to ride. I have since completed the Deloitte Ride Across Britain twice – going both ways – as part of the Dulux Trade team.
“This will be my third time and I have enjoyed it previously. This time I wanted to be part of the Dulux Trade team, and because I’ve done it twice before and I am also doing the Ride London later this year, I wanted a new challenge. Mark has been doing a great deal of indoor cycling since 2013 including a “turbo” Ride Across Britain while we completed the “real” Deloitte RAB in 2014. So what better challenge than a tandem ride with Mark giving him the opportunity to experience the great couple of days of riding as part of a team around some of the iconic landmarks of London and the surrounding area.
“We will be fundraising for the amazing Outward Bound Trust. This is quite significant this year because they were hit badly by the storms last year and great deal of re-building work is needed to enable them to continue the fantastic work they do.
“Riding the tandem is very different in that I am not responsible just for myself now and have to plan everything in advance and then remember to communicate my plans to Mark. Even the simple actions like changing gear and slowing down. Riding solo, there are times when decisions are very spur of the moment, but with the tandem this is not possible.
“The early weeks were a bit disastrous as we encountered many mechanicals including the bike turning one way and Mark’s saddle going the opposite direction. Mark is very tall and the rear seat of a tandem is not designed for somebody of his height. But we are getting there.
“Fortunately we seem to have built up a good rapport quite quickly. It is certainly a lot more fun than riding alone. The only problem we do have is sometimes we do crack up laughing too much and the tears mean neither of us can see where we are going.
“We are a bit of an odd-fit for a tandem as normally the shorter person sits at the back whereas in our case Mark, who is very tall, is on the back. It’s almost a reverse tandem. Nothing is too much trouble for these guys. So a huge ‘thank you’ to them. We are very excited and cannot wait to see the finished bike. We’ve called her Daisy as she’s a bicycle made for two and Mark’s daughter is designing a name label for her.”
Mark Dickinson said: “In January 2007 I was sent for a company eye test and prescribed glasses, which I hardly ever wore. In June that year, I couldn’t read a number plate, and the glasses made no difference. I went back for another eye test and was diagnosed with Stargardt Macular Dystrophy. Eighteen months later I was legally blind. The condition has stabilised and I have some vision, but it is very blurred. In the same year, Bradley Wiggins won the Tour de France and I was inspired to take up cycling.
“Graeme and I met in 2013 at the start of the Deloitte Ride Across Britain. Recently our teams at work have merged so we have started working together and we began discussing the possibility of riding a tandem. It’s not safe for me to ride by myself now and Graeme was looking for a challenge so it made sense.
“I have to trust Graeme completely. I can’t steer, break or change gear, so riding a tandem successfully is all about good communication – and balance. We spent two or three days riding around the car park before we went out on the road.
“Graeme is very sensible and level headed whereas I am more of a practical joker, so the balance of our personalities works well. He’s very articulate and good at telling me what he’s about to do or what’s going on around us which is vital to me – if we’re going to fall, he will see it coming, whereas it will just happen to me.
“Hopefully we will continue to ride together. We’re doing London to Paris and the Mark Cavendish Sportive. And if all goes well, it would be fantastic to be able to do Deloitte Ride Across Britain in 2017.
“Cycling makes me feel alive, like a normal person again. If I can inspire one person struggling with a disability then it will all have been worthwhile.”