If you are out and about in the countryside on Thursday evenings and you see a flash of hi-viz and bikes whizz past – that’ll be the Ripon Tandem Club!
11.06.15 (2)The club is run by Open Country, a disability charity from Harrogate. We help adults with learning disabilities and visual impairments who are not able to ride a solo bike, to get out into the countryside, get some fresh air and experience the freedom and exhilaration that riding a bike brings.
The evenings kick off at 6 o’clock; we bring the tandems over from Harrogate in our minibus and a bit of a frenzy ensues as everyone gets kitted out in hi-viz jackets and helmets, pilots (front riders) are paired up with stokers (back riders) and last minute adjustments are made to the bikes. We have a quick discussion about which route we are taking that evening and then we are ready for the off!
11.06.15 (13)We ride out from March to October and enjoy jaunts of up to 20 miles or so to places such as Staveley, Markington, Boroughbridge and West Tanfield. We try and stick to quiet country roads and bridleways and have been known to do a bit of ‘off roading’ and cycling through fords! There is always a pub stop along the way, which gives us a chance to get our breath back and have a bit of a catch up; the social aspect of the club is as important as the sport and fitness element. After the pit-stop, we are off again…a bit more cycling, then a race to the end, returning to Ripon for about 9 o’clock, weary but happy!
The club relies on a team of fantastic volunteers who pilot the tandems, and provide moral support to their stokers. The front riders have a range of fitness levels; from keen cyclists who would think nothing of a 50 mile ride before breakfast, to me who puffs and pants most of the way round! There is a great sense of camaraderie within the group and a supportive atmosphere; riding a tandem is a team effort and you will often hear encouraging shouts of ‘Keep pedalling!’ especially on any uphill sections.
11.06.15 (12)Our stokers really seem to enjoy the rides and I see a marked improvement in their fitness. Lucy Newell, a stoker from Copt Hewick has been coming out with the club for over a year. She says
“We always welcome new riders, whether you are disabled and would like to get out into the countryside, or you fancy having a go at piloting a tandem. If you are not sure if riding a tandem is for you, then you are welcome to meet us to have a spin on one of our bikes. We’d love to hear from you – it really is great way of keeping fit, whilst having some fun. In the meantime, if you see us on your travels do give us a wave and a word of encouragement!”
Open Country has been helping disabled people to access the countryside for 25 years and we run a fun activities programme all year long, suitable for all ages and abilities, ranging from walking and cycling to outings, wildlife study, outdoor pursuits and practical conservation work. In addition, we provide an advice service about access issues and creating paths accessible for everyone. We need to raise £150,000 each year in order to keep going. If you would like to make a donation you can do so online via Virgin Money Giving: www.virginmoneygiving.com  or by phone: text OCAP37 specifying the amount you would like to donate to 70070. Thank you very much.