Blindness no barrier for tandem bikers gearing up for mountain challenge

Jan Tyson is helping Teena McEwen, who is blind, prepare for Taranaki Around The Mountain Cycle Challenge.

Jan Tyson is helping Teena McEwen, who is blind, prepare for Taranaki Around The Mountain Cycle Challenge.

As a child, Teena McEwen decided she wouldn't let her blindness get in the way of her dreams and saved all her money to buy a bike.

"I was hitting a few too many cars and neighbour's fences and all sorts of things, but I did try," the legally blind 45-year-old said with a chuckle.

"I just wanted to be like everybody else."

It wasn't until she discovered tandem biking that she had her the opportunity to participate in a sport alongside "normal" people.

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"The first time I went down a hill I was just yahooing, it was such a rush because I don't get to do anything at speed," McEwan said.

"I could do a sport that was similar to them, so it felt like I was part of a community and part of a group."

Fast-forward a few years and McEwen is gearing up to take on the Around the Mountain cycle challenge on a tandem bike with her pilot, Jan Tyson.

She met Tyson two years ago when the 65-year-old put her name down to help out with Blind Foundation and since then they have been going out for rides up to four times a week on a borrowed bike while McEwen fundraises for a new one. 

As McEwan can only see colours and can't see anything while riding, communication and trust are important between the pair.

Tyson lets her know when there's a hill coming up and how long it will take to ride up it, as well as talking about when they're approaching a railway line or intersection.

They were also gearing up for the 150 kilometre cycle challenge in January next year.

"I said 'would you like to do half the around the mountain with me', and she said 'I don't do half'," McEwan said.

During the winter, their rides averaged between 30km to 50km but they were hoping to extend that to 70km and even 100km over the summer to make the most of daylight saving.

They had both seen the benefits of it and had also developed a close friendship while out and about.

"It's motivated me to get back into biking, I stopped about six years ago so it's just as good for me," Tyson said.

 - Stuff

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