The Chase the Sun challenge took place back in June, and saw thousands of riders cycle 205 miles across the North or South of England - and Italy – chasing the sun from sunrise to sunset. Three amazing teams represented Life Cycle UK, including a team of visually impaired riders on the back of tandems, with sighted volunteers at the front. These incredible people are some of our Two’s Company project’s participants. One team member, Jenny, tells her story here:
I have been a “back rider” with Life Cycle’s Two’s Company project since it started and I absolutely love it, so I was keen to get involved when I heard about the Chase the Sun challenge. My partner Steve, who is also blind, was also keen.
We joined a Zoom call to find out more and we soon appreciated it was rather intense - a 205 ride that seemed to be more suited to solo cyclists, possibly in a team. However, Nigel one of the Two’s Company volunteer “front riders”, was very enthusiastic about getting tandems involved and thought it could be done with a willing team and lots of planning – hurrah!
This encouraged us to stay involved. Nigel got to work on enlisting others, realising that if we could get four tandems with four sighted front riders and four visually impaired back riders, we would have our Chase the Sun team! Life Cycle UK volunteers Nigel, Alistair, Vicky and Steve M signed up to be front riders, and myself, Steve E, Teresa and Jenny M signed up as back riders.
Over the next few weeks, we organised several training rides. We all appreciated we needed to get some miles in our legs and bottoms!
Chasing the sun
Alistair kindly agreed to let us use his van, which holds six passengers and several tandems. This meant one tandem pair had to meet us on-route during the ride on the day. The day before the event, the rest of the team met at Chippenham Station for the onward journey to Sittingbourne where we stayed in a Travelodge overnight.
Jenny M and Nigel were first up, so Alistair drove them the 10 miles or so to the start line for 4.30 am! Due to Covid regulations, the start was staggered so they actually left not long before 5 am. Nigel had been busy with spreadsheets, dividing the route up into eight legs for each tandem pair to complete two legs each. We had allowed 2.5 hrs for each leg, which was about 25 miles.
Before Nigel and Jenny M had finished their leg, Steve E and Alistair had set off. Nigel and Jenny M then met Vicky and me, and we then drove another 25 miles or so to Tooting where Vicky and I started our first leg. Gosh, there are an awful lot of traffic lights through Tooting! Although we never really chased the sun, we, fortunately, had a dry ride and reasonably flat section – phew!
Meanwhile, the van had driven ahead to meet Steve M and Teresa off the train for them to start their leg of the journey. Amazingly they managed to meet up without incident and the challenge continued. Sadly, Alistair was rather poorly on the day so couldn’t ride his next leg with Steve. Fortunately, Steve M agreed to ride the last leg with Steve E. Steve M was amazing: He did the seventh leg with Teresa and on his return jumped back on the bike with Steve E…!
By this time, it was about 6.30 pm and it had started raining.
The last leg was riding through Cheddar Gorge and then coming into Burnham-On-Sea, where all of us were there to greet them with the Town Crier and Robin (Life Cycle UK’s Two’s Company coordinator). The last pair beat the sun, coming into Burnham-On-Sea at about 8.30 pm. Amazing! We had done it!
All in all, we covered about 50 miles per tandem and it was absolutely fantastic! The camaraderie in the van during the day was wonderful. We had all taken our own provisions for the day, plus goodies to share – it was just brilliant. And while cycling the route we got comments from other cyclists, be them teasing (the usual “the back rider isn’t cycling!”) or lovely good luck wishes and well done’s.
With Nigel’s fantastic spreadsheet ability, dividing the route up, the pairing of front and back riders, the borrowing Life Cycle UK’s tandems, the kindness of Alistair using his van and the enthusiasm of all of the riders, it was a fantastic experience. It was even more special as we have really missed tandem cycling during the pandemic so it was fabulous to be able to get out on a bike again.
Thanks to Life Cycle UK for offering us the chance to take part in this event.
Jenny’s partner Steve said:
“My overriding memory of the day? Being part of a supportive team, all focused on one objective: Getting to the finish line! As a visually impaired back rider on a tandem, it was a fantastic experience to be able to participate in such an endurance event. Not just being accepted, but encouraged and supported by all the other participants”.
Life Cycle UK would like to say a huge thank you to all the Two's Company riders who took part in Chase the Sun - and to everyone who sponsored the team to raise money for Life Cycle UK. You are all absolute heroes!