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COVID-19 has proved to be a difficult time for us all but for Gretchen and her Dad it’s inspired them to find a new love for bike riding.

“This has been the first week of having a tandem push bike and luckily the weather has been fantastic. Dad has even been trained up to give riding a go,” Gretchen told us.

Father and Daughter on Tandem Bike

Gretchen, who is vision impaired, loves being physically active and her gym was the go-to. 

“With gyms being closed, I started struggling with being motivated to do exercises at home. Being able to go for a ride and able to exercise outside is way better way than inside.”

Peter Lee from the local RidesAssist program, helped train Gretchen’s Dad, Grahame, to become a pilot. A “pilot” is the rider on the front of the tandem who leads the bike and provides instructions to the “stoker”, the rider on the back of the tandem. 

Based on the Central Coast, the RidesAssist program enables people with vision impairment, and other people living with a disability, to exercise regularly on a bike and enjoy the benefits of being outside. By helping train Grahame, Gretchen along with her father can both enjoy being outside on the bike.   

Peter explained to Dad the queues he needs to give me, whether it’s bumps, turning, slowing down or for me to put some more effort into it. Pete was great at training up Dad to be a pilot.” 

“When it comes to Dad, I have to try and not be dominant,” explained Gretchen. “I have to let Dad control the bike and it definitely tests the communications skills between father and daughter. It ticks boxes for both of us and we get a good workout.”

“I live in the Lake Macquarie council area, so we’ve been riding on the Fernleigh track. It’s very convenient being so close, otherwise I’ve done a few little rides down near the beach.”  

Fernleigh Track is a rail trail built by Newcastle City and Lake Macquarie councils in order to create a shared path of walkers, runners and bike riders to explore the natural habitat of the area. Currently it’s a 16km track with plans underway for its extension

Gretchen hadn’t been on a bike since her early teens due to her eyesight but she loves being outside, riding. 

“It’s always worth giving something new a go and experiencing to see if it suits. Especially at the moment, it helps to still enable communication and interactions.”  

If you would like some resources to start riding or to learn more about the RidesAssist program visit here

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