Riding tandem

Kate Giles
Keeping healthy and fit isn't always easy. Years ago I took up bike riding as exercise. When I started to lose my vision, I thought I could no longer ride a bike. But my husband suggested using a tandem bike. This bike is for two people. There are two seats and handlebars and two sets of pedals. The person at the front steers the bike. Riding a tandem bike has many benefits. I can still ride my favourites bike trails, especially the East Gippsland Rail Trail. Sometimes we fall off the bike. But we get back on and continue riding.
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Kate Giles on 26/06/2012
A man and woman in bicycle outfits standing behind their tandem bike.
Tandem bike

The benefits of riding outweigh any risks.

I quickly pick myself up off the pile of rocks on the side of the track. Shaking my arms and stretching the rest of my body, I realise my injuries are few. A bit of bruising I can cope with. It could have been a lot worse.

You OK?, says my husband Denis as he rushes to my assistance.

I'm OK. How are you? I ask. Denis assures me both he and the bike have survived unharmed.

Good. Well let's continue our ride.

Much to offer

The East Gippsland Rail Trial has much offer. It covers 100 kilometres from Bairnsdale to Orbost. You cross wide rivers and rolling hills and recent rains have made the countryside as pretty as a picture. At the end of a long day, small country communities offer great respite. Finishing the day chatting to other cyclists over dinner and then falling into a comfy bed is just the best.

On our ride this day the weather was beautiful and I wanted to make the most of the sunshine. The meal I ate last night was also weighing heavily on my mind and body. I needed the exercise.

Keeping in shape

Keeping in shape isn't always easy. I love food. Not just any food, but the wrong kinds of food. Meat with rich creamy sauces is a favourite. As is a good bread and butter pudding with lashings of double cream. Oh. And did I mention a good shiraz or was that a sauvignon blanc last night?

Being fit and healthy was much easier when I was younger and more able bodied. The calories were offset with a bit of exercise. All it took was a good long walk and a bit of gym work. Balance was the key. A good workout and I could eat as much as I liked.

But then along came age and arthritis. It wasn't quite so easy. Lifting weights was definitely out. Long hours pounding the treadmill also took a toll.

Riding a bike

But then I discovered bike riding. I rode everywhere. With a basket on the front and a rack on the back, I rode to the shops for supplies. There were also the bike tracks. I would ride for kilometres. As well as being an enjoyable experience, it kept the weight down. It also kept me fit. Bike riding quickly became my preferred exercise.

Giving up control

When I began to lose my vision, I was devastated. How would I cope without my bike? But then Denis suggested a tandem bike. This is a bicycle that can be ridden by two people. It has two seats, two sets of pedals and two handle bars but only the person at the front can steer the bike.

Riding tandem takes quite a bit of getting used to. The larger bike is not as manoeuvrable as a single one. And you have to hand over control to the person known as the captain. That's the guy at the front. In my case, that's Denis.

It's not easy giving up control but then you realise riding tandem has many great benefits. There are still advantages in weight loss and fitness gains. You can also leave the concentration to the captain while you watch the countryside roll by.

Tandem mishaps

Unfortunately, there are the mishaps. I remember another trail we toppled off. We came around a sharp corner to find someone on the wrong side of the track. The captain had nowhere to go. I hit the ground rather hard with a tangle of wheels and legs coming down on top of me. Still there were no serious injuries.

Another time I looked down and through my little bit of vision saw a rather aggressive tiger snake lunging at my back leg. Lucky for me it missed, but it quickly turned a bike ride into a serious adventure.

Benefits outweigh risks

There is always an element of danger in bike riding. However the benefits sure outweigh the risks. So far I have always been able to get back on the bike and continue the ride. And this latest spill on the East Gippsland Rail Trail was no exception. Besides, there was no way I was going to miss the beauty and the fun of my favourite bike trail.

East Gippsland Rail Trail

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