Blind cyclist Mark taking on capital ride

Mark Dickinson and his cycling partner Graeme Chilvers.
Mark Dickinson and his cycling partner Graeme Chilvers.

Blind cyclist Mark Dickinson is preparing to cycle 185 miles around London for charity.

Mark, from Boston, who was diagnosed with a rare eye condition in 2007, is registered blind. He will be joined on a tandem by workmate Graeme Chilvers, from Swindon, who up until 2012 had never owned a bike.

The pair work for paint supplier Dulux which sponsors the London Revolution – a two-day cycle looping around the capital, taking place over this coming weekend.

Mark said: “Cycling makes me feel alive. If I can inspire one person struggling with a disability then it will all have been worthwhile.”

Mark explained how at the start of 2007 he was sent for a company eye test and prescribed glasses, which he hardly ever wore, but in June he was struggling to read a number plate.

“I went back for another eye test and was diagnosed with Stargardt Macular Dystrophy. Eighteen months later I was legally blind,” he added. “The condition has stabilised and I have some vision, but it is very blurred. In the same year, Bradley Wiggins won the Tour de France and I was inspired to take up cycling.”

The pair will be fundraising for the Outward Bound Trust, an educational charity which uses the outdoors to help develop young people from all walks of life.

“This is quite significant this year because they were hit badly by the storms last year and great deal of re-building work is needed to enable them to continue the fantastic work they do,” said Graeme.

Mark and Graeme first met at the Deloitte Ride Across Britain, but more recently teams at work merged, meaning they started working together and began discussing the idea of riding tandem.

As Graeme explained, they have been on a learning curve.

“The early weeks were a bit disastrous as we encountered many mechanicals, including the bike turning one way and Mark’s saddle going the opposite direction. Mark is very tall and the rear seat of a tandem is not designed for somebody of his height. But we are getting there,” he said. “Fortunately, we have built up a good rapport quite quickly. It is certainly a lot more fun than riding alone.

“The only problem is, sometimes we crack up laughing too much, and the tears mean neither of us can see where we are going.”

Mark added: “I have to trust Graeme completely. I can’t steer, break or change gear, so riding a tandem successfully is all about good communication – and balance. We spent two or three days riding round the car park before we went out on the road. Graeme is very sensible and level-headed, whereas I am more of a practical joker, so the balance of our personalities works well. He’s very articulate and good at telling me what he’s about to do or what’s going on around us, which is vital to me – if we’re going to fall, he will see it coming, whereas it will just happen to me.”

The duo have also helped design their own bike which is being constructed by Dolan Bikes, the same firm which built Bradley Wiggins’ Tour de France-winning bike.

“No detail is too much for them. I left feeling like an Olympic athlete,” said Mark.

Once this weekend is complete, the pair will not be resting for long, as they have a few more challenges lined up.

“Hopefully we will continue to ride together,” added Mark. “We’re doing London to Paris, and the Mark Cavendish Sportive. And if all goes well, it would be fantastic to be able to do Deloitte Ride Across Britain in 2017.”

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