Blind veteran Steve attends Riding Week at our Brighton centre

30 April 2017 09:00

Centered around the theme of cycling, Riding Week gives our blind veterans a chance to explore the beautiful scenery Brighton and the surrounding coastal area has to offer. It’s an opportunity for our veterans to meet one another and gain new skills and confidence to enjoy cycling.

Riding Week this year was a five day cycling extravaganza, taking on challenging hillside and valley routes. Activities included tandem riding through locations such as Shoreham, Devils Dyke, the south coast sea front and the Sussex Downs. As well as this, the week was rounded off with a special trip to the Lee Valley Velopark in London. Here our blind veterans spent the day cycling around the Olympic track under professional coaching.

Group shot of blind veterans on tandems during Riding Week
One of the veterans who attended was Steve Jarvis. Steve joined the Royal Signals straight from school in 1979. He started receiving support from Blind Veterans UK in 2006, following a motorbike accident that left him in a coma for ten weeks. Steve woke up from the coma having lost his sight.

Despite this, Steve returned to college and now works as a telephonist for the MOD.

Speaking of Riding Week Steve says: “The week was so well planned. It was fantastic and I would recommend other blind veterans who enjoy cycling to give it a go in future.”

Prior to Riding Week, Steve had not ridden his own tandem for a year and a half. In preparation for Riding Week Steve says: “I realised that I needed to get back in shape. I started practising everyday on my exercise bike in the garage and slowly but surely my speed returned.”

The week began with an introductory cycle out to Shoreham but on the next day the team picked up the intensity with a 41 mile ride up Devil’s Dyke. Steve described this as particularly challenging: “It was gruelling with more hills to negotiate than previously but we did finish the trip off at a café on Brighton seafront with an ice-cream which helped soothe the soreness to some extent.”

Cycling around Brighton on Riding Week - shot of tandem bike by the water.
Although he was hesitant about the challenge ahead, Wednesday’s trip to Haywards Heath, covering 44.8 miles, turned out to be one of Steve’s most memorable days.
"I was going to give it my best shot and boy I’m glad I did as it turned out to be the best day yet. I slept that evening the best I had in years and woke up fully refreshed."
On Thursday, the day’s task involved a 43.8 mile stretch towards the Sussex village of Hassocks. Onto the fifth and final day of Riding Week, our veterans set off early to the Velodrome cycling centre in London’s Olympic Park. Steve describes the trip as a highlight of the week.
"Knowing that we would be competing on a track that so many famous sportsmen and women have won medals it was both inspiring and a privilege to us."
Steve felt nervous before taking on the Velodrome. He wondered how keeping a bike upright while sailing sideways round the track would be possible. This didn’t stop Steve from excelling on the day. “The laws of gravity surely would mean falling over but nothing was going to stop me on my proudest day.”

Photo of a group of 6 blind veterans with their bikes outside the centre during Riding Week 2017
The first of the veterans to bravely give it a go, Steve was surprised by just how speedily they cycled and the ease of getting up the hilly parts of the track. “The instructors all said the same, they couldn’t believe how smooth we’d set off.”

Reflecting on the experience as a whole Steve said: “I would like to thank Rich my pilot, Steve Parnell and everyone involved in the week for making it so enjoyable. Lastly many thanks to Blind Veterans UK. Hopefully I can work with the charity to help me find a local volunteer guide so I can get out on my tandem more often.”