Blind man saddles up in tandem charity effort

A PAIR of friends, one blind and one sighted, will cycle 300 miles from London to Paris to raise money for charity.

You may see the brave duo whizzing around Bexhill on their custom-made tandem before they set off from Crystal Palace on May 5 for their four-day effort to reach Paris with 120 other cyclists.

Graham Whincup, 57, of Sedlescombe, will be steering and relaying information about oncoming turns, potholes and low-hanging branches to Peter Butcher, 53, of Amherst Road, taking the role of "the engine" on the back.

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Peter said: "I have every confidence in Graham and its been really fun. We keep cycling and the peddles go round and we go at a pretty fair pace but it isn't frightening, it's brilliant.

"Graham was explaining to me what there was on the left and the right, and you could hear the birds and smell the bonfires."

Graham, who says he learns a lot on their rides from Peter, who is an ornithologist, has not ridden a bike for 13 years, and the experience is a first for Peter.

Their major difficulty was communication, but this ended after they found a cheap radio headset in Lidl, which allows them to speak to each other as they cycle.

Graham said: "Its extraordinary. I have got quite a stiff neck so for me to be on the front and be able to tell Peter without turning about the road ahead is such a help. It also makes cycling a real communal activity.

"The communication was tough. Single cyclists don't need to talk with anybody. With a tandem, irrespective of the sight issue, you need to be aware of your partner behind. It's like driving a car - I swerve and the passenger feels it."

Their sponsorship will be donated to the paediatric wing of the Echo Appeal for the British Heart Foundation at The Conquest, where Graham is a consultant paediatrician.

Both Graham and Peter, a physiotherapist at The Body Junction in Collington, thanked colleagues and all those who have so far donated, helping them raise 4,800 to date.

"We wanted to do something for the local people," Peter said. "So we are raising money for this heart scanner."

To donate, or for more information, visit http://original.justgiving.com/tandemonium

Peter Butcher, at the rear, described as "the engine" by cycling partner Graham Whincup, right