The Intentional Stoker

How did I become a stoker? In contrast to Dave’s experience, unsurprisingly, my becoming a stoker was fairly intentional.

I’d tried some tandem cycling in my mid 20’s, and indeed got to buying my own tandem (a basic Apollo) in my mid to late 20s. My issue at the time (I was living in Armidale then too) was finding people to captain.

My wife’s view of cycling, that it should be leisurely and shouldn’t involve gears, was at odds with my own. It lead to the decision, ultimately the right one for our relationship, that she was never getting on a tandem with me again.

Come 2007, we left Armidale and moved to Wollongong. The revivalist wanted some stupid amount of money to cover the tandem, so I said goodbye to the beast.

Fast forward to April 2008, and I made contact with Tim via the Illawarra BUG (iBUG) list. Tim had a tandem and he’d ridden it in the Sydney to the Gong with a blind friend of his from Sydney. Beyond that the bike didn't get much use, so sure, he'd be happy to ride with me.

This was not the worlds greatest tandem. OK, as a starter, it was probably OK. A fantastic purple beach cruiser, with curvy handlebars that made you sit up. Probably the less said the better.

Sometime shortly after that Tim and I met Geoff and Peter, another tandem pair who came to our attention via the iBUG list. We met with them and rode together around Port Kembla. Tim and I even tried out Geoff’s Apollo. Little did I know the idea that was forming in Geoff’s mind at the time. It would have a big impact.

It wasn’t much latter that I found out that Geoff had got hold of a couple more tandems, some more captains and some blind friends, and was arranging group tandem rides, primarily up the coast bike path to the northern suburbs of Wollongong.

Tim and I became involved in the group. One day Geoff got himself an interview on ABC Illawarra so he could ask for more captains, and under pressure from the presenter invented the name “Exsight” on the spot. The name stuck.

Through 2008 I rode with both Tim (who had two teenagers and an under 10 to deal with too) and Exsight on and off. Over time it became a weekly thing. Tim acquired a Pegasis Tandem (26″ flat bar) while Exsight slowly acquired more Apollo tandems (due to Geoff’s persistence).

By 2009 I was riding once a weekend. My commute to Sydney for work really prevented any other days being an option. By November Exsight was lining up for their first Sydney to the Gong. Following his Around the Bay ride, Tim invited me to ride with him in 2010.

In 2011 my wife and I were joined by our first child, and in early 2012 we returned to Armidale to visit my family. Upon returning to work I was promptly made redundant, and realising my family needed our help we resolved to move back.

With an old Apollo in tow, we made it back to the mountains and the slightly more sedate environment of Armidale. So in need of captains once again, I sent an email to the Armidale Cycling Club to see if anyone was interested in captaining.

To my surprise it was answered very promptly…

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