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Tandem Talk August 2020

Welcome to another edition of Tandem Talk. This is a bumper edition with a profile of our Treasurer Trevor Maslen and a contribution from Jo Kennedy describing her tandem adventure in Thailand.

On the riding front, Covid-19 has receded somewhat but now we’re plagued by the rain, in spite of this, WATCAC is back on the road!


12-July: A bumper recreation ride from Lathlain to Mt Pleasant saw 19 participants – 8 tandems I think – try out the coffee van under Mt Henry Bridge. It turned out to be a great spot for a coffee by the river although it was a battle back to Lathlain into the headwind.

19-July: 8 participants explored a new section of the Tonkin Highway bike path to Whiteman Park and Gnangara Road for a total of 61km.

9-August: The planned recreation ride was cancelled due to the poor forecast and boy did it rain, I was glad to be tucked up in my warm bed. Good early call Jen.

WATCAC Tandem Clinic

The next WATCAC tandem clinic will be held 9:00am to 11:00am on Sunday the 30th of August at George Burnett Park, Manning Road, Karawara. If you have any friends or family who might be interested either as a pilot or as a stoker, let us know by Thursday 27th August.

See the event link on our Facebook page for more information. If you would like to join us for the clinic, please complete the Contact Us form, and select “Tandem Clinic” in the Interest field.


Member Profile – Trevor Maslen

Pilot Trevor Maslen and stoker Jo Kennedy
Pilot Trevor Maslen and stoker Jo Kennedy with Tandem bike

Question. Trevor how long have you been tandem cycling and how did you start?

Answer. I started tandem riding in 2004, so I have been with WATCAC for 16 years. After serving the community in another field and then after having a short break I was looking for a rewarding and positive role as a volunteer to help people in the community. I visited the WA Volunteers web site and found an advertisement for pilots to ride with the blind and vision impaired. As I was already a weathered cyclist, I felt that I could provide others, who are blind, or vision impaired with active and social benefit.

Question. Tell us about your favourite kind of cycling activity?

Answer. Apart from the physical gains for tandem partner and myself, I enjoy the social interaction and understanding for people with disabilities. I should be regarded as more of a social cyclist when I am riding a tandem.

For some years, there used to be an annual tour of different regions in Western Australia, usually over five days. The tour encompassed the visitation of schools where we, as a group, performed presentations. This related to the differences between tandem and regular cycles; teaching school children how to treat and understand people who are blind or vision impaired and selling a message of inspiration, especially to those children who may have had a disability.

Question. In your dreams, if you could cycle with anyone in the world other than your current riding buddy, who would that be and why?

Answer. There would be several people that I would find really fascinating in the conversation that we could have whilst enjoying our tandem ride. Unfortunately, most of the people that I could dream about are no longer with us. However, I always like to listen to peoples’ life stories; especially those who have climbed from their roots to their best achievements and successes. Mohammed Ali no doubt would have been one that would fit that bill.

Question. When it comes to hilly or flat routes, what kind of riding preferences do you have and why?

Answer. I prefer a variety of both flat and hills on each ride. This enables riders to vary and improve their strengths and work the body in different aspects.

Question. How do you like to support WATCAC?

Answer. I have supported WATCAC in many ways as a volunteer.

My first introduction to tandem riding was at a WATCAC clinic. From there I participated as a pilot and had a variety of different stokers for various different club and recreation rides mostly every fortnight. We did a WA Regional visit to Brookton, York, Quairiding and Cunderdin. It was on that tour that I came to appreciate, not only the physical and social benefits but an appreciation of working and helping people who blind or vision impaired through tandem cycling.

On this tour I met Greg Madson and although we didn’t ride together on that particular tour, we started a friendship which led to us riding as a tandem buddies for about 10 years riding Club Rides and visiting Regional centres for the promotion of WATCAC’s objectives. Greg and I have similar sense of humour and we were able to establish a very strong bond and understanding of each other.

Further regional tours included Kalgoorlie, Geraldton, Margaret River, Bunbury, Albany.

I was an active member for only 14 months before becoming a committee member back in late 2005. Later I progressed to Secretary and I have been the current Treasurer for about 5 years. As Treasurer, I have been very conscious for the need for appropriate processes and accountability for WATCAC.

I assumed the Committee role of Constitutional Advocate and Advisor due to my past experience and was able to guide the Committee through two very important and significant changes to our constitution. I also have been made the Committee member responsible for the important role of Governance and legislative reporting.

I have contributed to most of WATCAC’s Fundraising events and activities giving my support and further volunteer hours in the pursuance of additional funds to assist our members and activities.
I have attended just about all the programmed clinics, to assist in the training and development of pilots and stokers imparting safety and confident riding.

Question. When you’re not cycling, what’s your favourite past time?

Answer. I have been dancing since I was 12yo and still dance weekly for physical and mental benefits. I also do Zumba for the cardio benefits.

Question. What is your favourite food and who cooks it?

Answer. Rump steak, mushrooms and tomatoes (BBQ) with mash potatoes and corn on the cob; and I cook my own usually.

Question. What is your favourite movie and why is it your favourite?

Answer. Sleuth. Only two actors (Lawrence Olivier and Michael Caine) in the same room for the whole movie. No special effects or props, just the pure art of acting.

Question. If you won $3m in Lotto, what would you do with the money?

Answer. I’ll worry about that when I win it!


Tandem Cycling in Thailand – From Bangkok to Phuket

By Jo Kennedy.

Jo Kennedy in Thailand
Jo Kennedy in Thailand with the travel group and tandem bikes

On Christmas morning 2018, I eagerly visited the Traveleyes website as an earlier e-mail had promised that a new batch of holidays was going to be released.

For those who haven’t heard about Traveleyes, it’s a UK based company which specialises in providing holidays for blind and VI people. In each tour group, half of the participants are sighted and half are blind/VI. Each day, VIs are paired with a different sighted person, so you get to meet everyone in the group.

Having been on a fantastic Kayaking and walking tour to Croatia with Traveleyes in 2018, I was particularly looking for another activity-based holiday. Nothing much was taking my fancy when I looked at the website that day, but the last trip listed was described as “Thailand Tandem Cycling from Bangkok to Phuket”.

My initial reaction: “You’d have to be crazy to do that”.

I booked on 2nd January.

Ten months later, I boarded a Red Eye on the first leg of my journey to Bangkok, the sum total of my tandem cycling experience being a WATCAC clinic and one rec ride. I was a tad nervous, but felt better about things when I had an unplanned meeting with another tour participant in transit in Singapore. Anne from Brisbane was totally blind, hadn’t been on a bike for over 50 years and hadn’t brought any padded shorts with her.

On arrival in Bangkok, Anne and I met up with the rest of the group which had flown in from London. We spent that evening getting to know each other before our ride commenced the next day.

There were fourteen of us, ranging in age from mid-30s to mid-80s and from a variety of nations including the UK, Australia, the USA, Canada and Germany. This trip was a bit different from other Traveleyes holidays in that pilots and stokers were paired up on the first day and remained the same for the entire ride. However, partners changed daily for off-bike activities.

The first of our eight consecutive days in the saddle was hard and I wondered if I’d made the right decision. We had three stokers retire in the first 15 km. The combination of tiredness from the flight in, heat, humidity, the smell of little fish drying in the sun, topped off with the fact that we were riding through salt farms (the air was thick with the stuff and it crystallised on your skin) was not the most comfortable experience. I really enjoyed my cold beer at the end of that day – and I don’t even drink beer!

After that, things improved considerably. While there was quite a lot of time spent riding on highways, which could be a bit tedious, there was also time spent travelling through villages on small concrete roads and long stretches riding along or close to the coast. We covered between 40 km – 65 km each day, covering around 400 km in total. That’s about half of the distance between Bangkok and Phuket. The terrain was mostly flat or undulating, but there were a few decent hills to challenge us.

Wherever we went, people smiled and waved at us and traffic, though somewhat chaotic, was courteous. Drivers always gave way to us at intersections and I think I felt safer than riding in Perth. The greatest obstacles on the roads were dogs, which tended to lie in the middle and expect you to go around them. We had only one cycling-related injury and that was to one of our Thai guides who fell off and broke his collar-bone.

Throughout the journey, we stopped off at various attractions along the way, including a natural spring where I swam with fish that bite/suck on you and a coffee plantation where we got to try our hand at roasting coffee beans.

There were also regular breaks for snacks and lunch. The snacks were a combination of things purchased from street vendors by our guides and supermarket products. It was really interesting trying things. Often the sighted guys couldn’t offer much insight into what you were about to put in your mouth – not even if it was likely to be sweet or savoury.

In addition to our seven tandems, travelling with us where two Thai guides, the Traveleyes tour manager and a mechanic. We very much needed the latter. Our bikes, brand new though they were, were not great quality. My pilot Chris and I had ongoing gear issues and towards the end, our pedals kept going out of sync. Felt like we were fish-tailing and it made hills difficult.

All too soon, we reached the end. The feeling as we rode over the causeway from the mainland to Phuket was a mixture of elation and sadness. A number of us wanted to build a bonfire and put the bikes on top to celebrate… but we thought we’d better not.

Our final day was our only rest day and we divided into groups to enjoy our short stay in Phuket. I teamed up with a group which hired a boat which took us swimming and snorkelling.

What was the best thing about this trip? Getting to share a possibly once in a lifetime experience with an amazing group of people.

What was the most challenging thing? Moving hotels every day. Many were not especially VI friendly.

What was the worst thing? Catching a cold from my roommate.

Would I do it again? In a heartbeat, only next time, I want to do the full 800 km.


Till next time, cheers.