The North Ayrshire Tandem Cycling group at a rest stop during an outing

Tandem cycling group is changing lives


A North Ayrshire cycling group is transforming the lives of people with sight loss.

Established just six months ago, North Ayrshire Tandem Cycling offers cycling experiences on tandem bikes for people with limited sight, with trained sighted ‘pilots’ to ensure the safety of all participants.

The group meets every week, providing a welcoming atmosphere for visually impaired people to make friends, boost their mental and physical health and enjoy cycling together in safety.

We spoke to founder, Andrew Lannigan, on his own personal journey with sight loss, how it became the driving force behind the group’s creation and how much North Ayrshire Tandem Cycling has transformed his life so far…

“I lost my sight 11 years ago through a couple of strokes that I had, and I am registered blind myself.

I’d always been a cyclist, ever since I was a wee boy, and I’d had an active life. When I lost my sight all of that was taken away from me. I had motorbikes and cars…I lost everything. I never went over the door for six months and just stayed in the house moping to myself.

However, once the vision impaired team got hold of me and kicked me up the backside I thought ‘Right, let’s just get on with life’…and that was it.

About a year and a half ago my wife noticed an ad in a local paper for cycling for the visually impaired on tandems. I got in touch with the guy but nothing ever came of it. Then last year we were away on a cruise, having a conversation over a glass of wine. She said: ‘If you’re that keen on it why don’t you start it yourself?’.

Andrew’s daughter helped him take the first step, posting an advert on social media for a possible tandem cycling group for people with sight loss. While Andrew doubted there would be much interest, the response her advert received told a very different story.

“It was like a tidal wave of phone calls and emails. It was unbelievable. I didn’t realise there was such a need for it in this area.”  

Fast forward six months and North Ayrshire Tandem Cycling is now a fully constituted cycling club, with Andrew’s daughter Claire and wife Carol taking on the respective roles of secretary and treasurer.

The group now has nine visually impaired tandem cyclists (also known as the ‘stokers ’ of the bike) and 12 sighted ‘pilots’ who sit at the front of the bikes and steer.

“All our pilots are fully, professionally trained in piloting a tandem with a visually impaired person on board. When you jump on a tandem it’s a completely different experience, and the trust between the pilot and the stoker is paramount. The stoker is the power of the bike, just like a stoker on a steam train fires the engine.

We’re out as much as we can, usually once but sometimes twice a week, and normally on a Sunday. We’ve just received funding for five new tandem bikes and even have our very own club kit. The group has grown from strength to strength in six months and it’s just unbelievable.”

The group recently held a social night at Kilwinning Bowling Club and is now planning a trip to Arran for May or June this year, which will also involve members’ partners and families.

“Three of our members have got campervans and they’re taking all the wives and partners over and we’re going to have a big barbeque and do a couple of laps of the island on our tandems. 

Everyone’s so friendly and our pilots are all really careful about looking after the visually impaired members in our group. It’s just a fantastic group of people.”

Do you know a person with sight loss who would love to get into cycling?

Visit the North Ayrshire Tandem Cycling Facebook page or email Andrew Lannigan to find out more!

You can also call Andrew on 07712 648230.