A show of true grit by blind trainees


Up to the task: Pilot riders leading the visually-impaired cyclists from St Nicholas Home for the Blind to cycle on tandem bikes during the expedition.

Up to the task: Pilot riders leading the visually-impaired cyclists from St Nicholas Home for the Blind to cycle on tandem bikes during the expedition.

GEORGE TOWN: A group of 22 visually impaired people accomplished what many folks could not do by cycling 160km from the island to Arau in Perlis within a day.

Riding on tandem bicycles behind volunteers, the trainees left the St Nicholas Home for the Blind in Jalan Bagan Jermal here at about 4.30am yesterday and arrived in Perlis after some 14 hours of cycling.

Trainee Ng Hui Qi, 23, who is completely blind, said the ride was tiring yet fun.

“This is the furthest I have ever cycled. It was tiring as the weather was quite hot but I enjoyed the ride as I could be with my friends and visit Perlis at the same time.

“I did not do any special training for the event but I’ve been cycling at least 30km once a month for about half a year now,” she said.

The cycling expedition – with the theme “Going The Distance: Perlis Ride 2017” – was organised following an invitation from the Perlis Raja Muda Tuanku Syed Faizuddin Putra Ibni Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Jamalullail.

The trainees, along with 32 volunteer pilot riders, marshals, van drivers, first aiders and four staff, stayed overnight in Perlis before joining the Raja Muda for a morning ride today.

Hardware shop owner Emme Lim, 46, who was one of the pilot riders, said she has been volunteering with the home for the past three years.

“It is challenging to be a pilot rider because we have to keep the bicycle balanced and at the same time, tell the trainees about the road conditions and the surroundings.

“I love to cycle and I feel that it is more meaningful to guide the visually-impaired to ride a bicycle,” she said, adding that the ride to Perlis was the longest she had been on a tandem bike.

Another volunteer Choong Chee Tuan said he hoped that more cyclists would join them in training the blind.

“Many of the St Nicholas Home trainees are always looking forward to the training as it is an opportunity for them to hear, smell and feel something different,” said the 46-year-old software developer, who is also the captain of a cycling team.

Currently, Choong’s cycling team has about 15 to 20 volunteers who regularly help out at the home.

St Nicholas Home executive director Daniel Soon said it regularly held tandem bicycle rides for its trainees to participate and show their skills.

“The Perlis Ride is a milestone for us because 160km is our longest to date. The event has also helped to instil confidence in our trainees,” he said.

Soon said the home currently has 33 tandem bikes, adding that it hoped to get 15 more of higher quality to train future paralym­pians.

A good tandem bike costs about US$1,200 (RM5,275) each.