Blind cyclist starts tandem bike ride in St. John’s

Andrew
Andrew Robinson
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A N.S. man, who began losing his sight in his teens, is now set to embark on a 8,200-km journey

Craig Aucoin and Lloyd McLean riding their Altena Janus bicycle. — Submitted photo

Craig Aucoin of Pictou, N.S, at first found it difficult to come to terms with the fact he would eventually lose his eyesight.

Up until he was 15, Aucoin was able to play hockey, soccer and ride dirt bikes. Then his sight began to deteriorate.

“My dream was to drive, to get my licence, and when I found out I couldn’t that kind of crushed me, and I fell into a depression.”

Aucoin still has limited peripheral vision, but in three years he will be fully blind due to a rare condition called choroideremia.

He has since accepted his fate and become focused on physical fitness. Now Aucoin is in St. John’s getting set to test his strength on an 8,200-kilometre ride on a tandem bicycle with his friend Lloyd McLean.

The cross-country journey will aid three charities that have helped Aucoin get through some hard times — the CNIB, YMCA Canada and Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind.

While he was still coming to terms with his condition, Aucoin developed an eating disorder and put on a significant amount of weight. After peaking at 240 pounds, he started to question his lifestyle.

“I knew something had to change,” he said.

Aucoin eventually set a goal for himself to lose 80 pounds. Over the course of four years, Aucoin managed to achieve that goal by changing his eating habits and becoming more physically active.

“After I did that, I was like, ‘Well now what?’ ... I guess I was hooked. It was like I loved everything about eating healthy and exercising and working out.”

McLean met Aucoin through a local running group. Aucoin was already taking part in triathlons with help from a guide, and McLean began working with him two years ago to help his running technique.

“Craig really enjoys cycling, and he’s quite good at it,” said McLean, who lives in Lyons Brook, N.S.

The pair did a couple of 10-kilometre races together. McLean had a dream of cycling across Canada all his life and was looking for someone do it with him.

“My wife kept saying no, so I asked Craig, and Craig was up for it,” said McLean.

The pair will ride on a custom-made Altena Janus bike. The 10-foot long bike will have McLean facing forward and Aucoin peddling in the opposite direction, though their combined momentum will still push them forward through the bike’s design. It was built in the Netherlands.

They have already completed a simulated cross-country ride together cycling every weekend since last August at the local YMCA in New Glasgow, N.S. They finished the final few kilometres of that ride last Sunday. They will leave St. John’s this Sunday from the Ches Penney Family Y at 10 a.m. following a short ceremony. The journey is expected to last 85 days.

“I’m ready to go right now,” said Aucoin with a laugh as he spoke with The Telegram on Friday.

“I have my own tagline that I live by, and it’s try everything once and the fun stuff twice.”

arobinson@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @TeleAndrew

Organizations: YMCA, Ches Penney Family Y

Geographic location: Lyons Brook, Canada, Netherlands New Glasgow

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Recent comments

  • Steve
    August 05, 2013 - 21:28

    "I assume it is some type of bicycle built for two" nothing gets past you, just look at the picture.

  • Leah
    August 04, 2013 - 17:05

    I saw you on the opposite side of the Trans Canada Highway this afternoon on my way down from our cabin. God bless you both, and I pray that you will have a safe journey and good weather.

  • More Detail
    August 03, 2013 - 07:10

    I wonder about the dynamics of this bicycle. I assume it is some type of bicycle built for two. The sighted biker must be able to completely control the bike regardless of the blind bikers actions. The sighted biker must have a completely unobstructed view including the perpherial vision. If there is any difference between the safety of this bicycle and the safety of a regular bicycle, it should not be allowed on the road as it would be a hazzard.

    • Jeff
      August 06, 2013 - 15:04

      Go Craig & Lloyd! Awesome bike, great cause(s) and a good example to so many who never consider giving back or just feel entitled to support.