Q&A with Josephine Healion

We recently spoke with Josephine Healion, a keen tandem cyclist with Tullamore Cycling Club about her experience to date and love for cycling. Josephine comments on the incredible support and friendships formed in her club and talks about the amazing fundraiser Tullamore Cycling Club are currently completing, to help raise vital funds and awareness for a number of charities. More information regarding the ‘Around the World in 80 Day’s’ challenge can be found here https://www.myvirtualmission.com/missions/106004/tctc-around-the-world-in-80-days-cycle-challenge

Josephine, how did you first get involved in cycling?

I first got involved in cycling through the NCBI. They would organise tandem cycling events during the summer. The pilots would volunteer themselves and their bikes for these events. As there were more people than bikes, we would take turn hopping up and down off the saddle. For most people at these events, it was more of a social outing where they could meet new people and chat. For me, I loved being active and couldn’t wait to hop back on again. They organised meetings with local clubs for these events to gain volunteers and bikes. A message was sent out asking those who were interested in hooking up with a club or finding out more about cycling to come along. And so, I did. This is when I first had contact with the Tullamore Cycling and Touring Club. We arranged a time and day for a trial run with the club. I cycled my first ever 30k and I thought my legs were going to fall off but couldn’t wait to go again!

For a complete outsider to the sport how would you describe the feeling when cycling a tandem bike?

Most people know what it is like to cycle their own bike. It is something they say you never forget. Well, being on a tandem means it is not just you. You have to work as a team. Both sets of peddles are conjoined. So, when I push down, the front also pushes down and vice versa. The pilot is known as the person who sits on the front of the tandem. They have control over the steering and changing of the gears. While the stoker, “me” sits on the back of the tandem. As the tandem is a heavier piece of equipment along with two body weights, going uphill is a workout but this also mean going down is a lot of fun reaching speeds of over 50km/h. This means that communication between pilot and stoker would have to be very strong and a great level of trust. Even things like leaning into bends and stopping at traffic lights need communication. We wear cycling cleats which allows our feet to be clicked into the peddles so before coming to a stop, we must click out. This means I rely on my pilot to communicate with me.

Would you cycle for leisure or competition?

I cycle for leisure. It’s always good to have an open mind, so maybe in the future I would consider competitions.

What is it that you enjoy about cycling most?

From the time I was very young, I loved being outdoors. Cycling gets me back out there but what I like most of all, is cycling with the club. It has been a way of meeting so many incredible people from all walks of life. It is a lot easier to cycle long distances and push yourself when you have support and competition. We have a lot of laughs along the way as well and it is a great way of keeping the body and mind fighting fit.

Were you previously or are you still involved in any other sport?

Growing up I did participate in mainstream sports. However, when I got to my teens, this became more challenging. I had then lost interest until I found tandem cycling and I’m not involved in any other sport at the moment.

What challenges and/or obstacles did you face, if any, getting involved in sport?

I would definitely say for me I had a lack of knowledge about what was possible. It was through the NCBI that I gained any knowledge of sport available to people with site loss. I suppose for the younger generation now, social media plays such a huge part in awareness and makes information a lot easier to access. Location of where some sports were taking place was also an issue. There weren’t many sports available for people with site loss in my local area. This was making me lose hope for participating in sport. I had never imagined that cycling a tandem bike with a local club would have even been possible.

What would you consider to be your biggest sporting achievement to date big or small?

In the year 2017 myself and my pilot at the time Billy Colton completed the club’s 8 county 100mile challenge. This was an all-day event where we made our way through the seven surrounding counties of Offaly. This is the longest distance I’ve completed to date.

What advice would you give to anyone in the vision impaired community who would like to get involved in cycling or any sport?

My advice would be to ask the questions. Find a local club and get in touch. Do not be afraid of rejection. The first step is to find out if it is possible, if it’s not, there may be something that is or someone else who can point you in the right direction. People can be extremely helpful, it’s all about getting in touch with the right people. If you don’t ask you will never know. The NCBI and Vision Sports can also help in this aspect, they may know of things going on in your area, so reach out to them. If you are eager to get active be persistent and don’t give up, you never know what could be possible.

Lastly, tell us about the fundraiser you and your club are participating in?

We are currently fundraising for a number of charities locally and nationally by completing an around the world in 80 days (4 times) challenge. Where we as a club we are tracking our individual distances to collectively achieve this target.  It is going very well so. Please follow and support our journey. All bikes are out to gather up as much road as possible for this and we at the club are very excited for this event. We are now in the final quarter and could use as much support as possible!

If you are interested in getting involved in sport or leisure in your local area, please feel free to contact the Vision Sports team on 01 405 6030 or visionsports@ncbi.ie for assistance.

From left to right 
Nurul, Martina, Trisha, Martin, Andy, Geraldine, Colin (pilot), Josie, Yvonne and Billy (pilot).
From left to right. Pat Donegan, Billy Colton, Josephine Healion, Colin Quinn and Geraldine Condron.

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