Cyclists prepare for gruelling 437km ride | Guide Dogs NSW/ACT

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31 August, 2016

Cyclists prepare for gruelling 437km ride

Ben and Toby during a training ride on the tandem bike.

Toby takes on new challenge

A penchant for extreme sports and pushing his body to the limits has resulted in Toby Sullivan jumping out of a plane for a tandem sky dive, ski down mountains without the use of a pole and ride hundreds of kilometres in all weather conditions.

The 33-year-old Beecroft resident, who is vision impaired and paralysed in his right arm, is always looking for a new challenge, so when he heard cyclists talking about the Zoo2Zoo ride – a three day 437 kilometre bike ride from Taronga Zoo to Dubbo Zoo – he decided he had to conquer it.

“You just have to tell me I can’t do something and I will find a way to prove you wrong,” Toby said. “I’ve never backed away from a challenge and bike riding is a sport I feel I can achieve a lot in.”

A car accident when Toby was three-years-old resulted in vision loss due to optic nerve damage, paralysis in his right arm and partial paralysis in his right leg, but this has never stopped him from pursuing a range of sports.

“I had to become left handed when I was very young. I took up blind cricket and played at State level, was selected for the Blind Games where I competed in shot-put and discus and I’ve even joined a 10-pin bowling competition,” he said. “I have four brothers who are very much into sport so they have always encouraged me.”

It was his brothers who organised the tandem sky dive as a birthday present, an experience he will never forget. “It was absolutely amazing. You fall at 200 kilometres an hour. I would definitely do it again,” Toby said.

Introduced to the joys of bike riding by neighbour

About four years ago, a neighbour introduced Toby to the world of cycling.

“I am the only vision impaired person in the Village Cyclists group,” Toby said. “They are a great bunch of blokes and really supportive.”

He quickly turned casual outings into much more gruelling rides taking part in the 235 kilometre 3 Peaks Challenge in Victoria a couple of years ago.

“I’d heard a lot about the Zoo2Zoo and thought to myself that could be my next challenge. I’ll have a crack at that,” Toby said.

Toby and Ben in their Zoo2Zoo outfits standing with the tandem bike.

When he is not on the bike, Toby, who has received services from Guide Dogs NSW/ACT since he was child, uses a long cane to move around independently. 

From learning how to travel through the school environment, to Tafe in Hornsby and the places he works, Toby has received training from an Orientation & Mobility Specialist from Guide Dogs. This has included learning how to navigate from his home to his workplace in Prestons on three trains and a taxi using his cane.

He recently used his orientation skills when travelling with an Ashes tour group where he met Merv Hughes.

Toby’s commute of more than an hour to work gives him plenty of time to read, listen to music and think about the upcoming bike ride.

In the past, different members of the group have ridden on the tandem bike with Toby, but at the moment he is riding with Ben Myers, who he will ride the Zoo2Zoo challenge with.

Training every day for big event

“As we get closer to the event we will begin to ride about 150 kilometres a day and then the next day get up and ride about 90 or 100 kilometres to prepare,” Toby said. “At the moment I ride with the group during the week from Beecroft to Bobbin Head and back and on the weekends we do longer rides.”

Toby said he was so grateful to the group. “I have such a great bunch of blokes around me and they have really taken me on board,” he said.

Learnings from his long ride in Victoria will ensure his success. “I really didn’t listen to my body during that ride and kept pushing on,” he said. “I got to the 190 kilometre mark and hit the wall and thought I can’t go any further, I have to stop. I was physically wrecked and had to rely on the bloke in front of me to keep going,” he said.

He did however push on and finished the ride in just over 13 hours. He was the only tandem cyclist to participate.

Toby said the pace of the Zoo2Zoo would help with fatigue. “As it’s over three days, each night you get to rest and recuperate before heading out again. I can imagine I’ll probably collapse into my bed,” he said.

The ride will take place from Friday, October 14 to Sunday, October 16.

Ben and Toby during a training ride on the tandem bike.

Never one to sit still for long, Toby then hopes to complete the 160 kilometre Cricket Ride from the SCG to Bradman Oval in Bowral. 

Guide Dogs Orientation & Mobility Specialists works with about 4,000 people of all ages to help them achieve their mobility goals each year.

Every day 28 Australians are diagnosed with uncorrectable vision loss, including nine who become blind.

Ben and Toby will raise funds for the Black Dog Institute during the ride.

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