With Charles Hardimon’s eyes and Stephen Hare’s backseat driving, the combined pedal power of the Blaxland-based bike riding pair makes for a formidable force.
And this year their joint love of cycling will see them enter the Sunsuper Ride to Conquer Cancer — a 200 km ride over two challenging days in October. There’s only one tricky aspect. Stephen Hare is blind and completely reliant on Charles Hardimon to make it to the finish.
“It has taken a bit of getting used to,” says Hare of riding with his new friend and pilot, Hardimon.
“It does require a lot of trust (but) it is no scarier than going for a walk with my guide dog.”
Hare and Hardimon started riding together 11 months ago when Hardimon was made redundant from his job as an aircraft engineer at Mascot in March last year and was looking for a project.
“My wife Jennifer introduced us. I was unemployed and Stephen was keen to get out on the bike, she brought our cycling passion together and we started riding.”
The pair completed the popular MS Sydney to Gong ride in November last year and are now training for the epic October 12-13 cancer ride. Money raised from the 1600-strong competitor event goes directly to the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse at Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.
“After completing that (the Sydney to Gong) milestone we both wanted to do something bigger. The ride to conquer cancer is two-fold as we get to do what we love — riding — and raise money for the fight to conquer cancer at the same time.”
This month the pair will tackle a 200km training ride and then continue to step up the distances weekly.
“Juggling family life makes it difficult to ride more frequently so most of our riding is done at night and usually on bush trails,” Hardimon tells the Gazette.
A tandem bicycle has two positions. The captain is on the front of the bike, and has control over gears, steering and brakes as well as providing half the pedal power.
The stoker sits on the rear of the bike and provides the other half of the team’s speed.
“One of the many comments we get from other riders is ‘How do you guys ride that thing?’ The standard response is ‘We pedal just like you’,” he adds.
But they both admit it has been a bit of a logistical adjustment.
“We have learnt over time to sync our riding skills and have learnt to read each other fairly well on the bike,” says Hardimon. “If we come fast into a bend then I simply say ‘slow’ so Stephen knows to ease off the power. And we always start and stop on a particular foot and position.
“On the roads I signal to Stephen when we are stopping and starting (and) I always ask if he’s ready, this avoids the embarrassment of me riding off without him which has happened on two occasions.”
Hare gradually lost his sight through a congenital illness and has had a guide dog for two years.
“I miss seeing people’s faces, their expressions and particularly their smiles,” he says, but riding has helped him “get out and live life”.
Hardimon said their hardest training ride to date as a tandem team was a 97km ride from Blaxland to the M7 and back “mainly due to the Lapstone Hill climb at the end”.
“Stephen’s motto is ‘one piece’ — that is we get to the end in one piece.”
“I don’t feel like I am courageous,” Hare, who works as a counsellor, says. “I enjoy riding and am thankful that I have the opportunity to get out and have a go.”
Stephen Hare and Charles Hardimon need to raise a minimum of $2500 to enter the event which starts and finishes at Sydney’s Olympic Park.
Supporters can go to www.conquercancer.org.au/Sydney and enter Hare’s name to make a tax-deductible donation.