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Monday / July 15.
HomemifeatureFirst Hand Account: Blind Courage

First Hand Account: Blind Courage

On Monday, 29 March, brothers Lorin and Dean Nicholson set off from Perth to ride separate tandem pushbikes more than 4,000 kilometres across the brutal Nullarbor Plains to Sydney with the aim of raising funds for Vision Australia.

To complete the grueling journey, the Nicholson brothers had the help of two mates who acted as pilot riders on the tandem bikes. They needed these pilots because both Lorin and Dean have been legally blind since birth due to retinitis pigmentosa. Almost a month after setting off, the brothers rode into the precincts of the Sydney Opera House to a heroes’ welcome.

This is Lorin Nicholson first hand account of how the extraordinary brothers fulfilled their dream.

During our four week journey we encountered many extreme challenges from riding in 50 degree heat in Western Australia, to five degree icy cold mornings in South Australia. Not to mention battling flies and dust and sore muscles, painful butts, numb hands and feet from the constant vibration on the road, utter body fatigue from holding yourself on a bike for hours and hours, day after day after day (180km average per day).

The final roll down Macquarie Street on to the forecourts of the Opera House was a moment I will never forget as the clapping and cheering began to get louder and louder.

We rode through thunder storms, and were rained upon for three days solid with shoes full of water, clothes soaked through, cattle trucks spraying god knows what all over you as they passed and a lack of water for one whole week across the Nullarbor. However the real challenge amid all of this was having to maintain a positive mental focus. There were so many days when your mind and body just didn’t want to be there and when the harsh Australian elements would be screaming at you to give up, but we had to keep those pedals turning and wheels rolling along and maintain the faith that every kilometre ridden was one kilometre closer to home.


In South Australia, we encountered a mouse infestation, where my brother Dean and I were up in the middle of the night trying to catch them in our motor home with our bare hands. Then there were the millions of locusts coming through southern New South Wales, with our pilot riders John and Grant periodically calling out ‘close your mouth everyone, here comes another swarm’. Then they’d hit you like gun fire about the head, arms and legs with a sharp sting that felt like some one shooting you with a dozen rubber bands.

Our bikes managed to hold up pretty well, besides a dozen broken spokes and ten flat tyres between the two tandems. Dean and Grant did however did manage to brake a few teeth on their front chain ring, which meant that the chain would jump off the cog occasionally. No one fell off and hurt themselves, although Dean and I both, at different times, couldn’t get our feet out of the clip in pedals, so when the bike came to a stop and our pilot riders elegantly hopped off, we inelegantly fell to the ground in a heap. We all suffered from incredible butt soreness, which is to be expected when you’re sitting on those little seats for so many hours a day.

Dean also suffer from an inflamed Achilles tendon for half the trip and I was forced to take some anti-inflammatories to keep an extremely painful collateral ligament in my right knee from seizing up. In fact, during the third week, I would wake up in the middle of the night and couldn’t even straighten my leg. Thank goodness for the two days off in Mildura that allowed our injuries and aching bodies to return back to something resembling normal.

Amazing Welcome

The people in each town and community through which we passed were amazing as they welcomed us with open arms and extended the most gracious hospitality. We had children from three years old, to grandmas of 93-years-old encouraging us and giving a little donation to Vision Australia along the way. Some even travelled for more than 100 kilometres just to meet us on the road side or at a community function which we were attending.

There were many other cyclists wishing to join our ride for part of the trip, which was great to see, especially when some of them were fellow blind tandem cyclists like us. I was also amazed when we began traveling through South Australia to find that many radio stations and newspapers were starting to ring us for interviews and pictures as the word of our history making ride was spreading like wild fire before us. The media were all so supportive and keen to promote our cause.

Ecstatic Finish

On the last day we were ecstatic to find out that some one had organised a police escort from Bass Hill (an outer Sydney suburb) through to our final destination at the Sydney Opera House. It was the slowest 25 kilometres of the trip due to the traffic lights, however what a thrill to be able to ride up Parramatta Road and then down George Street without anyone honking their horns at us. The final roll down Macquarie Street on to the forecourts of the Opera House was a moment I will never forget as the clapping and cheering began to get louder and louder. There must have been well over a hundred friends, fans and family.

Cameras began flashing and the media were first to greet us as we dismounted our trusty tandems. What an amazing journey! Something like 4120 kms in four weeks and the first time a blind person has ever ridden across the country. It was wonderful to finally take my wife and children in my arms and to share this extraordinary moment with them, but to have done it along side my brother Dean, with our Dad John supporting us every step of the way was a dream come true. It was a triumphant moment that will live on in my memory forever.

It was also amazing to have my four sisters waiting with mum, especially when we hadn’t been together as a family for over 14 years. My sisters Geneal and Louise had made the long trip over from the USA just to be there as their big brothers crossed that finish line and created Australian history. They’re all very special girls and it was wonderful to have their smiling faces to greet us.

Just Do it

The ride may be over now, but the journey has just begun! In the short term, we are still hoping to raise money for Vision Australia by running and promoting smaller fund raising activities such as schools etc, which will continue until the end of this financial year, so all donations are still welcome through our www.blindcourage.com website.

Apart from raising money, Dean and I have a goal to change public perception and social attitudes towards the disabled. We want to give all Aussies the opportunity to feel free to fully participate in any activity they wish and live the life they choose, regardless of their abilities or disabilities. This is not only achieved through the services of Vision Australia and other service organisations, but also by all Australians believing that they should give one another a fair go. It is important for people to look for the positives in people and to help build upon the talents and strengths of each individual.

Life will hopefully return to normal for a while before we tackle our next adventure. Who knows what the Nicholson brothers will get up to next, but what ever that is, we hope it not only allows us to achieve our own dreams, but inspires others to achieve theirs!

However it would be more correct for me to say…. Don’t just dream it, go and do it!

Lorin Nicholson, along with his brother Dean are true Australian legends. Together they rode over 4,000kms from Perth to Sydney on separate tandem pushbikes to raise funds for Vision Australia. For more info on Lorin Nicholson go to www.lorinnicholson.com