Mountain Biking With The Blind Ride Tomorrow.
Can you imagine mountain biking with your eyes closed? Well, that’s what it’s like for the blind mountain bikers you will meet if you participate in their fund-raising group ride on Saturday November 6th, in Irvine Regional Park, in Orange County, California. The good news is, sighted riders are welcome, and they do not have to close their eyes or wear blindfolds.
I went mountain biking with these riders ten years ago, and it is still one of the most memorable and inspirational mountain biking experiences of my life.
The riders in the group were introduced to the sport by a mountain-biker-turned-blind-rehabilitation-counselor named Andy Griffin (not the actor). Andy worked in a bike shop. One day a blind man came into the bike shop and bought a bike so he could start riding. Andy was so fascinated by the challenges involved that he went to school to learn how to work with the blind. After Andy began working in that field, he tried mountain biking with a blindfold on, following a sighted rider, and found that he could do it. He told some of the young blind students he worked with about the experience, and the next thing he knew, he had several blind students, both young men and women, wanting to go riding with him every chance they could.
We did a story about them in Mountain Bike Action in 2001, and the riders, calling themselves “the B.A.T.S.” (the Blind Adventure Travel Society), ended up getting international attention from newspapers, magazines and television. One of the founders, Daniel Kish, who later created World Access for the Blind, was even featured in a “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” book, with a picture of him riding his mountain bike through a stream.
Anyway, the group is getting back together again on November 6th for a fund raising group ride, and the public is welcome. It is sure to be one of the most memorable mountain biking experiences of your life if you choose to participate. Here’s what a spokesperson from the group has to say about the upcoming ride:
Want to Mountain Bike with the Blind?
Do you think it’s amazing that blind people can mountain bike? World Access for the Blind has a No Limits Philosophy and believes that the blind are capable of anything, even mountain biking! The nonprofit is celebrating their 10th Anniversary with a very special event on November 6th at Irvine Regional Park. Mountain Biking with the Blind, sponsored by 97.1 AMP Radio, Chumba Racing, and Purefit Nutrition Bars, is a unique and exciting experience that will give the mountain biking community an opportunity to ride with the blind and be inspired! World Access for the Blind has learned to modify different sports such as mountain biking so that the blind can participate. For mountain biking, it’s as simple as having a zip tie attached to the wheels of the bikes so that blind riders can hear the direction and speed of the bikes ahead of and behind them.
World Access for the Blind is using this 10th Anniversary event to raise awareness and raise funds. Mountain bikers interested in participating in this fundraiser can sign up individually or create a team. All funds raised will support World Access for the Blind’s sports programs for blind youth in Southern California and mobility programs for blind people around the world. This event will show blind youth and their parents that they can participate in ANY activity. Sports like mountain biking give blind youth an unparalleled sense of freedom and independence that provides them with the confidence to take on any challenge.
World Access for the Blind is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to facilitate the self-directed achievement of blind people. They are a team of dedicated staff who lead by example – as they are blind themselves! Their mobility coaches travel the world teaching FlashSonar (echolocation), mobility, and life skills to other blind youth and adults, and they are known for their No Limits attitude. Their work has been featured on ABC, BBC, Discovery Channel, and in numerous international publications. In addition, their group of completely blind mountain bikers has been featured in Mountain Bike Action and Psychology Today. To see a video of the organization and their blind riders in the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, click here.
Participants can sign up as individuals or create a team by clicking here.
World Access for the Blind
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Daniel Kish, riding blind in California. Photo by John Ker.