We both retired in the summer of 2017 and live in North Hampshire on the Berkshire border. We’re active and keen cyclists. Bob used to take part in mountain bike off-road orienteering events and cycle commuted to work a couple of days a week, more in the summer. Karon cycled to work for years, every day, come rain or shine. While much of our spare time is spent on a bike, we also like to paint/sketch, so take our watercolour kits and pads with us when we holiday or go on day trips.
Karon has mixed connective tissue disease – an auto-immune disorder which damaged her pancreas, so she has been type 1 diabetic since age 16. Her own immune system also attacked her lungs and the lining of her heart, so she finds cycling (and even walking) up hill extremely hard. To keep her diabetes as stable as possible, she tries to follow a low carb diet, which mainly means no bread, rice, potatoes or pasta. She tries to stick to meat or fish with green vegetables. When we are cycle touring, this can often make finding a lunch or evening meal difficult, as most fast-food comes loaded with carbs, so we tend to carry a few low carb items she can eat, just in case.
Bob is the owner of a pacemaker (Dec 2018) which though it is adjusted as well as it can be, is a limiting factor when it comes to putting in sustained effort on a hill climb or sprint. And late in 2023 Bob managed to rupture his right quadriceps tendon (from top of thigh into the top of the knee). This had to be rectified with surgery and at time of writing he is not allowed to ride! In the longer term this will also affect how far we are able to ride in one go. So all-in-all, we are not the healthiest or fastest in our peer group, but I like to think we are still cycling fit! We are not fast and don’t do huge daily distances, but we get there in the end.
As our cycling abilities were quite disparate, we started tandeming in 2009 with a second-hand Thorn Explorer – just to see if it did the trick. After a couple of years we concluded that yes, it did, and looked to invest in a new tandem – one that fitted us – and, for a variety of reasons, decided on a Hase Pino. It has some advantages over a ‘normal’ tandem – it’s easier to communicate and a lot more comfortable for the stoker, which is good for Karon.
The Pino is our favourite, but we also have a second ‘normal’ tandem – a Cannondale – which is nice and light and fast for the odd sportive or ‘blast’ around local lanes. Then we have one or two solo bikes to add variety to our riding.
As well as being keen on cycling, we’ve also done a fair bit of travelling over the years. In 2001 Karon won a cash prize at a work suggestion scheme. It was enough to allow us to take a three-week tour of Peru, Chile and Bolivia! In 2004 we travelled to Egypt and in 2005 drove much of Route 66 in the USA, taking our younger son Holland with us. Other trips include China and New Zealand – so take a look at our Holidays page to see all the places we’ve been.
A little closer to home, we’ve combined the urge to travel with the love of cycling and used the Pino to go on a few long cycle tours. In 2012 we rode the Pino from Land’s End to John O’Groats via the Lizard and Dunnet Head. We were unsupported but stayed in B&Bs, pubs and hotels. Most of our travels have been with the Pino in the back of our car and just riding out from a base, but we celebrated retirement in 2017 by cycling from The Hook of Holland (leaving the car at Harwich) to the International Tandem Rally that year in Germany.
We’ve participated in the London Tweed Run several times and it’s always a grand day out. Of course, we are not averse to putting the Pino in the car and taking it abroad for some tandem adventures: to Germany for Tandemtreffen in 2018, which we’ve repeated since (bar Covid years). In July/August 2018 we drove to Sweden for the International Tandem Rally on Öland. In the summer of 2019 we cycled from home to the South of France, finishing a long and hot tour in Toulouse. From there we went on to join the International Tandem Rally in Marciac.
Since retirement we’ve also been collecting ‘BCQs’ (British Cycle Quest) – a national cycling treasure hunt, there are six clues in each major county or collective area (like the Western Isles) with 402 in total. We are not obsessive about it, but have collected all the clues local to us, within a ride from home. We took a mini tour from home in the summer of 2018, to the Isle of Wight, collecting all the remaining Hampshire BCQs and those on the island.