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The year’s Pedal For Parkinson’s will take riders around the southern cape of the North Island from Pahaoa to Ngawi around Cape Palliser.
Cox and Jones training at the Carterton Mountain Bike Park on their newly constructed tandem bike.
Veteran cyclist Rod Sutherland with Pete Jones taking part in the Wairarapa Road Racing Cycling Champs last week on a tandem.
Pedal For Parkinson’s organiser Catherine Rossiter-Stead tries out the route ahead of next week’s event.
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When Pete Jones is on the back of a tandem he doesn’t hold back. Sometimes that’s a problem.
Sport is important to Jones and has become more so as a degenerative eye condition has robbed him of sight.
It gets the 51-year-old out of the house and prevents him from retreating to comfort of familiar surroundings.
“When you have eyesight that’s useful, you’re independent, but as my disease has progressed your world shrinks and you become less and less inclined to go out to places. Everything’s an effort and you have to do a bit of planning.
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“It’s very easy just to stay home. In your home environment you don’t feel blind.”
Jones’ rediscovered love of speed and thrills has led to his latest challenge, The Pedal For Parkinson’s mountain bike ride around the south east coast of the North Island on Sunday.
When he’s on the back of a mountain bike that fellow multisporter Derek Cox recently built for the event, Jones’ natural inclination to push hard can clash with the pilot’s desire to slow down for obstacles.
“It’s a real buzz. It’s quite different from road cycling … I’m on the back seeing nothing useful whatsoever and keep pushing when I shouldn’t be. We’ve only come off once so far but I’m sure it will happen again.”
Jones competes in the weekly run-bike biathlon in Masterton on Thursday nights. He runs behind Cox holding the end of a guide cane and then gets on the back of a road tandem with veteran cyclist Rod Sutherland.
“With the aid of these amazing people in the community, it means a lot to me because it motivates me to get out and it’s nice to have that support,” Jones said.
Jones has Retinitis Pigmentosa, a rare genetic disorder that leads to a breakdown and loss of cells in the retina – the light sensitive tissue that lines the back of the eye.
He was diagnosed when he was 13.
“When I was a boy my eyesight was fine to involve myself in everything else that boys did.”
He was able to drive until 2000, but the disease has progressed at a rapid rate in recent years and Jones now struggles to make out shapes or colours.
“I have to use a cane to get around anywhere that’s unfamiliar. I’m also on the waiting list for a guide dog.”
Jones said it was impossible for sighted people to understand what it was like to go blind.
“When I was younger I was always a bit of a thrill-seeker. I always drove way too fast and had super fast motorbikes and I mountain biked. That changes quite dramatically when you can’t see where you’re going.”
Cox bought a second-hand road tandem and took the wheels and front end off a mountain bike and cobbled together an off-road machine for two so they could take part in the coastal ride fundraiser.
The pair rode the 160 kilometre Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge together in 2017 where they were the fastest in their category and last year Jones completed his first marathon to raise money for a guide dog charity.