For Nathan Elder, nothing beats cruising the South Platte bike trail, or racing around the 50 miles of trails surrounding Dillon Reservoir, feeling the wind in his face and seeing the beauty surrounding him.
And sometimes, he takes someone with him.
Elder, a water resource engineer at Denver Water, volunteers for Eyecycle, a not-for-profit volunteer run organization that pairs sighted riders with visually impaired and blind adults on tandem bikes.
“I love riding, and it’s great to be able to share that experience with someone who otherwise wouldn’t be able to ride outside,” Elder said. “It’s great to see the stokers – the riders in the back – get outside in the fresh air and enjoy themselves.
“Many of them cycle inside on stationary bikes, so being able to help them get outside to ride is really rewarding,” he said.
Elder joined Eyecycle about five years ago, when he came across their booth at a Denver Century Ride event. He now serves as the organization’s vice president, focusing his energy not only on leading rides, but also on recruiting volunteers, performing bike maintenance and helping the organization raise funds.
He’s a master of mountain and road bikes, but before joining Eyecycle, Elder had never ridden a tandem. “It’s definitely different,” he said. “It’s much heavier, slower and harder to maneuver.” Eyecycle provided the short training he needed to become a captain, and Elder has been guiding trips ever since.
Constant verbal communication is the key to a successful ride, he said. He lets the stoker know when they need to slow down, stop or turn. And in between providing directions, Elder enjoys chatting with his fellow riders.
“I get the opportunity to get out and ride and meet new people, and our stokers get to experience the thrill of outdoor riding,” he said.
In addition to many 15- to 20-mile rides each season, Eyecycle also helps riders participate in longer events, like the MS 150 – a two-day, round-trip ride between Denver and Fort Collins to benefit Multiple Sclerosis. Eyecycle riders also have participated in Pedal the Plains, the Cheyenne Sunrise Lion’s Club Ride for Sight, Ride the Rockies and other popular biking events.
“It’s great because they can get out and ride in these events to support other causes and really feel they are making a difference,” Elder said.
So, what do you need to volunteer? Not much, he said
“If you have a water bottle and a helmet, you can be a volunteer,” he said. The group’s fleet of tandem bikes are all donated, many by Davinci Designs, a local company that specially builds bikes for this purpose.
“The bikes are really custom. They have independent pedaling, meaning each rider can go at his or her own speed. This is great for a new rider who may not be as comfortable riding, or one who may need to coast a bit more,” Elder said.
Visit the Eyecycle website for more information. After a short training, you’ll be out and about on Colorado’s beautiful trails, giving the ride of a lifetime to a blind or visually impaired person.