Tandem Cycling competitions are tough even when you have sight. It takes dedication, and a lot of hard work. For Scott Smith of Tucson, Ariz., his black Lab guide Scully figures into the mix, because the Guide Dog lifestyle is an active lifestyle. Scully is from Guide Dogs for the Blind.
"Today, I'm in better shape than ever before, and that's partly a direct result of having my Guide Dog Scully," Scott said. "I wanted a high spirited dog, and that's what I got. I'm a competitive cyclist. With Scully, I'm able to go every place. I race with total confidence.
"I started losing my vision when I was 19 due to retinitis pigmentosa. Before that, I loved bicycle racing. It's what kept me on the straight and narrow. But after my vision deteriorated, I had to give it up. I hadn't ridden in 15 years until my sister introduced me to a guy who raced with a tandem bicycle and we started working together as a team. I was amazed at how fast it all came back. After three months of training, we placed second in tandem racing at the national championship, and we won the state championship in 2005. Someday I'd like to win a medal for the US in the Paralympic Games.
"Tandem cycling involves teamwork and so does working with a Guide Dog. You have a sighted pilot that steers the bike and the follower or stoker who stays in sync with the cues. It's similar to the relationship I have with Scully. In guidework, I'm the one with the mental map; I give Scully the command to go forward. It's his job to steer me around obstacles. I stay in sync with the cues he communicates through the harness handle.
"Scully's great when I have to traverse strange airports with armloads of gear. I enjoy having him along on trips. There's not just "I" or one, there are two of us. He and I are a team."