A few years back I was asked to write about my cycling experience as a guest blog & when I went to look for it to show to another blogger, it wasn't to be found online. I know I have I've been asked to write it again since & included details of my disability but can't find that too or who it was for, so I thought it's time to put it on my own blog & update it.
First time on a bike wasn’t successful, I was about 7yrs old & it took plenty of tumbles for me to learn to ride on a gloss Red hand painted 2nd hand bike bought by my parents for Christmas. I had zero experience in cycling or maintenance of cycles, I even fixed punctures with Sellotape around the tyre & rim, not successful I can tell ya & as you can guess the bike didn’t last long but I had managed to learn to cycle in that short time & got the bug to be on 2 wheels for life.
I didn’t go near another bike until my teens, so at the age of 13 I decided it was time to get another bike & worked a few w/e's for my dad in his shop to get the money together & bought my very first BMX. It was a lovely bike, it hummed as I cycled due to the tyres & thus due to its colour & being a fan of the new cartoon of that era, I called it Bumblebee & we had many good rides for some years & even some long rides.
I went cycling around town regularly on it & eventually upgraded to a Raleigh Maverick a few years later when I was looking for a more robust cycle to be able to carry goods on a rack at around the time I was planning to go to college & wanted to cycle there.
The Maverick was an awesome cycle & went everywhere on it, even when I moved to motorcycles I still used my Maverick coz it was so much fun. Even kept the BMX as it was a fun muck around cycle to have.
I was fully fit in my younger years, cycling everywhere & had an active life. That was until when I was approaching 20yrs old I started having issues with numb, tingling sensation in my left leg which eventually became pain. And after a number of operations to try fix a trapped nerve, at the age of 23 I had to give up cycling & replaced it with crutches. It pained me that I had to sell both my Maverick & the BMX as I was told I'll never cycle ever again. And back then we didn’t have the resources of the internet, social media or easily available information & technology on how to keep cycling with disabilities like we have now.
So now fast forward over a decade, I have adapted to life on sticks & do what I can to keep weight down & be as fit as possible as I couldn't cycle or do much that involved using my legs.
In 2005 I started to get a new pain in left leg & was unrelated to the damaged nerve. After checks & tests it turned out to be a Bone Cyst in my Femur bone, the bone was literally turning to jelly. I was booked in fast to get it sorted as it was on the verge of snapping, so no kicking, jumping, falling over, etc in case it snaps. It gave me the heebies thinking about it.
But this problem was going to be a blessing to me, for the specialist doing the operation offered me another chance to fix the nerve damage as it was by the area being operated on. His words were 'things have moved on in technology & he can't make it any worse' so I agreed & had the op (My Bone Cyst Op’) & all I can say is it was all worthwhile.
Now it was down to my leg to heal & rebuild, partly coz the surgeons really went to work on my leg & couldn't move my toes for a month. Physio was hard work & soon started to get leg stronger, pain from damaged nerve had almost gone but as I was putting more weight on my leg the knee wasn't coping with having to take the weight again. I did try to go stick free in 2009 but didn't work out & was too soon for the knee as it made it worse due to early signs of Arthritis in the knee as well as weakness in the muscles around it.
So I did more physio again & again, at different hospitals as I had moved to Essex in 2010. But this proved to be for the best as it was suggested during physio in 2011 to take up cycling again as a low impact exercise for my knee as I had no trouble with the exercise machines. So in June I went & bought a 'to work on' bike to suit me when I built it & thus my next bike created was known as The Beast.
And with cycling I was building up my leg strength, starting with doing just a mile & eventually building up to be able to do trips to town of a few miles, events like 30 Days of Biking & sponsored 35 mile cycle ride in April 2013. I was still on a stick as knee was still giving me agro so I just kept on pushing the limit just a lil bit more each time I rode, knowing I will get there if I took my time & a lot of determination & stubbornness.
After moving again, I had new territory to do my cycling & boy it is hilly around here & on a heavy Beast with shopping it sure was a workout which proved to be worthwhile. I didn’t go to the nearest supermarket to buy my shopping, no I went to the furthest one. This meant pulling a 20+kg weight of shopping on a 25kg bike over the hills, this was hard work but it got easier as my leg & knee improved even more.
In August, I started doing a couple hours a day working at Re-Cycle, a charity helping get unwanted & donated bikes ready to be sent to Africa. Also it meant I was standing on my feet doing the work & also was cycling 7 miles each way to this place too, this proved to help a lot. I also found myself another bike to ride, my Terkr (Trek 7300). A lighter bike & definitely up'ed the game for me in cycling. So this is where I decided in October to ditch the sticks as I felt ready too.
The Knee felt ready too, though it did grumble a bit when I pushed the boundaries. But as long as it was holding out & getting stronger, I stayed stick free but still used the stick for carrying heavy shopping.
But I wanted to cycle further & previous cycles were too heavy, so whilst at Re-Cycle I bought myself a really light frame & gone & built myself another bike which I call The Roadrunner. More details of this cycle can be found in this blog: Project: Roadrunner, the evolution of a personal bike, it's a lighter bike to suit my needs. Meant I can cycle further than I have ever done so far & in 2014 I did 2 sponsored rides that pushed my limits, the J hospice 50 mile Pedal for the J's & the 100km Nightrider London (Tale of 2 charity rides...).
They weren’t easy to do & pushed my limits beyond what I have been able to do before, but that is what's needed. For its this sort of determination that's needed to get my level of fitness anywhere near to how it was in my early teens. And that year was my best year to date where I cycled the furthest I have ever done & the most miles cycled in a year, unfortunately it was short lived as in 2015 my bad knee locked up & wasn't able to cycle for 3 months whilst back at physio & I had to find a better cycle which was less strain on my legs & knee.
Also at the end of 2014 I won a competition where I won a cycle upto the value of £300, so I decided to get a folding cycle to help get about to & from stations when I visit relatives across the country & can't take a standard cycle.
This proved to be a lovely cycle to take about on public transport once I made certain adjustments on it. More about this cycle is in this blog: Meet my lil Foldie...
And later in May 2015, I found a cycle suitable for my regular needs when I went window shopping around the cycle shops & the only cycle shop to offer help (Cycles UK) let me cycle what they thought was the best cycle for my disability around the car park & they were right. It wasn't the best setup on the cycle but it felt perfect to ride & knee did not complain, so I went for it & a week later I put a deposit on a Electra Townie & paid for it in installments & then collect it when paid for. And in October it was paid for & I collected it, our first cycle ride as factory standard cycle & we cycled 23 miles home & it was bliss!
Now anyone who knows me & my cycles would know this looks like nothing to what I've been cycling for past few year & they be right, for this was factory standards & as nice as it was to ride it wasn't quite right so I did a few tweaks to it's layout & it became my Cruiser.
Now this was a heavier cycle of around 23kg & found due to it's ergonomics I could cycle long distances. I soon started to be able to do 50 mile cycle rides on it, went places I didn't think I could before. Unfortunately my disability chose to get worse & in 2016 I decided I needed an ebike to help after trying out some at London Bike Show & came across this lil beauty, the Momentum Upstart.
It was light, comfortable & perfect for what I needed, unfortunately the price wasn't. So I started a crowdfund account to get one & asked for help & with my heartfelt thanks those who believed in me (I asked for your help & with many thanks you did!), we did manage to raise 1/2 the funds when the dealership for them informed me of one going up for sale by one of their customers & I bought it. Again I adjusted the cycle to suit my needs better as was required for long rides as well as shopping & my Dutchess came into being.
She was a lovely cycle, even got to cycle to work with it from time to time 22 miles away & proved invaluable for cycling with heavy loads.
But alas my disability just kept getting worse, both Roadrunner & Dutchess became painful to cycle as now both legs were starting to fail me. So had to put Dutchess up for sale & stick with Cruiser as it was only cycle I could continue to use due to it's ergonomics, tho less often. In 2017 I bought another Townie to recreate another Cruiser to build into my own more suitable ebike & eventually in 2019 Dutchess was sold. So I bought an ebike conversion kit from abroad & before it had arrived I had an operation on my spine as was discovered this was the cause of my leg problems all along, more of that is explained here: The road to recovery has taken a left turn & the end is nowhere to be seen!
So far I have managed almost 90 miles on it & not even used half the charge of the battery & I have been really pushing it to get the most from the motor to assist so can see this will happily do long rides on a full charge.
So for now that is all I have, this story hasn’t really got an ending as it is still continuing. I honestly don’t know if I will achieve full fitness like I used to have & unlikely will, but that shouldn’t stop me in trying. After all if I stopped trying years back, I sure wouldn’t have achieved what I have so far & I am happy with how far I have got if it goes no further. And I do have plans for my next cycle to build to try keep ahead of my disability & yes it's another Cruiser style cycle, more like a lowrider...