Pedalling to Mobility - and Good Health
'After your first day of cycling, one dream is inevitable. A memory of motion lingers in the muscles of your legs, and round and round they seem to go. You ride through Dreamland on wonderful dream bicycles that change and grow'. (The Wheels of Chance - H G Wells)
No one agrees more with HG Wells than Robin Bramwell of Llansantfraidd /Glan Conwy, and Michael Doyle of Llysfaen. They may be of different generations, but they are certainly of one mind. Each has suffered physical trauma leaving them with mobility difficulties, but both have discovered the benefits of cycling.
Robin had a deep vein thrombosis in childhood which now causes pains and swelling of his legs, made worse when he is in a sitting position. Mike on the other hand has a lifetime of international mountaineering behind him, from such diverse locations as Nigeria and Siberia. In February 2002 he was climbing Aonach Mor in Scotland with a fellow member of the Alpine Club, when they were they struck by an avalanche. He received severe compound and comminute fractures to both ankles, but his companion, though herself injured, was able to get help.
After treatment in two Scottish hospitals, Mike transferred to Gobowen Orthopaedic Hospital near his daughter's home. Visiting one day, instead of bringing Mike's usual climbing magazine, she decided upon a cycling one, realising he would never climb again. Seeing an advert for an alloy bike, Mike immediately asked for a phone to be brought to his bed to place an order. Looking back now he thinks the nursing staff probably thought he had a brain injury as well!
With his first leg out of plaster he couldn't wait to assemble his new bike and take to the road. Although his cartilages have never recovered, and he has since had both ankles fused, he now rides regularly. He joined CTC's Eryri section, and finds forty miles in the saddle causes him less pain than walking around the house - something his friends find difficult to understand as he can barely walk. He explains that when walking, parts of the ankle carry five times the body weight, but when cycling most of the pressure falls on the saddle. Even when attending out-patient clinics, Mike is rarely without his bike. He often parks a distance away and cycles the rest, avoiding all the parking problems..
Robin Bramwell also finds cycling just what the doctor ordered. In his case he found mountain biking made his feet go numb - and this was getting worse. But the solution for him was when he read an advertisement for a recumbent cycle. Ten months saving, an internet bargain, and soon he was trying out his new machine. At first he found it strange pedalling in a lying position, but now he finds it easy on a level surface and going around corners - brilliant going down hills - but tough going up them. The riding position is perfect for his condition. His upper and lower back is well supported, and with legs moving forwards, there is no restriction of his circulation.
Both agree, cycling is their chosen passport to good health, fresh air, and no doubt a few admiring glances.
Mike, second from right, with some members of the CTC Eryri section, Caernarfon
Mike Doyle at the summit of Mont Dolent in the Alps, where France, Italy and Switzerland meet.
This article first appeared in the popular monthly magazine , North Wales Living
See also the 'Overcoming Disability' section in Cycle Life.