The first time we met the physio he asked about what our goals where. I said my first goal was riding my bike and he said that was a great goal but a little further out than the 3 weeks he was with us for!
He kept the goal tho. He said it’s important than the goals reflected what was important to me.
That led to the half joke / half serious comment that rather than ‘getting back on my feet’ I really needed to ‘get back on my wheels’.
Roll on a few weeks and we’ve got the start of a plan. I will almost certainly be riding a bike or trike before I can walk!
This post is about the plan and what we’ve already done and what we’re doing next.
I have two different but related goals.
Cycling - I’d like to get back to cycling around for fun. The sort of thing where we go for a 20-30km lap of a park or ride along the canal. The sort of things you’d find on a sustains bike map. Simple riding, mostly sat down and well suited to adapted trikes etc.
Technical Trail Riding - this is the riding I enjoy most. Proper mountain biking, riding challenging terrain on sophisticated full suspension bikes. This riding is difficult and mostly done stood up. I want to ride this on a standard bike I can build myself.
The goals are separate but they complement each other. I want to do both and in order to do so, I need two different plans.
Before I dive into the plans, here’s a quick overview of the situation I need to fix. The basic problem is that my trunk / core is very wobbly. I have two small side muscles trying to do the work my big core / tummy muscle used to do.
From a bike perspective we’ve learnt it means two main things. I can’t hold myself up for very long, and when I can hold myself up, I can’t hold my pelvis level. Just like desk chairs and car seats, unless I am supported or have something to hold onto, I tend to fall off sideways.
The cycling plan is the more immediate plan. I’ve sourced a basic trike (a Pashley TRI-1, like the one I ride at centre parcs) and a seat with side wings and a harness.
The trike is a starting point to help us work everything out. It’s reasonably affordable, i know it fits well (I’ve ridden them loads in the past!) and it’s flexible. I can use it as a test bed for experimentation.
I suspect I won’t use it all that long and there is probably an adapted electric trike or similar in my future. Maybe if the pashley TRI-1 goes really well I may be ready to commission something better by the summer. It’s hard to know.
For cycling we’re not worried about what’s normal. We’re not even attempting a normal bike. We’re using all the adaptions and we should have something workable pretty soon. Maybe as early as this weekend.
Unlike cycling where all the adaption is in the bike, for technical trail riding most of the adaption will be in me.
We have some solid foundations. After some experimenting and bracing we have found that I can stand on a mountain bike and even balance it well enough to do a track stand. Balancing the bike on the spot with my feet of the ground.
The issue is I can only hold myself up for around 45 seconds which isn’t really enough.
Luckily, I enjoy downhill riding, places like bike park wales where there is an uplift service. With that in mind I don’t need to be able to ride for all that long. As long as I am strong enough to hold on and direct the bike, I can enjoy an entire trail in short 2-3 minute slices..
The plan for mountain biking splits into three threads.
The first thread is building a suitable bike. This one is the simplest issue to fix. I already own the perfect frame for the task, my 2016 Santa Cruz Bronson.
It’s quite literally the perfect fit for what I need. To start with, it’s bright flipping pink, it’s never going to be subtle.
Its also good in other ways. It’s got a very short reach, so the riding position is upright. It takes a tall 160mm fork which means it has a high front end that is easy to reach from the seat. The seat itself is really low to the floor so I can touch the floor with my feet when I sit on it. Finally it’s an incredibly forgiving bike to ride. With 150mm of travel and clever VPP suspension It will keep me safe when I mess up.
Perhaps ironically, between the parts I had on order, the parts I can take of other bikes and the parts I’ve been leant by friends, the Bronson will be the highest specification bike I’ve ever owned with an RRP of over £10,000. Though I paid a fraction of that for it! The absurdity makes me smile. Perhaps the highest spec balance bike in the world!
The second thread is the brace. I’ll need something to help stiffen up the middle of me. We have a few options already, but this is perhaps the hardest area. They are expensive and for the most part it’s a long long process of trial and error.
The third and final thread is fitness and strength. This is going to take a while. Once the bike is built I will start doing track stands on it everyday to build up my balance and strength. Eventually I’ll hook it up to a turbo trainer or similar and use it for something like zwift. Training on the exact bike I will later be riding allows me to really tune in and learn the position.
I’m hoping that eventually this process will result in being able to enjoy mountain biking again.
It sounds a bit daft. But these two goals, are my primary goals in life right now. It won’t be quick and I am going to need to seriously work on my fitness and other parts of my life in order to make it happen.
However, I’m up for a challenge. I am highly motivated. I want this to work. I’ve done it before. From my gallstones operation till riding weekly took me almost 5 years last time. This times it’s a bigger challenge, but it is still feasible.
For a while now I’ve built my life around my bike adventures; I want that to continue. The bikes will change a little, but the sense of joy and adventure will remain part of my life well into the future.