Team Bader Cycling has launched its 2015 programme in style with Douglas Bader Foundation Ambassadors, Margaret “Maggz” Biggs and Wyn Jenkins both turning in great performances in Time Trials events last weekend. Maggz a below knee amputee and Wyn an above knee amputee cycle under the banner of Team Bader Amputees, now an officially affiliated and recognised group.
Wearing the Team Bader Cycling kit designed by Maggz, they do a huge amount to raise awareness not just of the DBF but of amputee cycling generally if you don’t blink when they fly past! Few amputees take part in Time Trial competitions and we are very proud that Team Bader Amputees is the first amputee cycling group to be registered to compete. The DBF is sincerely grateful to both Maggz and Wyn for their huge efforts on behalf of the DBF. No charity could wish for better Ambassadors.
To cycle at speed for a given distance would be hard enough for anyone but for an amputee, where the balance of the bike is affected and must constantly be physically adjusted and maintained, it is a great deal harder. Wyn’s wonderful blog below makes the experience real for us all and I don’t think anyone could fail to be moved by the sheer grit needed to achieve what he did. It is inspirational reading.
The idea behind Team Bader Cycling is to encourage amputees and other disabled to take up cycling and enjoy the broad spectrum of benefits to be gained by participating in a sport. To do so as part of a team, particularly where you are raising awareness of and possibly funds for a good cause is the icing on the cake!
Please join us. Regardless of disability and experience you will be given a warm welcome, lots of advice and the company of like-minded individuals. While encouraged on your own cycling journey you will never be asked to do more than you can or want to do. If you take part in any of the events, you will be guaranteed support and the opportunity to wear one of the bespoke DBF cycling kits. How could you resist?!
Hopefully reading Wyn’s wonderful blog will inspire you. He brings the highs and lows of the experience to life and if the lows are low then the sense of achievement at the finish must be high indeed. So please read it and be inspired to become a part of this great team…
…on yer bike!
Please contact us using the form at the bottom of this page if you’d like more information about Team Bader Cycling and we will put you in touch with Maggz or Wyn. The cycling schedule for 2015 will be published very shortly so, if there’s an event in your area, do go along and support
Wyn Jenkins Time Trial 7th March 2015
In January I was asked to join Wendy and David on an evening when fellow DBF Ambassador Margaret Biggs received a “Best All Rounder” award at the Road Time Trials Championship dinner. For those unfamiliar with the world of skin suits, aero helmets and really fast bikes, this discipline is a true test of a cyclist’s ability to ride at speed for a given distance against the clock….it’s often brutal and a world of suffering! Maggz, as we affectionately call her, has cycling in her DNA and was a very competitive cyclist in her early 20’s before she had a bad accident and eventually lost her lower right leg. She became the first female paracyclist and represented GB at a time when the women had their events lobbed in with the men’s race. She’s built like a whippet and has a high power to weight ratio and even in her 60’s (we’re both 64 years old), she’s very very competitive. Anyway, she out-rode many females decades younger than her and ended up with an average speed of over 20 mph over distances from 20 – 100 miles. Imagine riding your bike at that speed for 5 hours – incredible achievement!!
Anyway, there I was watching on and fascinated by the various award winners who ranged in age from the early teens to those in their 80’s. I do ride a bike and I think I ride pretty well for an above knee amputee, having lost my right leg following hospital acquired infection back in 2008 at the age of 57. I became good friends with Maggz through the DBF forum and we encouraged each other to start doing some longer distance rides. Maggz at the time was just cycling for fun on a very heavy mountain bike – and so was I!! The first event was a 62 mile ride on the Isle of Wight, when we finished after the time keepers had gone home and in darkness. A few months later, we rode another event in Wales that took us over The Black Mountains on a 70 mile very demanding course – we finished yet again at the back of the field but we didn’t care as we’d had a great time. I would never have dreamed of cycling 70 miles with two good legs let alone with just the one but my enthusiasm was growing with every moment on the bike. Losing a limb IS a big deal and aside from the physical challenges associated with learning to walk with a prosthesis, you also have the psychological challenges of learning to live with your changed circumstances and of course your visual appearance – it isn’t easy. I’ve learned from speaking to many amputees that they tend to fall into two distinct groups -those who develop a “victim” mentality and those who draw a line under their physical set-back and concentrate on what they CAN do, as opposed to what they CAN’T. It’s easier said than done but exploring those boundaries of the disability that constrains you can be enormous fun and hugely rewarding providing you have the motivation to try.
This motivation to “try” is the reason I found myself on the start line on Saturday 7 March 2015 for my first full 10 mile Time Trial on the coastline near Pembrey Carmarthenshire. My wife also started cycling 2 years ago and has become rather good at it – it’s great because it’s an activity we share together. We’re in the CMC Cycling Club Llandeilo and I’m the Club Chairman. What’s great is that no-one makes any allowances for my disability – I’m just Wyn and I’m a cyclist like any other. It’s true that being an ex Rugby player and marathon runner, that I have a competitive streak and work hard to ensure that I don’t get left behind on club runs. However, standing in isolation, waiting for the start of my own personal 10 mile challenge got the adrenaline pumping in a way it hadn’t for some 20 years – I was very very nervous!! It didn’t help that the wind was blowing at 18-20 mph and the feeling was that it would be slightly against us on the outward 5 miles and then we could enjoy a tailwind on the return leg – oh yeah? With one minute to go, I had a last drink and just remembered to put my visor on properly on my new Time Trial helmet. I felt a bit of an im-poster knowing that it was the same make helmet as those used by Bradley Wiggins and Team Sky but my reasoning was that if it was good enough for Brad then it was good enough for this old, one legged git – besides I need all the help I could get!!
Then came the count down as someone held my bike and I got into the ready position. I forgot to put my Garmin bike computer on, so was having to ride without any guide to my speed, cadence, heart-rate and so-on – essentially riding blind and having to listen to my body. 5-4-3-2-1 and off I went building up speed on the slight down-hill before getting onto the aero bars in the tuck position that reduces air resistance and enables you to go faster than in the usual sitting up position. You have to practice this because it puts stresses on different parts of your upper body and it also takes time to learn how to control the bike in this unnatural position. Cycling with one leg makes it even more difficult as the power comes on from one side only and there’s a tendency for the bike to push off to one side as a result – in my case to the right as I push down with my left leg and this require my right arm to take a lot of the strain to keep the bike going in a straight line. Anyway back to the event………down the initial slope and onto the flats gradually getting into bigger gears and trying to relax my breathing as much as possible with the aim of evening out the effort for my 30 min target. I passed a few flashing road-side warnings that indicated a speed approaching 30 mph and I felt incredibly good and strong. If this was what the outward run was going to be and supposedly into the wind, then I’d be flying back. I got to the 4 mile roundabout and then started the first climb which was about 100 feet of ascent over a quarter mile and still felt in control as I kept a higher cadence, albeit in a lower gear. The riders who had set off before me were now heading back towards me and I had the first suspicions that things were about to get a lot more difficult. The riders coming towards me all had torturous expressions on their faces and looked to be wrestling their bikes – oh dear – gulp!! To make me even more nervous and uncomfortable, one of the faster riders came storming past me up the hill at twice my speed. The road levelled off for a short while and I regained a bit of composure but boy, those cyclists coming the other way were pulling all sorts of faces and I was about to find out why!! The road suddenly kicked up steeply for a couple of hundred yards to the turnaround point at the 5 mile roundabout which I took at what seemed like 2 mph after the effort up the steep hill! Now you’d think that the initial downhill would be a massive relief after the climb but instead, the head-wind suddenly felt like a brick wall and like the other riders I soon started my own gurning competition, which I’d like to think I won hands down! I was putting every ounce of effort into keeping the bike moving at a good pace but it just felt like I was cycling through treacle. Marianne Rhys, a friend from our club was there to support (my wife was in London with our grandson) and she took a good picture of me where you can see my mouth hanging open with the effort – luckily you couldn’t see the tears behind my reflective visor but I’m sure the sobs could still be heard clearly as I struggled along! Another faster rider went past murmuring some encouragement but from the way his bike was wobbling, he too was feeling the effects of the strong wind. Then, just as my spirits were rapidly on the wane I spotted a distant figure, on a bike and seemingly getting closer and closer – was I about to overtake someone? I gradually reigned him in and the distance rapidly closed from a half mile to a hundred yards and then I was on him – he too was wearing an aero helmet and was on aero bars and yes – he also had on a race number that just happened to designate his start time and position – No 14 ….blimey, my number was 16 which meant that he’d had a 2 min start on me and this cheered me up no end. No other riders had come past and I concentrated hard on keeping my form and riding past him as smoothly and quickly as I could so that he couldn’t draw inspiration and start to chase me down as I went past. I was now into the last mile and starting the final long, gradual climb to the finish which never seemed to get any closer. I was convinced that I’d blown any chance of beating the 30 min barrier known as “evens” – i.e 10 miles in under 30 mins which averages out at 20 mph. I put every ounce of effort into the last moments and was completely empty as I crossed the line. I free-wheeled for a bit to recover and then turned around to ride slowly back to the finish feeling exhausted but also a bit disappointed that my target time was inevitably lost because of the conditions. Marianne was there with my warm jacket and I had a bit of banter with the other riders over whether my prosthetic cycling leg had batteries fitted and that I should be disqualified as a result!
Then the organisers started to call out the finishing times – the faster riders who would normally have done 22 or 23 mins were given times of 24 mins plus and then many riders who I knew were generally faster than me in some of the sportive events were given times over the 30 min mark – I was expecting the worst!! Then my name was called and I couldn’t believe my ears – 29 mins 26 secs and I nearly fell over in amazement!! The Bynea Cycling Club are a really friendly bunch and I was allowed to take part in the event as a guest. I know most of them and despite my belonging to another club, there was a spontaneous round of applause and slaps on the back of congratulation and a big hug from Marianne – I was seriously chuffed if a little embarrassed!
Now things are going to ratchet up quite a bit as the first round of the 2015 Road Time Trial Championship takes place in Stafford on the 22 March and I’ll be riding to give some support to the Team Bader Amputee initiative that was represented so well by Maggz on her own last year. Time Trialling 23 miles will be a totally different experience and I frankly don’t know how I’ll cope with the extra mileage. I’ll certainly have to curb my natural instincts to go like a bat out of hell early on and to even out my effort – 20 mph average would seem to be well out of reach and I’m sure Maggz will have a nice cuppa waiting for me by the time I get back! Watch this space for a post-ride report!
For those amputees looking for a way to get some enjoyable exercise, I can’t promote strongly enough how liberating cycling can be and what an enjoyable, inclusive sport it is. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve lost a lower limb because, often with no adaptations, you’ll be able to ride a normal bike in the company of family and friends. For those who have more complex mobility issues, there are cycling groups such as “Wheels for All” who hold initiatives around the country with a range of adaptive cycles for you to try.
If you would like any help and advice from either Maggz or Wyn about getting back on your bike post amputation, they’ll be delighted to hear from you.
DBF AmbassadorTags: above-knee amputee, amputee, below knee amputee, Bradley Wiggins, Bynea Cycling Club, CMC Cycling Club, Douglas Bader, paracyclist, Team Bader, Team Bader Amputee, Time Trials