Challenge your limits

Every now and then there may be an opportunity arise but you think “there is no way I can do that!”

That was my initial thought when I was invited to have a go on a motorbike. How the hell could I ride a powerful motorbike and balance on two wheels when I have no movement or sensation from the chest down?

The last blog was about leaving the comfort zone, which I certainly had to do when I was lifted on the motorbike, and now this is an example of how the decision to leave the comfort zone can lead to more opportunities.

A charity that usually got motorbike riders back on bikes following an injury or illness, invited me to have a go. I was different to the others as I knew very little about bikes- in fact, it was just the colour that mattered to me! I had never ridden a motorbike as an able-bodied person so learning without being able to put my feet on the floor was incredibly daunting.

Challenge your limits
Challenge your limits

The adaptions are pretty basic; a bit of velcro to stop my knees flapping, toe clips so my feet can’t slide off the bars and a gear shifter so gears can be changed with my hand rather than feet. The other thing I need is helpers to launch me then catch me when I return.

I started with stabilisers, like a child on a pedal bike, and relied on them for what seemed like ages but eventually I found my balance and they were removed. I had a great first session and went back for more, a few weeks later.

The second session was going really well and I was starting to feel more confident but that all came to a halt. It started to rain and I grabbed the brakes on causing the bike to skid, I ended up on the floor and the bike was quite a few meters away. Thankfully I was fine but the bike was damaged. Whoops! It was another lesson learnt.

The journey hasn’t been without falls and setbacks but with the help of two local tracks I managed to get enough practice so I could get my race licence. It isn’t because I have a desire to race but it is to allow me to be out on track days, enjoy the freedom the bike brings as I leave my wheelchair in the pit lane and reach speeds of 100mph.

With my injury being high (T4), I don’t have any core strength so I tend to lean on the tank, or to change my position I will push myself up using my arm strength.

When I’m sat on a bike, the only part of the bike I can feel are the handlebars, so I often glance down to make sure I am sitting in the right place.

Challenge your limits
Challenge your limits

If I had to name the time I felt most out my comfort zone it would probably be the time I was sat in the pit lane waiting to go out on track amongst 30 men, all hoping to leave with our race licences- my stomach was doing somersaults! They would have ridden bikes on the road and done numerous track days already (as you can if you have a road bike licence) but my hours on a bike were very low and I had never ridden with a group before. I had no idea if riders coming up close would be off putting for me, if I was capable of reaching the speeds I needed to and if I could cope with the slippery track as it was pouring down with rain. I was also worried that the rain would mean it was hard to see through the visor, and there is not a chance I can wipe my visor as I can’t balance well enough to take a hand off the handlebars. In fact, there was so much uncertainty that quite honestly, I was bricking it!

I didn’t pass the first time and being told I couldn’t go back out on track was nothing but sheer relief. I had learned things that day, so I gave myself time to process the day and tried again a few weeks later.

The second attempt went relatively smoothly, and I wheeled away with a race licence. My word, I felt chuffed and rather proud too.

Now with lots of track days under my belt, 2023 is looking exciting and there could be an opportunity to do a motorcycling fundraising challenge.

I will be announcing shortly!

Blog Author: Claire Lomas