Ian’s Story: Getting active hand cycling


Ian hand cycling on a country road for our vital services

After he sustained a spinal cord injury, we were there to help Ian regain his confidence. Nearly 30 years later Ian’s become passionate about hand cycling, and he is planning on tackling a long-distance ride to give something back to our services.

“I love being able to push myself while doing something positive. Back Up taught me so much and I was finally in the position to give something back. It was a win-win.”

In 1992, a car accident changed Ian’s life forever. He sustained a life-changing spinal cord injury in the crash, damaging his spinal cord at the T12 level. For Ian, everything had changed overnight.

“They don’t call it ‘life changing’ for no reason. There isn’t one aspect of your life spinal cord injury doesn’t change. It affects your housing, your personal relationships, how you drive a car, and your career. Every single aspect.”

Soon after he was discharged from hospital, Ian was looking for ways to rebuild his confidence. He registered for our Multi Activity Course, a week of outdoor activities and challenges in the Lake District. Although he was keen to rebuild his confidence, Ian was also quite nervous to go on this course. When he saw the list of activities he would be trying – like abseiling – he felt out of his comfort zone. Although he was hesitant, Ian tells us that he returned from this course feeling like a different person.

“I returned with a new view of what I was capable of. My confidence was boosted and my wheelchair skills improved. I didn’t think I could do outdoor activities after my injury, but this course showed me I made too many assumptions!

“Now I have the confidence to get around obstacles in my day to day life. The course put a turbo-charge on my learning curve. The area I lived in was on a steep hill, ”

With his confidence restored, Ian was keen to get out and about. Getting into hand cycling was key to helping him live actively. Ian fell in love with the sport after testing out a hand bike when going to purchase a new wheelchair. Having loved cycling before his injury, Ian didn’t think he would be able to do it again as a wheelchair user. After spending a day testing out various bikes at the wheelchair showroom, he was hooked.

“I thought I would never ride a bike again after my injury, but after that day I found myself saving up for a second-hand hand bike!”

Hand cycling hasn’t just been good for keeping Ian healthy. The sport has given a thriving social life, and friends in a similar situation. It helped him make friends with a spinal cord injury, and get access to vital peer support.

“I regret that it took me so long to find a sport that would help surround me with supportive people with a spinal cord injury.”

Ian and another participant take a moment to fist-bump while tackling the no Limits #Ridefordanny hand cycling challenge

Ian (right) taking on the 2018 #NoLimits Ride for Danny challenge

Ian’s passion for hand cycling also led to him taking on a massive feat with six other hand cyclists – riding from London to Paris to support Back Up’s #NoLimits Ride for Danny challenge in 2018. The team rode up to eight hours at a time, travelling over 100 miles a day for three days in order to meet their target. On the last day, the team pushed themselves to ride from 7am to 2pm without a break in order to maximise distance. Although the challenge was tough, Ian says it was absolutely worth it.

“I had never done anything like No Limits before. There was so much camaraderie, it was an incredible experience.

“I love being able to push myself while doing something positive. Back Up taught me so much and I was finally in the position to give something back. It was a win-win.”

As social distancing measures slowly ease, Ian has found himself back in the saddle and training for a new challenge. He’ll be joining us in September for the 2020 #NoLimits Ride for Danny challenge which this year can be completed either on the road in your area, or at home using a stationary bike/handcycle or rollers.

If you are cycling with someone else we ask that you follow the government guidelines on social distancing. The challenge is to ride 50km or 100km in your local area.

Ian will be taking on this challenge with a small, socially distanced group of friends. They have been training hard while raising money for our life-changing services.

“It’s quite easy to socially distance as a cyclist. If you ride in a line you will keep a safe distance away. As long as you take coronavirus seriously, you can still enjoy life to the full.”

We’re delighted that Ian is supporting our life-changing services with the No Limits challenge. Find out how you can get involved with a socially distanced cycle of your own!