What cycling has taught me about Parkinson’s Disease
By Paul Jones
Thanks very much to Alison, PD fundraiser and networker extraordinaire for letting me guest on her blog.
Cycling has always meant freedom to me. As a child growing up in 1970s Hemel Hempstead, cycling set me free to explore the world beyond home and family, into the beech woods and chalky slopes of the Chilterns. Freedom and self-reliance go hand in hand and, although I didn’t know it at the time, I realised that all it took to get me somewhere was a bit of effort and some food in my belly – engine and fuel supply combined. It was all down to me…I could just go…and so I went.
Through the 1980s cycling took me further and further out into the world, the freedom and self-reliance combination taking me and my mates on ever more ambitious rides. To Dorset, to Switzerland (yes, from Hemel Hempstead), to the French alps, Communist-era Hungary and university in Aberystwyth, west Wales.
The 1990s opened with a hair-raising introduction to biking through central London’s major junctions from my cycling girlfriend (and future wife) Sophie. Kids followed, strapped into seats on the back of our bikes for further two-wheeled adventures in France and Suffolk, where we made our home.
So what has this got to do with Parkinson’s disease?
Well, I’ve found the sense of freedom and self-reliance cycling has given me is helping me face Parkinson’s. I still cycle frequently and though the distances are smaller and the gradients kinder, it remains a liberation and reminds me that though I can’t alter the reality of PD, I remain free to choose how I react to it. Self-reliance has made me take ownership of my situation, educating myself, talking with other Parkies, and doing all I can to keep the thing at bay. I’m still seeing the world on a bicycle; 2019 saw me ride to Amsterdam and, with Alison, around Kyoto during last year’s World Parkinson’s Congress.