Feeling vaguely qualified to write about cycling with Parkinson’s after the last ten days in the saddle, here are a few reflections of the impact of Parkinson’s on cycling.
Slower than almost everyone I know. Maybe even without Parkinson’s this would be the case but I believe it is mainly due to a combination of the following factors.
Even on my best days, there are times during any long cycle where it simply feels like I am wading through treacle.
Slightly lop sided at the best of times, when tiredness creeps in or medication wears off, my right side droops downwards and I simply cannot hold my position on the bike with any kind of symmetry. This makes balance even more of a challenge.
Slow at the best of times, slower when tired or medication wearing off.
Juggling medication according to the amount of exercise undertaken can be difficult. Prolonged periods of exercise mean more dopamine replacement therapy is needed. Too little and I can’t get going, too much and side effects kick in. Another balancing act that can be difficult to get right.
Changing gear, fastening a helmet, zipping up a jacket, retrieving items from a back pocket can all be problematic. The ability to fix a puncture is nearly a thing of the past.
A wobbly right hand signal at times is possible but a left hand one is never possible.
Right hand turns can be a real challenge for balance. Left hand turns are no problem. Can’t explain it but that’s how it is.
This video is perhaps better than trying to explain a phenomenon of being unable to get started at times. Some days no problem, some days a huge problem. First noticed intermittently during training in recent months, it has been more obvious during this challenge. I haven’t forgotten what to do, it has simply started to difficult to do at times.
For someone who loves to chat, it’s a disappointment to no longer be able to cycle alongside anyone else. Having someone moving alongside me throws my balance entirely.
Wobbly at times, with some loss of control. Again variable and unpredictable.
All of these factors understandably can result in a lack of confidence which in turn can make it easy to say ‘no’ whether that’s to a challenge, a social situation or a new opportunity.
Having reflected on the challenges over and above the scale of The Raid Alpine challenge itself, the searing heat and the seemingly endless climbs, despite my initial disappointment at not being able to complete every single mile, I’m celebrating the fact that I completed 74% of the total climbs, including the biggest Col in Europe (Col d’Iseran). Climbing over 1.5 times the height of Everest overall.
I couldn’t have done this without the support of many wonderful people but that’s for another blog…..