Pedalling with Parkinson’s

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.

Speed

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.

Stamina

Even on my best days, there are times during any long cycle where it simply feels like I am wading through treacle.

Posture

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.

Reaction Times

Slow at the best of times, slower when tired or medication wearing off.

Medication

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.

Fine Movements

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.

Signalling

A wobbly right hand signal at times is possible but a left hand one is never possible.

Cornering

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.

Starting Off

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.

Antisocial Behaviour

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.

Balance

Wobbly at times, with some loss of control. Again variable and unpredictable.

Confidence

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…..

5 thoughts on “Pedalling with Parkinson’s”

  1. Hi Ali. Well done for your efforts of cycling. I enjoy cycling myself and found that starting off was a bit of an issue for me too. I also found fatigue a bit of an issue on a ride and was getting concerned at times that I would be too tired to get home. My solution was to buy an E-bike. I had always said that they were cheating, but I find it good in a number of ways. When starting off, I have a throttle lever on my bike which helps get me started and I don’t have the wobbles I used to. Also, when out and about if I get a big tired and want to keep going I can just boost and coast for a bit if I need to. Another thing is if I have a longer ride I don’t have to worry about being too tired to get home. It keeps me active and out there in the fresh air so although a bit of a ‘cheat’ I am still at least on my bike, aiding my balance in general and enjoying being outside in nature.

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  2. Ali you did absolutely amazing. I read every blog but the last 10 days have been a must read. I have no idea at all how you even got close to 74% with PD – it is a phenomenal achievement. Yes you need your support team around you but without your sheer will and own motivation it is impossible. You have raised awareness yet again, shown other sufferers of PD what can be done but realistically how hard it is and highlighted to the rest of us just exactly how hard it was for you to achieve that INCREDIBLE 74%. Brilliant.

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  3. Big Hugs to you girlfriend! I get it! Hey you got me & a million others beat! Well done an amazing achievement! Xoxo
    Liz

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  4. Alison, you are incredible! To undertake such a gruelling route whilst dealing with your symptoms is truly remarkable. I’m in awe. Congratulations 🥳 x

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