Claire is just waiting for confirmation of a new challenge in 2023 which will be very exciting ... watch this space!
Every now and then there may be an opportunity arise but you think “there is no way I can do that!”
That was Claire's initial thought when she 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?' she pondered.
A charity that usually got motorbike riders back on bikes following an injury or illness, invited Claire to have a go. She was different to the others as she knew very little about bikes- in fact, it was just the colour that mattered to Claire! She had never ridden a motorbike as an able-bodied person so learning without being able to put her feet on the floor was incredibly daunting.
The adaptions are pretty basic; a bit of velcro to stop the knees flapping, toe clips so the feet can’t slide off the bars and a gear shifter so gears can be changed with her hand rather than feet. The other thing she needs are helpers to launch and then catch when she returns.
She started with stabilisers, like a child on a pedal bike, and relied on them for what seemed like ages but eventually she found my balance and they were removed. She had a great first session and went back for more, a few weeks later.
The second session was going really well and Claire was starting to feel more confident but that all came to a halt. It started to rain and she grabbed the brakes causing the bike to skid, she ended up on the floor and the bike was quite a few meters away. Thankfully Claire 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, Claire managed to get enough practice so she could get her race licence. It isn’t because she has a desire to race but it is to allow her to be out on track days, enjoy the freedom the bike brings as she leaves her wheelchair in the pit lane and reach speeds of 100mph.
With Claire's injury being high (T4), she doesn't have any core strength so tends to lean on the tank, or change to her position, she will push herself up using her arm strength. When she is sat on a bike, the only part of the bike she can feel are the handlebars, so often she will glance down to make sure she is sitting in the right place.
If she had to name the time she felt most out her comfort zone it would probably be the time she was sat in the pit lane waiting to go out on track amongst 30 men, all hoping to leave with our race licences- her 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 Claire's hours on a bike were very low and she had never ridden with a group before. She had no idea if riders coming up close would be off putting for her, if she was capable of reaching the speeds she needed to and if she could cope with the slippery track as it was pouring down with rain. She was also worried that the rain would mean it was hard to see through the visor, and there is not a chance Claire can wipe her visor as she can’t balance well enough to take a hand off the handlebars. In fact, there was so much uncertainty that quite honestly, she was bricking it!
She didn’t pass the first time and being told she couldn’t go back out on track was nothing but sheer relief. She had learned many things that day, so she gave herself time to process the day and tried again a few weeks later.
The second attempt went relatively smoothly, and she wheeled away with a race licence. My word, she felt chuffed and rather proud too.
Now with lots of track days under her belt, 2023 is looking exciting and there could be an opportunity to do a motorcycling fundraising challenge.