Cycling UK's Anna Cipullo helps a rider with an incurable illness to get back in the saddle

Recently I met a forty-something lady called Amanda Nelson from Swindon. Amanda has been a strong gym-addict, road cyclist and mountain biker all her life, but twenty months ago she was diagnosed with an incurable neurological disorder called CRPS (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome).

Since then her left leg has deteriorated and become sensitive to the slightest touch and movement. She is now unable to walk without the aid of crutches and, for longer distances, uses a mobility scooter.

Swindon Borough Council Leisure Services and I have started working with Amanda to build the core strength and flexibility she has recently lost, and she is spending time on our adaptive bikes to build muscle and fitness.  But being the headstrong lady that she is, she not only wants to ride a standard two-wheeler again, she wants to ride Land's End to John o’Groats to raise money for and awareness of CRPS next year.

Thankfully the Cycle Champions project is here to help. Not only do we have an obvious connection to Cycling UK and a wealth of knowledge on riding LEJOG and of riding with a disability, but we have me on hand in Swindon to really take action to help her. After talking to Amanda, I decided that the best way to start is to get her riding a as much as possible and see how it affects her. She has received a tandem bike donated by a charity and often goes out with her husband, so we know she is more than capable of tackling this challenge with assistance, it is simply a matter of training for it now.

I’ve already started building up a list of riders that would happily meet her for a bike ride on her tandem so she can start building the fitness and confidence she needs for the event. She has a strengthening gym-session with Leisure Service once a week and is now regularly attending our Cycling For Health sessions, which include specially adapted bikes that enable her to cycle unassisted. Finally, I am organising a tandem cycle training course to train people on how to ride as a pilot and what they’ll need to think about when riding with Amanda.

If you are reading this thinking you have a similar disability to Amanda and want to get in touch, or you’re local to Swindon and fancy some good company on a tandem bike whenever you’re free, please get in touch with me. You going to cycle at some point anyway, right?!