Martin toughs out e-bike challenges

Martin Mayston from Bedfordshire responded to his MND diagnosis last December with plans for fundraising challenges while he still felt strong enough to tackle them and duly set out on a sponsored walk to cover one of the test routes he followed in his job as a driving instructor.

"Martin got an awful lot of support for the walk. We did that in December, it was difficult but he could walk quite well then so it wasn't impossible," said Martin's wife Lesley.

The diagnosis also prompted the couple to get married six months ago after two decades together. "We've been together 20 years but obviously MND changes your outlook and your plans for the future and Martin said I suppose we should make it official. It was something we'd always planned, we said we'd do it one day but when you get that (diagnosis) you kind of bring everything forward," said Lesley.

The walk in December didn't quite hit the spot for Martin and they were soon plotting to tackle the Santiago De Compostella Camino pilgrimage route in Northern Spain via ebike in May, although the hills on the route proved too challenging even on ebikes and they cut their trip short.

Always physically active as a couple, Lesley said Martin still felt restless and that he wanted to go on another adventure. They thought about  doing the Coast to Coast road but decided that tackling sections of Hadrian's Wall by ebike was a less daunting alternative.

That plan also met its difficulties as early August witnessed torrential rain in northern England and their days were spent tackling the effects of the weather, hilly terrain and a crash. The couple weighed up whether they should continue on the journey, with Lesley arguing the challenges were outnumbering the rewards.

For Martin, however, the freedom of being out together with Lesley on a bike meant a brief escape from dealing with MND, something that made it worth the discomfort of bad weather and fatigue and a big factor in persuading Lesley to persist with the challenges.

"The highlights were that he was happy. Being on a bike makes him feel normal. He can pretend just for that time that he hasn't got MND because he's on a bike," said Lesley.

"It's an electric bike, it's not quite what he used to be able to do, but it's just that he  feels normal for that short period of time. That's the only reason I agreed to do it. He's not in a wheelchair and he's not on a mobility scooter (on the rides).  He's on a bike and we're kind of the same, I'm on a bike too," says Lesley.

Battle hardened by his ebike scrapes Martin, who can still walk short distances but primarily uses a mobility scooter to get around,  is still hankering  for a life in the saddle, says Lesley.

"He wants to do another one. Greensands Ridge in Bedfordshire. It's close to home and we've walked it. We're cutting that down into 10 mile sections, which I think is probably his limit.  He hasn't quite convinced me but  I'm sure he will. I tell him he's crazy every day...(but)  he just looks at me."


Words by Keiron Henderson - Volunteer writer

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