New e-bike program is a game-changer, says Paralympic silver medalist

A former Paralympic silver medalist who had his arm amputated supports a cycling program that helps change the lives of those injured or ill.

the ‘Free Ride to Recovery Initiative’ was started by Padiham-based Avaris eBikes, who are also helping a group with heart problems

The company donates refurbished e-bikes to those with conditions that prevent them from engaging in traditional forms of exercise, including regular cycling.

Paralympian Mark Brown, from Barnoldswick, uses the Avaris 2.3 e-road bike and says it has proven to be a “powerful tool” in his recovery program, mentally and physically.

The arm amputee is recovering from major reconstructive surgery, after being diagnosed with degenerative joint disease in 2019. The 59-year-old former endurance para-athlete competed in three Paralympic Games between 1996 and 2004, as well as various IPC Athletics World and European Championships. , and ran races from 5000m to marathon.

He won bronze and silver medals at the Paralympic Games – only losing gold in Sydney 2000, in the marathon, by just 60 seconds.

Mark, injured his left arm during his military service and had it amputated in 1985. He said: “I have been fortunate to compete with able-bodied athletes throughout my ten-year career. In 2005, I was part of a team that participated in the Everest Marathon – the highest marathon in the world. As far as I know, I am the only disabled athlete to have completed the grueling course.

“Unfortunately the competition took its toll on my body and I started to feel the effects of previous injuries. One in particular stopped me from running completely so I started cycling and joined a local club.

“Eventually even that became difficult, and the doctors broke the devastating news to me that I had bone disease in my pelvic region. A year ago, I had major reconstructive surgery and a bone transplant. synthetic bone. I was in a wheelchair for four months and had to relearn how to stand and walk.

“I recently started cycling using the e-bike given to me by Avaris eBikes, and it has been a complete game-changer for me. I was apprehensive at first and afraid of falling, but it turned out to be a very powerful tool in my recovery program.

Avaris eBikes was launched in 2020. The company currently sells one product, the Avaris 2.3 Electric Assist Hybrid Road eBike.

Company founder Richard Heys officially launched the ‘Free Ride to Recovery’ initiative this month – after the program has been on trial since August.

He said: “We cannot sell e-bikes returned as new, even if they have been fully refurbished by our qualified technicians.

“We knew it would be such a waste if they weren’t put to good use, so we decided to help people in need, because it’s something we’ve always wanted to do as a business.”

“The project is still in its early stages, but we’ve had fantastic feedback so far. Many people living with health conditions are unable to ride traditional bicycles or participate in other forms of exercise, but pedal-assist cycling allows them to ride at their own pace and stay at a certain heart rate if necessary.

“We are really happy to be able to use Avaris e-bikes to have such a positive impact on the lives of others.”

Mark said he struggled with life after leaving the military with paralysis in his left arm, admitting his mental health was not good and alcohol played a big part. He knew he had to regain control and eventually opted to have the affected arm amputated.

After that, Mark ended up working for the NHS as a Senior Auxiliary Nurse, among other roles, where he remained until 2012, for a total of 19 years, before taking early retirement due to his health issues. health. He worked at Calderstones NHS Trust before joining East Lancashire Primary Care Trust.

Mark, who is married with two children and six grandchildren, added: “After the operation, it was extremely important for me to ‘get back there’. Knowing that the e-bike supports me while I cycle has been so reassuring, and I don’t feel out of my mind while using it. Rides are smooth and it’s like having a friend on your shoulder.

“I managed to complete 35km recently and it was completely exhilarating for me. I use the e-bike as and when my physiotherapist allows, and I can’t wait to test my abilities further. I won’t thank never enough Avaris for choosing to donate to me as part of their new initiative.

Peter O’Donnell, 59, Bob Gower, 68 and Ged Higgins, 61, all part of the electric cranks, at Bugsworth Basin near Whaley Bridge, with their donated Avaris e-bike

A group of patients cared for by Wythenshawe Hospital in Greater Manchester have also been given an e-bike.

Bob Gower, from Blackburn, co-founded The Electric Cranks in 2019. The seven men currently on the support network all have heart problems. Most have had or are awaiting a heart transplant.

Bob, a 68-year-old retired social worker, said: “E-bikes allow us to have a lot more freedom and independence.

“Most of us struggle to walk more than a few miles, and hills present huge problems. Our cycling activities wouldn’t be possible on a traditional bike, and we know that, because most of us have tried it.

“This fantastic donation means that, if approved by their doctor, we can offer new heart patients at Wythenshawe Hospital the opportunity to experience the benefits of an e-bike in a safe and supportive environment – ​​whether by participating in a trip in a group or via a single – to an initiation session with one of us.

“They can do this without having to buy or rent their own bike, and potentially have the bike loaned for an extended period of time.”

Anyone who thinks they, or a person or group they know, would benefit from the Free Ride to Recovery initiative, can contact Avaris here.

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