Our founder Christina Neal talks about the Dementia Help Cycle Challenge and why it’s so valuable to have expert support from cycling retailer Sax Velo…
I grew up in a cycling family. My Dad and my brother were both keen cyclists, but I never got the bug. Weekends were consumed with cycling events where I was standing around for hours in the cold cheering on my brother, who needed my ‘support’. As a stubborn teen, I had to be different. I grew up and got into running. I had no interest in getting on a bike and to be frank, it wasn’t something that girls were encouraged to do back then.
Years later, I met Peter Berry and everything changed. I now have a bike and a mammoth challenge ahead of me. Don’t get me wrong. I love exercise. I’m a great advocate of exercise to benefit a person with dementia. I also believe it can make a huge difference to the emotional wellbeing of dementia carers. When I cared for my late mum Hazel (who had vascular dementia) my gym workouts kept me sane. I like to keep fit but it doesn’t usually involve getting on a bike.
When I met Peter Berry last year, I was struck by his positive attitude in the face of his diagnosis of early Alzheimer’s three years ago at the age of 50. Despite having to give up the family business he inherited from his father, Peter has an unusually positive outlook on living with dementia. For months now, he has been creating videos that provide unique insight into what it’s like to live with dementia. The videos have helped countless people. He wants people to understand Alzheimer’s and how it affects those who have the condition and their families. He knows he only has a limited amount of time to do this before his health changes. I was so impressed by his passion and positivity, I invited him to be my co-director at Dementia Help.
Cycling helps Peter to stay positive. When he needs to cheer himself up, Peter gets on his bike and goes out for a ride. He’s been cycling for many years. He doesn’t care that might get lost. Cycling allows Peter to ‘leave my dementia at home for a while’.
Last autumn, Peter had the idea of doing a cycle ride for charity. We wanted to make a difference and raise vital funds for YoungDementia UK, as we know that over 42,000 people in the UK live with young onset dementia. The Dementia Help Cycle Challenge was born. Peter neatly persuaded myself and my partner, Dave Collison, to cycle 330 miles across the country in six days, from Wales to Suffolk. We start in Wales on Monday 24th June and finish in Suffolk on Saturday 30th. Both Dave and I are a bit rusty on bikes. Dave cycled many years ago and always enjoyed it. I haven’t been on a bike since I was a teenager. Yet both of us said yes without hesitation. Peter can be very persuasive and his positivity is infectious.
Dave and I knew we’d have to sort ourselves out with a set of wheels quickly. We had no idea what bike to choose or what would be suitable for our challenge, so we headed to the experts at Sax Velo. We met with Jon Bray, who was so helpful. He told us we shouldn’t have anything too heavy; yet at the same time, the bikes needed to be durable enough to get us through the challenge. We both went for hybrid bikes. Jon also kitted us out with high vis jackets, a gel seat for Dave’s bike and some suitable lights. We came away from his store feeling more knowledgeable and confident about the challenge that awaits us.
Jon’s help didn’t stop there. He also offered to sponsor us and we’re thrilled to have Sax Velo on board as our official cycling retail partner for the Dementia Help Cycle Challenge. Jon and his team will be advising us on every aspect of the challenge, including training, nutrition and recovery. Jon is an active man and passionate about cycling. He’s not content with being our advisor and sponsor. He’s going to join us on the last day of the challenge when we’ll be cycling 28 miles from Stowmarket to the finish area at Aldeburgh in Suffolk. We’re thrilled to have his expertise and support on board – we know it will make a difference when things get tough. We’re excited about the challenge and the difference it will make to young people living with dementia. You can sponsor us here https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Team/TeamDementiaHelp and over the coming weeks, we’ll be blogging about our training progress.