An ex-Paralympic silver medallist who had his arm amputated is backing a cycle scheme that helps to change the lives of people with injuries or illnesses.

The ‘Free Ride to Recovery Initiative’ has been launched by Padiham based Avaris eBikes which is also assisting a group who suffer with heart conditions

The company is donating refurbished electric bikes to those with ailments that stop them carrying out traditional forms of exercise, including regular cycling.

Paralympian Mark Brown, from Barnoldswick, has been using the Avaris 2.3 Road eBike, and said it has proved to be a ‘powerful tool’ in his recovery programme, mentally and physically. 

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

He won Bronze and Silver Paralympic Games medals - only losing out on the Gold Medal in Sydney in the year 2000, in the Marathon, by a mere 60 seconds.

Mark, sustained his left arm injury during his time in the military and had it amputated in 1985. He said: “I was fortunate enough to compete with able-bodied athletes right through my ten-year career. In 2005 I was part of a team that competed in The Everest Marathon - the World’s highest marathon. As far as I’m aware I’m the only disabled athlete ever to complete the gruelling course.

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

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

“I recently started cycling using the electric bike donated to me by Avaris eBikes, and it’s been a complete game changer for me. I was apprehensive at first and worried about falling off, but it’s proving to be a very powerful tool in my recovery programme.”

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

The founder of the company, Richard Heys, officially launched the ‘Free Ride to Recovery Initiative’ this month - after the scheme has been piloted since August. 

He said: “We cannot sell returned eBikes as new, even if they have been completely refurbished by our trained technicians.

"We knew it would be such a waste if they weren’t put to good use, so we have decided to help people in need, because this is something that as a company, we’ve always wanted to do."

“The project is still in its early stages, but we’ve had fantastic feedback so far. Many people living with health limitations are unable to use traditional bikes or take part in other forms of exercise, but cycling with pedal assisted power allows them to ride at their own pace and stay within a certain heart rate if they need to.

“We’re really happy to be able to use Avaris eBikes to make such a positive impact on the lives of others.”

Mark said he struggled with life after leaving the Army with paralysis to his left arm, admitting his mental health wasn’t good and alcohol played a significant part. He knew he needed to regain control and eventually opted to have the affected arm amputated. 

After this, Mark ended up working for the NHS as a senior nursing assistant among other roles, where he remained until 2012, for 19 years in total, before taking early retirement due to his health problems. He worked at the Calderstones NHS Trust before moving to the East Lancashire Primary Care Trust.

Mark, who is married with two children and six grandchildren, added: “After surgery it was hugely important to me that I ‘get back out there’. Knowing the eBike is supporting me while cycling has been so reassuring, and I don’t feel out of my depth using it. Rides are smooth, and it’s like having a friend on your shoulder.

“I managed to ride 35km recently and it was completely exhilarating for me. I’m using the eBike as and when my physiotherapist allows, and I’m looking forward to testing my abilities further. I can’t thank Avaris enough for choosing to donate to me as part of their new initiative.”

Lancashire Telegraph:

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 eBike

A group of patients under the care of Wythenshawe Hospital, in Greater Manchester, have also been donated an eBike.  

Bob Gower, from Blackburn, co-founded The Electric Cranks in 2019. The seven men currently part of the support network all suffer with heart conditions. Most have either had, or are waiting for, a heart transplant.

Bob, a 68-year-old retired social worker, said: “eBikes allow us to have far greater freedom and independence.

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

“This fantastic donation means that, if allowed by their doctor, we can offer new heart patients at Wythenshawe Hospital the opportunity to experience the benefits of an eBike in a safe and supportive environment - whether joining in with a group ride, or via a one-to-one taster session with one of us.

“They can do this without the expenditure of purchasing or hiring a bike of their own, and potentially have a loan of the bike 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 get in touch with Avaris here.