I hadn’t really ridden a bike for a while when I discovered that I had Parkinson’s. I used to ride quite a lot, though; I cycle commuted a modest distance for several years, and I was quite fond of my bike. I’d stopped cycling when I had children and hadn’t really had the opportunity to get back on the bike properly since.
So getting the bike out after my diagnosis was a bit worrisome. How would my symptoms, mild though they were, affect my cycling? Would I still be able to ride? Would tremors make me wobble? Would my left hand work when I needed to put the rear brake on? Would my balance be affected?
It turns out that I needn’t have worried. Getting back on the bike felt as natural as ever. Oh, there was (prediagnosis) a reluctant relationship with a mountain bike that just plain didn’t work out, but my road bike was still there for me. I still felt the old thrill of freedom, and the Parkinson’s symptoms seemed to disappear in my slipstream. They weren’t completely gone – a little uncertainty remained on gear changes and arm signals – but the basic riding and, thankfully, stopping, seemed unaffected.
Fairly recently, I had a brief online discussion with another Parkinsons patient who was a keen mountain biker. You know the sort of thing – get yourself and your bike to the top of a wooded hill, preferably one with a nice, twisty, muddy track to descend, and career down it as fast as you can without falling off. Completely not my cup of tea, but he enjoyed it. He told me that, for the duration of the ride, he didn’t experience any Parkinson’s symptoms at all. I believe that his symptoms were more advanced than mine.