Hands-on challenge for disabled Gaywood man

Mark Howard with his handbike at Bridge for Heroes Hq in King's Lynn, ahead of his hand cycle ride around Isle of Man TT course, ANL-160915-172049009
Mark Howard with his handbike at Bridge for Heroes Hq in King's Lynn, ahead of his hand cycle ride around Isle of Man TT course, ANL-160915-172049009

A 45-year-old man from Gaywood is gearing up to ride a 60 kilometre race course in the Isle of Man – but not in the way you might first imagine.

Mark Howard will be completing the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy (TT) Mountain Course on Saturday in support of Lynn-based charity The Bridge for Heroes – but he will be cycling using his hands.

Mr Howard has been disabled since he was 18 after an accident in the army resulted in him having carbon fibre ligaments in his knee, as well as spending three years in hospital and rehab.

“Last year my mate really wanted to go up Alpe d’Huez in his electric wheelchair so I entered a competition to take him up there and I won. The only condition was that I learn to handcycle to do it with him,” Mr Howard explained.

He said that from the first time he got on the bike, he was hooked.

“There’s nothing like sitting four inches off the ground and going 50mph down a mountain on a bike,” he added.

He immediately turned his attention to deciding what challenge was next for him, and settled on riding from Land’s End to John o’Groats, but while training for it, he had a head-on collision with a car which left him with a fractured ankle.

Mr Howard said: “Since then I have been in a wheelchair as now both my knees and my ankles are shot and I can no longer use crutches.

“I had to give up my business (as a handyman) and spent a few months recovering but I was determined to get my bike fixed.”

It was at this point that he knew he could no longer do the traverse of the country and chose the Isle of Man Cycle Challenge instead.

“I will be competing against myself – it is a professional race but I will be the first handcyclist doing it. So whatever time I do, I’ll be creating a record, although I would be happy if I completed it in three hours or less,” he said.

The handcyclist explained that he has a wife and three children, who are somewhat concerned for his wellbeing during these challenges.

“My wife thinks I am crazy doing this, especially after the accident, but she knows I enjoy it,” he said.

His original fundraising target was £500 but he has already surpassed that, and just wants to give back to the charity who have helped him.

Mr Howard is already looking for future challenges to complete, but said he is hoping to get some corporate sponsorships. as he has paid to do this racing course out of his own pocket.

He said: “I’m hoping to complete the Land’s End to John o’Groats next year but it will be a lot more expensive than the Isle of Man.”

To donate to this cause, please visit: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Mark-Howard18.

If you are interested in becoming a corporate sponsor, you can contact Mr Howard through The Bridge for Heroes or personally on 07554395695.