About me

In August 2011 between my second and final year at university i was cycling with friends from London to Croatia. I fell off my bicycle in Belgium, collapsing both my lungs and ending up paralysed. I spent four months in hospital rehabilitation before going back to university to finish my degree.

This August, nearly three years after my accident I will be finishing the trip. We will start in Liege hospital, where I had my eight hour surgery. We will then ride to the campsite where I broke my back. Eventually we will ride over the Alps / Dolomites and make our way to Croatia (finishing on the three year anniversary).

We will be doing this ride for Aspire, a charity who support people with spinal cord injuries. They provide grants, advice, training courses for people to go on to help them get back into work and various other things.

I also spent ten weeks as part of a study (two hours a week) testing out an exoskeleton called the rewalk. The aim of the study was to see if it is worth using exo-skeletons during rehabilitation for patients with spinal cord injuries (SCI). So feel free to ask me about that as well.

I am happy to try and answer questions on anything, i guess relevant stuff would be: Bicycle touring, being in a wheelchair, the plans for the upcoming trip, exoskeleton stuff. Anything really.


Short video of my walking: http://www.smsf.org.uk/video1.htm I come in at around 2:05 to 3:20 – it was my first recorded interview, it is not great.

Album with ama proof and other pictures relating to my time in hospital: http://imgur.com/a/gNV2g

Fundraising page for the Aspire charity: https://www.justgiving.com/alex-b-t

Facebook page where I will be giving updates throughout the ride: https://www.facebook.com/Belgium2Croatia

Twitter (although I don’t really know how to use it and have no followers) https://twitter.com/Belgium2Croatia

/end of shameless plugs

Ask away – I am fairly active so I will try and get to every question, but it may take a while depending on how many there are.

Thanks everyone, the story made it to a paper!


And another! Printed in the metro today


Just finished filming with the BBC, a two minute video will be on the London news at 6:30 this evening.

The just giving page went from £2000 to £4600 today, none of this would have been possible without reddit, thanks everyone!


Comments: 784 • Responses: 95  • Date: 

Xboxben202 karma

What is your opinion of exoskeletons? And do you think they are a suitable source of mobility for the disabled ?

not_so_hot_wheels260 karma

The purpose of the study i was doing was to see if it is worth using exoskeletons as part of rehabilitation.

I think it varies hugely from person to person. I am quite happy in the wheelchair and i find it quite fun. I found the exoskeletons pretty hard to use. After 20h i could not use it independently.

There are a few issues. The battery life is around 4h for the suit. You still need to use a wheelchair to get from your bed to the suit. They are quite tough to get yourself in and set up yourself, and it will take far longer than getting in a wheelchair. You also need to use crutches when using it which is quite a limitation.

On the other hand. They are still new, and even in the past 5 years they have come on a long way. For some people who really dislike being in a wheelchair it is good for them. The skeleton is great for your body: In a wheelchair you get brittle bones, you must stand 3 items a week, 1h a day (in a standing frame) to stop this. An exo skeleton is great for this, it is good for your posture, and it is good for your digestive system.

I would probably only use one as an alternative to using my standing frame, but in the future maybe i would use one if they got a lot better.

ninja edit: it is great how much attention they are bringing to spinal cord injuries, which helps funding for other aspects of spinal cord injury research.

horsenbuggy61 karma

I had a friend who tried the rewalk. He felt the same way. He thought it was way too heavy for use in real life. But I can see how it may be used as a rehab device.

not_so_hot_wheels60 karma

Maybe, but the issue with that is that it takes half an hour to get in and hour and the physio sessions are only an hour. Also it takes a couple of physios at the start to help, so maybe it is not practical at the moment. Also their price, they cost £80,000 and if you get used to on in hospital, it will be hard not having one when you leave.

Nat52012 karma

So you use the standing frame regularly to keep your bones from getting brittle...Do you do anything to keep the muscles in your legs from wasting, or is that just unavoidable? Does physio help? Best of luck to you on your bike ride, and with the fundraising! I've always wanted to go to Croatia, I'm a little envious! :-)

not_so_hot_wheels9 karma

Inevitable i will lose the muscle, and not really an issue. Brittle bone is an issue though because if i break a leg it would take a lot longer to recover, maybe 6 or more months and it would make life really hard. Transfers, washing, opening doors because my leg would be outstretched. Best to avoid it if i can, so i stand three times a week for 40 mins each time.

mariocart150 karma

can you still get your dick hard?

not_so_hot_wheels208 karma


Rosebudsi127 karma

Can you still feel it?

not_so_hot_wheels201 karma


thecutestunicorn90 karma

Do you still need to get off though even if you can't feel it?

not_so_hot_wheels150 karma

Not really. It is more like giving a hand job than receiving one.

After a month or so i guess it gets used to the fact that you are not wanking and so produces less semen anyway.

WhaleMeatFantasy68 karma

How do you feel about that situation?

not_so_hot_wheels128 karma

I am used to it. I think rather than it being a sex drive thing it would be more of a lonlieness thing, but again i have dated people since, and nothing is stopping me. I think after this ride it will be easier, i can hopefully get a job and move from home

weewoo444430 karma

How does this impact your sex drive? Is it an annoyance that you can't act on it? Do you find alternatives means of expression? Do you no longer have one?

not_so_hot_wheels55 karma

Doesn't really change it. I never really had a huge one before, and i was pretty shit with girls. I can still act on it if i like. I have dated a couple of people since, but no sex and nothing serious. I guess it will help when i get a job / move out of my parents house O.o after this summer hopefully things will pick up.

aroach199594 karma

Did your back gradually break from the ride? Or did something happen to just make it "snap"?

not_so_hot_wheels193 karma

I fell off my bike. I can't remember what happened. The doctors think i went over the handle bars and landed on my neck and shoulders, pushing my spine down and breaking at the bottom.

Last thing i remember was being in a shop about 200m from where we were staying. Next thing i remember was waking up on the grass surrounded by people, not being able to feel my legs and thinking 'shit what have i done this time'.

chiscus71 karma

And nobody saw you falling? Didn't they told you what happend exactly?

not_so_hot_wheels79 karma

A little boy saw me fall and he said i cycled into a post, but i was lying 5-10m from the post and so we figured the bike must have just carried on going into the post.

other than that we just tried to work it out. I figured if i hit a post i would have a mark on my back, but i only had the marks on my neck and shoulder, but none on my back.

D3PO27 karma


not_so_hot_wheels56 karma

Nah no chance, people would have seen or heard it. No broken bones and hitting a car probably would have left more marks?

dabisnit63 karma

How do you like your eggs cooked? Fried, scrambled, poached, omlettes, mixed up several?

not_so_hot_wheels69 karma

Fried are the easiest, scrambled are probably the nicest with a full English breakfast and omelettes are probably better for lunch / supper.

I like scrambled with chopped up bits of bacon in it, saves for washing up as well.

dabisnit27 karma

I like the same thing. I fry bacon first, then scramble eggs in the leftover grease

not_so_hot_wheels32 karma

I chop the bacon with scissors in the oil or butter and then just put the scrambled egg mix over the cooked bacon, takes like 5 minutes as well ;)

Thismanisheretohelp53 karma


not_so_hot_wheels147 karma

I have always been pretty positive. Maybe i have become less cynical of the world as people have been great and generally helpful. I am definitely a lot happier post injury, but that was happening anyway and i don't think that is down to the injury, just me growing up.

I think everyone goes through the same transitions, whether it be from an accident yourself, or a hard break up, or someone close to you dying. My granddad died recently, and that has probably changed my outlook on life more than my injury, my injury just forced me to grow up :)

riceisalright26 karma

How do you stay positive? I just got a major lumbar spine injury and also destroyed my shoulder when someone who was texting and driving ran me off the road on my motorcycle. I'm depressed and hopeless. Hope you'll reply to me.

not_so_hot_wheels33 karma

Maybe it helps that i have no one to blame but myself? Everyone deals with things differently and it takes time. I found music helpful, and humour. I always had people around me too which was a huge help.

Talk to someone about it as well? If you everwant to talk to me, feel free to pm me.

hewoisyouzthere44 karma

So I hope this isn't something I'm not supposed to ask, I have a bluntness problem you see. What was it like to go from someone who could walk to being disabled? Like, I guess what was it like coming to terms with that and did you feel sorry for yourself? And when did that all turn around and get you to the awesome you are now?

I hope you don't find this callous or anything, I just find you really incredibly interesting and would love to know what your experience was like in those early days. Feel free to ignore the question if you'd rather not share. Thank you for doing this!

not_so_hot_wheels121 karma

It's an AMA and it's the internet, bluntness shouldn't be a problem.

Sport has always been a huge part of my life so naturally when i was first told, i was devastated. I just broke down and started crying, but i had my friends with me and they were great and just held my hand. I couldn't feel my legs, but i just figured it was temporary and not serious, even with lots of tubes and wires coming from me.

I felt really shit for the first couple of days, but then my friends and family arrived. I called one of my friends from intensive care (on his birthday) and he got on the first train to Belgium from London.

When my friends were there, they made a lot of jokes and we all spent a long time laughing which i think helped a lot. I told them every day to go out in the evening and get very drunk on my behalf, so in the morning they would be hungover in the bed next to me.

My parents and sisters were really upset when they first saw me, but when they saw i was ok they were fine with it.

I think i fully came to terms with it quite early, maybe a month. When i went to my first physio session in my wheelchair i loved it, i thought it was a great new toy.

The nurses thought it was just the novelty and that when i left hospital i would end up getting depression. I left hospital scared that i would go into depression, but i think i was quite lucky, as nearly three years on the novelty of the wheelchair has still not worn off.

I first met my consultant after 12 days when i came back to the UK. I told him sport was always a huge part of my life. He said that it still would be if i wanted it to be, it would just be different. I used to play a lot of tennis, three times a week. Playing in a wheelchair was and is frustrating, but i quickly realised it is just like picking up a new sport of hobby. You need to learn again, and that turns the frustration into enjoyment, you embrace it.


There were a couple of times that made me upset out of nowhere, like the first time i saw a picture of me in a wheelchair, but generally i really enjoyed my time in hospital.

Alex_Loves19 karma

I think it's fascinating how people that go through something like that adapt so well. I've heard when someone becomes paralyzed like your self or from the neck down they have loss of happiness at the beginning but then it eventually raises to wherever level it was before the accident.

not_so_hot_wheels49 karma

Maybe, maybe it is like people winning the lottery being happy and then ending up even more sad? I think because i was not a particularly happy child it has helped me. Everything just seems to be better now, but even at uni i was really happy though, i think from 17+ i started being more happy.

The whole thing has been fascinating. I had always wondered what it would be like not to be able to feel your legs. I asked the doctors loads of questions and took a real interest in it.

My physio said there was a man in the hospital before me, he had to wear glasses before, he broke his neck, and now after his accident his eyesight is perfect. The whole thing is just amazing, and we know so little about the brain and nerves, everything they are doing is groundbreaking.

StunningEggs42 karma


not_so_hot_wheels52 karma

Far better now, I think it helps that i have use of my core muscles still, and maybe the metal helps (i have 8 titanium screws in my back).

The physios always said it is very important to keep good posture, and so i sit pretty straight now.


as someone with absolutely awful posture, any advice?

not_so_hot_wheels76 karma

I read on reddit a while back that you only slouch because you and your muscles are used to it. If for a week you make the conscious decision to sit upright, it will get easier and easier. After that i think it will be uncomfortable to slouch. (Much easier said than done).

Tildarion20 karma

I've always heard it takes 21 days to develop a habit

not_so_hot_wheels70 karma

give it 21 days then ;)

therabidmoose41 karma

Thank you so much for this AMA! I am actually writing this from a hospital room in a rehab facility in the US - my girlfriend injured her spinal cord a little over a month ago. She's also getting to use an exoskeleton in a few weeks and is really excited about it. Thanks for the info about that!

I saw you are traveling to outlook festival on your ride. We are big festival goers, and she's really into hooping. If you've been, how have festivals stayed the same/changed for you?

How has the injury affected your enjoyment of going out to bars? Does the need to catheter/bowel clear affect nights out?

What is going to the beach like for you? We live right next to one. Is it still fun, or is it too much work?

These are all things that she's been upset about affecting her life in the past few days, and I figure you'd be the best to answer them.

Thanks and good luck on your trip!

not_so_hot_wheels28 karma

We initially planned to go to outlook, but this time we just plan on reaching croatia, to finish the job.

I went to Glastonbury a few times before though. Festivals are actually really good, or at least the bigger ones. You tend to get buy 1 get 1 free tickets. There are running showers and flushing loos as well. The seats are the best, you usually go on a raised platform just to the side in front of the stage! but if you want you can also just go in the crows.

The beach is quite tough. I hated it the first time because i had to getdragged along in some banana boat type thing through the sand, but i went again last weekend and got piggy backed by a mate. that was fine and we played catch on the beach and drank all day. It is fine as long as you are prepared, and poeple are prepared to help you :)

Thanks and good luck with festivals and everything with your GF, let me know if you want any advice or anything

therabidmoose15 karma

Further down the line I may ask a few questions if that's okay with you. I'll PM you maybe?

She just got out of a second surgery to fuse more vertebrae, so were just trying to get through that right now...

Thanks for the response!

not_so_hot_wheels20 karma

Yea, no problem, good luck :) Raise your chin about 30 degrees chinup

Betterwithfetter26 karma

What was the most interesting thing that you saw or went through when testing the exoskeleton?

not_so_hot_wheels86 karma

Interesting thing i saw?

I walked around the hospital i was taking part in the study, so it was limited. I did walk past Jimmy Saviles old office in the hospital, which was a crime scene at the time.

Betterwithfetter31 karma

I apologize, I meant with the technology of the exoskeleton.

not_so_hot_wheels36 karma

The whole thing is fairly small, compared to other exoskeletons at least. It weighs less than 25kg i think, which surprised me. I was impressed that it can go up stairs, but you need to preset the height of the stairs which is limiting.

I think it is still fairly early days, you need to use crutches to balance which is a bit tricky. The whole thing operates from a wrist watch which i thought was quite interesting, and you update the paramaters (eg stride length or step height, or even walking pace) by plugging it into a computer.

I am still not 100% if i am answering this correctly though, sorry :S

Betterwithfetter9 karma

No worries that is what I was looking for. It's a very cool technology that will be interesting to see where it goes.

not_so_hot_wheels30 karma

I agree, but at the moment it is not for me. I find a wheelchair more practical and faster. I find that waling clumsily in the suit gets attention that i do not like, where as the attention i get in my chair just messing about doing wheelies or whatever is a lot better.

I have no doubt within 20 years though the exoskeletons will come on leaps and bounds.

Betterwithfetter5 karma


not_so_hot_wheels11 karma

It's not real walking, and it does not look real imo, but who is to say that will not change :) everything starts somewhere.

jrlmets23 karma

From your experience, do you think hand-cycling is more difficult than regular cycling? They use very different muscle groups, so have you spent a lot of time training your upper body for the journey?

not_so_hot_wheels54 karma

I have been handcycling for maybe 6 months, and my speed has probably gone up 3 fold for a half an hour ride, and the distance i can ride has probably gone up from 10km on my first ride to 70km easily now with hills.

It is a lot harder, the muscle group used i think only gets used with rowing, not even with pushing my chair. i have probably been riding once or twice a week on average for the past three months, and for the past week or two i have been doing it three or four times a week, with some swimming as well.

I convinced my parents a few months ago that i wanted to try and get really fit for this ride, and to see what i can do with my body. They said i can do this until this ride ends, but after that i will need to get a job :S

Holymediocritybatman9 karma

What sort of speed can you do in a handcycle?

not_so_hot_wheels28 karma

Top speed so far is 58kph, but i guess on a longer straighter road i could go faster. I assume because i have moreweight with the handcycle and less air resistance, nothing is stopping me hit 60s or 70s, except fear of hitting pot holes, which i feel a lot.

eatmyflakes22 karma

Dude, where exactly are you going to start in Belgium? I'll come and cheer you on! :D

not_so_hot_wheels29 karma

Liege i think because i was in hospital, then we will cycle down to Neufchataux, either in one or two days, to the campsite where i had my accident. If you want to come along for a day or two of riding feel free. The more the merrier :)

I will be updating the facebook page and probably the twitter one with our progress and so people can come join in, it will be fun. I am 24, a friend is 23 and one is 21, and other friends will be coming along the way. You are more than welcome.

cfsteak7 karma

not_so_hot_wheels14 karma

my aunt really wants me to write one along the way, i will look into it and get back to you. I might try and film some of the ride as well, but i need to try and contact gopro first

3awesome5you14 karma

Post on your fb or whatever social media and ask for some money for a gopro.

You'll end up with 2 and it'll be amazing

not_so_hot_wheels3 karma

I signed up for some gopro daily give away, but it is luck, and also for some mars funding thing, but it seems to just be uni rowing clubs that are successful. I will start contacting companies through twitter or facebook though, it is a good idea, thanks!

Edmond1318 karma

What was the series of events leading right up to the fall, and then afterwards before you arrived at the hospital? You have a beautiful spirit! You're living your life more than I am mine, and I can walk.

not_so_hot_wheels47 karma

My bike had broken the previous day so i was trying to get it fixed and we spent a day at the campsite.

  • In the morning i cycled on my friends bike to a bike shop, but it being a bank holiday the shop was not open so i went back to my friends.

  • I then went and bought some food from a shop and we chilled by a lake.

  • I then went to buy some beers from a shop. That is the last thing i remember.

  • I was cycling back from the shop on my friends bikes and went over the handlebars.

  • Woke up surrounded by people.

  • Paramedics arrived and i went in an ambulance

  • I black out in the ambulance, next thing i remember was going onto a helicopter.

  • I next woke up in intensive care.

From the fall to the surgery was maybe 8 hours, the surgery was 8 hours. All of this was done within 24h, and the surgery they did was apparently near perfect. Belgium healthcare is amazing.

lost__in__space3 karma

Was there something wrong with your friends bike or just bad luck?

not_so_hot_wheels3 karma

The breaks were on the opposite sides to mine i think and so maybe i pulled the wrong one, also heavy panniers so i had momentum. Lots of little things. Hill, turn at the end, loose stones on the road, bad luck. I think the bike itself was ok, but the forks ended up bent.

Nerindil13 karma

Now, of course, I'm assuming this exo-suit will give you the strength of 200 men and the reflexes of a housefly. My question is what will your preferred weapon loadout be in your war against the forces of evil? I assume at least some heavy ballistics.

not_so_hot_wheels47 karma

With the current state of the exoskeleton, i will buy myself 12 huskey puppies / dogs and tie them to my wheelchair. I will also attach spikes to the sides of the wheels and mow people down on the way to the front of a queue to the bar :)

Hotwheelz2312 karma

What kind of arm bike are you using for the trip? I'm getting into them and have been looking at different brands. Btw, I like that username ;)

not_so_hot_wheels11 karma

Quickie shark handcycle, i think i put a pic in the album. Thanks :) Yours too. What country are you from? I went to draft, from the UK.

Hotwheelz235 karma

I'm from the U.S. That's pretty nice though. I'm just looking for a cruiser. I'm not trying to cross any alps or anything just yet. Haha. That's really badass though man! How or where are you planning on stopping for the dreaded wheelchair poop if you don't mind? Hotels or just pull on over?

not_so_hot_wheels6 karma

Top end i think are a great US handcycle manufacture. I have a routine, so my body is used to it. I go to the loo every morning and that sorts me right out. My issue is that i need a piss every time i climb a big hill, but i might get an indwelling catheter for the ride.

I will be camping along the way :) i am working out how to go to the loo currently for the trip. In the US is it uncommon to have a routine after a SCI?

ahsanaimad7 karma

Do you feel that exoskeletons might become a tool for war of future?

not_so_hot_wheels16 karma

That is how they started, with the army. They were initially made for the US army to help carry heavy loads i think. i don't think they would be practical for war. War will probably end up being done by drones / long distance warfare, imo anyway.

Nipple_Copter7 karma

What does it feel like to take a dump? I've always wanted to know but always afraid to ask :(

not_so_hot_wheels18 karma

Can't feel it sorry. It is reassuring when i hear the plop though and i know the job is done :)

jamestotheho7 karma

How does being a paraplegic affect everyday life for you?

not_so_hot_wheels23 karma

Moving around London i take buses most places, rather than tubes. I used to cycle everywhere. i learnt to drive, and have a car so i can drive if i want to take a sports chair somewhere, eg for tennis.

My morning routine used to be pretty quick, i would wake up, shower and be out of the house within 15 minutes. It now takes much longer. I need to wake up, need to go to the loo which takes a lot longer now (bowels and bladder do not work how they used to so i stick to a routing).

Apart from that it is all pretty normal. When i went back to university i moved into an unadapted house with two friends. There were no problems really except we needed to build a ramp. I think being very relaxed helps me get around problems and i am quite adaptable.

indefaggotable5 karma

That makes me curious, are the busses the accessible mode of transportation while the tube isn't?

not_so_hot_wheels6 karma

In general yes, only some tube stops have lifts and wheelchair access from street to tube, sometimes there are stairs and no escilator or lift and sometimes there is a big gap between tube and platform. There are only a few routes i would regularly use on the tube. From my house though i can get buses anywhere in london and also on the victoria line which is good to get to central london.

MoutonOnTheFuton6 karma

What kind of training are you doing for your ride? Is using that type of bike more difficult than a traditional cycle?

not_so_hot_wheels7 karma

Oh also hills are really tough. On flat and downhill i have an advantage because i have very little air resistance. Up hills though, arms are weaker than legs, i usually go from averaging 20-30kph to 10kps, or even as low as 5kph up 10% hills.

Handcycling uses a different set of muscles to swimming or pushing my chair, it is a bit like rowing i think.

not_so_hot_wheels6 karma

I was always shit at balancing, so i guess it helps i have three wheels now :)

I have rollers at home i go on for an hour a couple times a week if i do not leave the house to ride. I swim quite a lot, maybe a couple times a week, a mile each time (i love swimming, a great sense of freedom).

Today and most weekends i usually do a 65km ride, either on my own or with my dad or friends. It had 800m of climbing, so i use it for hill training. I usually average 19kph, but i want to be able to do it averaging 24kph or so.

This is my usual route (London)


BagDaddy6 karma

You're a brilliant guy. Why Hrvatska? My daughter is there now and I used to work and live there, so curious why Croatia?

I've always imagined a future where exoskeletons were in commercial industrial use, never imagined it as an aid to those who need it. Good luck to you, you amazing motherfucker.

not_so_hot_wheels9 karma

Initially we wanted to make it to outlook festival, although i was always more interested in the bike ride there, especially the alps. Since then, having looked at croatia, it just looks stunning. We were always going to finish the trip, and it just looks like a perfect place to end, with enough of a challenge along the way.

Yea, i think as with a lot of stuff it started with the US army, but it is amazing how one field of research can help a totally different area. There is no time to live like the present!

IDoNotAgreeWithYou6 karma

What is your opinion of fat lazy people who use electric carts in stores?

not_so_hot_wheels15 karma

At first i really hated them, not for using the cars, but fat people in general. It annoyed me that people had the use of their legs and just wasted it.

I have changed that opinion though. Each to their own. I can't just others as they can choose what to do. People have a choice if they want to make the most of their talent or anything else.

guinader5 karma

On the world cup this year they showed a guy kicking a ball with a full body exoskeleton. Are you part of the same testing or are the two unrelated?

not_so_hot_wheels4 karma

Unrelated, but i saw / read about it and was slightly disappointed. It didn't really get much coverage, and the ball was on a ramp. I did wonder how it would work after i read about it because a kick is quite a complex movement.

I think his exoskeleton might have been connected to his brain, or something more complex than mine? A shame that it did not get more attention.

Lolrama5 karma

Would a helmet have helped in your situation? Any tips to stay safe/prevent that sort of thing from happening?

not_so_hot_wheels12 karma

I don't think it would make a difference. I landed on my neck and shoulder, i assume trying to front roll and failing. My spine was pushed down from there and it broke at the bottom. I don't think a helmet would have changed it, it was just unlucky.

TBH i don't really know what to do to stay safe. I have always prefer ed up hill to downhill as the hills scare me, and this reinforces it. I don't think i was going fast as i only had a small cut on my shoulder and my collar bone didn't break.

For general safety, wear a helmet, assume cars have not seen you, try not to be a dick on the roads, wear lights and bright clothing when riding at night.

reestablished90days5 karma

Were you wearing a helmet when the accident happened?

not_so_hot_wheels52 karma

No, and i still feel guilty about it. I wore my helmet every day of the ride, but because my bike had broken and i was only cycling a few hundred meters to buy supplies from the shop before returning i didn't think i needed it.

I was lucky to get away with it. It could have been so much worse. In hospital my dad said that 'at least you are still 100% you, even if you are still an idiot'.

WhaleMeatFantasy5 karma


Good luck with the ride and your future.

not_so_hot_wheels4 karma


IAmMTheGamer5 karma

As someone who has been disabled all his life, I wouldn't know of the transition from being full able to being disabled. Wanna explain how it was for you?

not_so_hot_wheels7 karma

at first it was very tough, because i assumed i couldn't do a lot of things, mostly sport. After a month i think i was mostly used to it. When you start doing the things, you realise you can do most things you did before, but it will just take longer. I had to get a lot more patient.

You play sport, and it is frustrating at first, but most sport is like that, that is part of learning. You learn to embrace challenges. My competitive side has helped me a lot i think.

ErikThe4 karma

What feeling or activity do you miss the most?

not_so_hot_wheels13 karma

Going for a big piss when very drunk, such a nice sensation. Maybe serving or playing tennis?

Leoniceno3 karma

Wheelchair tennis is actually great, in that the extra bounce accommodation levels things out enough that non-wheelchair and wheelchair players can face off. Plus I think there's actually something like a pro circuit--all four of the Slams have wheelchair tournaments alongside.

not_so_hot_wheels3 karma

Doubles is probably better. Yes all the slams have wheelchair tennis, i saw some at Wimbledon when i went to watch the mens quarters last year, it was quite interesting and impressive how good they are.

Above_The_Law4 karma

When you get run over hand-cycling, will you gum your way to the finish line or declare that it's only a flesh wound?

not_so_hot_wheels19 karma

i will cling to the back of the car for a free ride to the finish line

WhaleMeatFantasy4 karma

Stoke Mandeville, eh? Shame you didn't have your accident a few years ago, you might have got a special visit.

not_so_hot_wheels5 karma

;) we actually had an 80th bday party celebration thing ready for him the weekend after he died, we had to make it a memorial thing instead.

the cafe name got changed from jimmies cafe to the cafe :)

Whoknows2fly4 karma

At what point would the exoskeleton be worth the purchase for you? Price, mobility, range, capabilities, etc?

not_so_hot_wheels7 karma

I would probably spent £100 on one? Maybe less. I would use it to replace a standing frame, purely to help increase bone density, posture and my digestive system. For walking i think wheelchair is a lot more practical at the moment. Give it another 10 years however and it could be amazing.

If you are designing one, even theoretical, it is important that it can balance on its own. My one couldnt and so having to use crutches makes it totally impractical. have a look at the rex, it looks quite good.

Captain-Ridiculous4 karma

First off, you are an inspiration sir.

Question: what was it like to go from having fully functioning legs to no control over them?, sorry if it's basic but I've never had the opportunity to have a one on one exchange with someone who has lived through it.

not_so_hot_wheels5 karma

At first it was very difficult when you hear you can not use them. As soon as you start doing other things in a wheelchair though you just end up focusing on these smaller tasks, so it is not too bad. Mostly just frustrating that everything takes so much longer.

In terms of how it feels? I always wondered that. People often say first thing, i can't feel my legs. They were my first words. I think i can feel soemthing is there? but clearly i can't. I tell people to imagine you have a third arm, feeling just like your other two. Now tell my how it feels? There is nothing there, it is not even like it has been cut off, just that it never existed.

Also for the first month i had constant pins and needles in my legs, that was strange, now that only comes back if i smoke

Tosta_Mista4 karma

Hello there! What are your favorite hobbies (besides cycling) or what do you like to do on your spare time? :)

not_so_hot_wheels11 karma

Finally this question :)

I used to play the saxaphone before, for many years but i never really enjoyed it. I always wanted to play the piano but never had the opportunity. I have one in my house.

Since leaving hospital i have been teaching myself the piano. I probably averaged at least an hour a day since coming home a year ago, and i played when i first came out of hospital. I love it. I think music helped me quite a lot when iw as in hospital as well. I love going to the opera and enjoy the theater.

I enjoy most sport, especially swimming, it gives me a sense of freedom. I have always played qutie a lot of chess, i am currently playing a reddit chess tournament at the moment that has been going on for 10 months :)

Coltephilos4 karma

Do you plan on becoming a cyborg in the future?

not_so_hot_wheels3 karma

I can give it a go

phreak__4 karma

Will it be emotionally difficult for you to visit the place where your life changed so drastically?

not_so_hot_wheels10 karma

I'm not really sure, but i don't think so as i have been quite lucky in that i have been pretty happy since my injury. I think it will probably be a lot more emotional when i make it to Croatia. I have been talking about this trip since i was in intensive care, nearly 3 years ago so i think it will be a huge deal for me when i make it there.

mildno4 karma

Hi, what is the general public like towards your disability? You said you take the bus I believe often and was wondering if people reluctantly offered to help or were people keen?

I ask because I've seen people on public transport be incredibly rude to lots of people and was wondering if you suffered that.

not_so_hot_wheels10 karma

People always seem keen to help. I have had a few issues with bus drivers not letting me on because prams are already on (even though we can both fit), yet they are happy to let prams (buggies) on when i am there.

In fairness i am never in a rush to get places and so i am happy waiting for other buses.

People on public transport and in general are great. It is one of the things i have noticed the most, and it restores faith in humanity, it has made me far less cynical.

mildno3 karma

Thank you for answering. That's good to hear that people are nice and supportive.

If you don't mind a follow up question, I remember hearing an interview with a wheelchair bound person who said something similar regarding buggies. They said it would be really helpful if the parent/guardian could carry their child for the bus journey if they had a seat and fold the buggy up. Is that a sentiment you support and has someone done that for you? I thought it was logical personally.

not_so_hot_wheels7 karma

Yea, there are signs all over the bus stops saying wheelchair get priority. I have had a couple of issues where a bus driver has let a buggy on before me even though i have been waiting for longer and i have said they can fold the buggy but i cant fold my chair. But thankfully that has only happened a couple times in the last couple of years. mothers are generally very good and make space for me and they always ask if i am ok when i am in position.

io_la3 karma

Two years ago I visited London with a friend who is in a wheelchair due to spina bifida.

We were very positively surprised, how good it's possible to get around in such a large city. The tube was useless for most parts of the inner city, but busses and taxis were great, and drop kerbs everywhere.

Is the rest of GB like this as well? Do you find it difficult to get around? Which obstacles are the most annoying?

How do you plan to go to the toilet during your trip through Europe? I know that finding a suitable toilet can be quite a challenge.

not_so_hot_wheels3 karma

at uni in manchester the buses had manual ramps, so i didn't really use them, i would do a wheelie, get the front wheelson and pull myself on. to get off i would wheelie off... i went through a lot of different sets of wheels.

the great thing about the ukis that all public loos have standardised locks, which can be opened with a radar key. all public and most loos in bars, so whenever you need to go there will generally be somewhere.

i think i will hopefully have loos in campsites i can go to, but i will need to bring one along as well. maybe just a shower chair and a lot of haz chem bags? or a small portable one. I am stillworking on it.

io_la3 karma

My friend isn't as athletic with her wheelchair, we just waited for the ramp or I pulled her in or lifted her up, but we were very positively surprised about the lack of problems we ran into.

There is a similar system with the radar key over here, too, for public toilets in Germany, Austria and Switzerland and maybe some sites outside of that as well. I don't know if this is interesting for you, but it's called "Euro WC-Schlüssel".

not_so_hot_wheels3 karma

I think with the right attitude the problems are just little hic-ups and you forget about then pretty soon after. Where do you live? I got back from Kiel woche a couple weekends ago, and was in Berlin a couple of months ago. The German S Bahn from what i saw was really good for access, and i think if you are disabled you get free train travel with a special card?

pugoen3 karma

Are you in any pain?

not_so_hot_wheels5 karma

I am quite lucky in that i don't really suffer from neuropathic pain (phantom pain, although i am not a huge fan of that word). I only really get it when i have an infection, and then it really hurts. Also when i am tired and in bed it hurts as well.

On the right channel of my groin i get shooting pains, like someone flicking a switch on an off (when i get the pain anyway). I don't take medicine for it because the pain is gone before it would kick in and also the bursts are so short my body doesn't really realise half the time. Sometimes the pain goes on a lot longer though, but as i said, i am lucky in that it does not happen often, and usually just when i am tired.

1ninjaunicorn3 karma

It's impressive that you have the courage to get back on a bike. My father had a bike accident last year and he ended out breaking a hip. He doesn't know if he'll ever get back on the road again. What inspired you to take the journey in the first place?

not_so_hot_wheels5 karma

I think maybe it helps as i do not really know what happened and do not remember how? From when i was in intensive care and my friend said, 'well at least we don['t have tocycle more' i said, oh we will be finishing the trip, just not for a while. i have spent my whole time in rehabilitation talking about the trip, it was always goingto happen, i am stubborn. this time will be done for charity, just because i think it is a good story and so why not do some good with it :)

alexnoaburg3 karma

How are you able to pay for all this?

not_so_hot_wheels22 karma

I had travel insurance which dealt with the costs in Belgium. Esure, they were fantastic, didn't complain at all.

In the UK the government pays for everything. They paid for adaptions in the house, a lift to be installed and a wet room and loo to be made. They pay for my catheters, which cost maybe £200 a month and various other medicine. I get free public transport and they give me a new car every 3 years.

One of my aims in life is to pay more back in taxes than i have cost them. Paying for the cycling? I get some money from the government, and i also have a couple thousand pounds from inheritance. I will be using the money for this ride and raising (hopefully) more money than i spend for the charity.

WhaleMeatFantasy3 karma

a new car every 3 years

Why so frequently?

not_so_hot_wheels10 karma

you lose half of the money they give you, and then you get a new car. It is leased to you, then you return it and they sell it on as a used car and you get a new one. I am not sure if you are even allowed to keep the same car. They cover insurance too, which is the best part imo, and they paid for my driving lessons :)

Tbh the fact that i can even drive is amazing, it is just a standard automatic with levels connecting to the peddles

chiscus3 karma

I was bitten by a dog on the face when I was young. People asked me all the time if I'm affraid of dogs now (which I'm not). I want to ask you almost the same question. You love sports and you are trying your best to adapt to them but it's not a little bit scary to handcycle after the accident? Don't you do sports now more afraid of accidents?

not_so_hot_wheels4 karma

I get nervous going down hills, but i always was. Maybe more so now because i only have one break and it is not particularly good, especially in the rain. Being so low down also doesn't help, but i like to think that by having one accident, i have given myself and my family immunity from other accidents (although it probably works the other way, people having one accident are probably more likely to do it again).

gravitationalBS3 karma

Big cyclist here. I'd love to try to do what you did and I admire your perseverance. I'd wish for you to get a miracle and be able to walk again, but I don't have a genie. How exactly did you cycle from London to Belgium, don't you have the Manche English Channel in your way?

EDIT: changed the channel

not_so_hot_wheels4 karma

Nah i will start in Belgium in the hospital i had my surgery, and then cycle to the campsite i broke my back, and then to croatia.

Walking is overrated ;)

You should try bicycle touring, its great /r/bicycletouring and /r/bicycling are very useful sources :)

dmautz3 karma

How was your career affected? Did you have to move in with your parents for care and support?

not_so_hot_wheels7 karma

because the accident was between my second and third year of university i was quite lucky. Having the accident when you a younger is easy as your life is so flexible.

I initially moved back home (they put a lift in my house between the ground and first floor (floor 1 and 2 in usa i think) and they built an en suite bathroom. This was paid for by the governent <3 the UK.

I then moved back to Manchester where i was at uni to finish my degree. I finished last summer and have since moved home. I have not got a job yet as i am focusing on my fitness. after this ride i will be applying for finance / insurance/ accounting / analysis jobs, having studied economics. I was always destined for a desk job, so nothing has really changed. If anything, maybe it is easier to get a job due to positive discrimination?

I can live completely independently and plan on moving out and living alone or with friends. I still live with parents as they live in london and have a house big enough which is perfectly wheelchair accessible, so i am lucky. I probably would have done it anyway, my twin sister only moved out a few months ago, having moved back here after uni.

heatheranne3 karma

Have you looked into Sledge Hockey?

not_so_hot_wheels3 karma

Oh i played that once when at uni. I took my housemates along and we tried, it was so much fun! The guys brought chairs for my able bodied friend to use and gave us a coaching session whilst the british team played on the other side of the rink.

Alas, i was pretty poor, i think i am too long for it, but i imagine skiing to be quite similar? It was a lot of fun and i would like to try again. I took my house mates to play wheelchair rugby and basketball. it is great when they get to play, i can beat them at a sport, and everyone spends the whole time laughing.

Taylor_OD3 karma

Props to you man. I love to cycle and i have always wanted to do a long distance trek. You seem to have a relitivly good attitude about the whole thing. How has the accident changed you other then the obviously things?

not_so_hot_wheels10 karma

Forced me to grow up, although i still do pretty stupid stuff and i still have some way to go. Probably given me a more positive outlook on life and it has helped put things into perspective.

One of the most positive outcomes was how it brings everyone much closer together, family and friends. I am still friends with the same people as i was before.

I have always heard that your true friends stand out after a serious accident, any my friends have been absolutely fantastic, a huge part of my recovery was and still is down to them. They carry me along beaches. Carry me into clubs (although i have never really enjoyed clubs). They invite me where ever they go, if it is not accessible then we can deal with it and get around problems.

Mackrage3 karma

At the rate exoskeletal technology is progressing, do you see this same mechanical augmentation being used internally? Replacing your nerves with electronics to restimulate the damaged ones, nano muscle fibers, etc.? And would you be willing to accept replacements for damaged organs or, if I may ask, healthy ones?

not_so_hot_wheels3 karma

Maybe not the same tech, but i think the way forward is to fix the spinal cord. It seems so simple, just have the signal from the brain jump over the scar tissue on the cord, which is the blockage. In reality though it is so difficult. I think in the future any of this is possible. Life expectancy was maybe a couple of years, if that post injury after the war, now it barely changes. Maybe 5% which is nothing relative to health and fitness.

I am a registered organ doner, and i would gladly receive if i needed it. I think exoskeletons will come a long way over the next decade, but i would also like to see progress at restimulating the nerves, although it will be harder. The best thing the exoskeleton has done for me is raise awareness about spinal cord injuries.

ifeelstabby3 karma

Asshole. You're making the rest of us look lazy.

not_so_hot_wheels3 karma

Really? I spend my life sitting down, it should be helping

UCgirl2 karma

How do you compare hand biking to, well, leg biking? I did some hand bike drills in rehab and they were tough. But I'm not sure it it seemed more difficult because my arms aren't used to it, or if it's jus naturally more difficult.

not_so_hot_wheels4 karma

I think it is more difficult as the muscle group are weaker and smaller, legs in general have more power. You can help the muscles grow and it does get easier. The main different is on hills. On the flat and downhill i can keep up / go faster than riders because i have little air resistance. On hills though arms are just so much weaker and so i go very slowly.

I find my speed has a lot more variance than it did before because of this,

Spongebobcanada2 karma

How have you prepared yourself for the psychological impact of revisiting the places that you closely associate with your accident?

Why do I ask? I once suffered a traumatic injury during a recreational activity. Though it did not leave me disabled, it did have a significant psychological impact. I also determined that I would go back and complete what I had started.

It did not take long but it was a bit of a head shaker. Felt much better after. It seemed to mute the nastier memories of the event and subsequent medical treatments.

Perhaps, while you now have little memory of preceding events you may make some connections or have unique experiences during your trip that could bring some of those memories back.

Good Luck. Sounds like fun.

For some reason this had made me think of this guy

Ninja Edit: formatting link

not_so_hot_wheels3 karma

I don't really think that going to the scene will be too big of an issue. I think i am far more likely to break down at the end when i hit croatia and i am physically and eemotionally exhausted,either that or when i am going up a big hill over the alps.

I think maybe it is better if i do not remember anything? Not much good can come from it apart from interest, but a whole load of negativity could appear.

What was your accident and thing you finished? Maybe it can give me inspiration if i get stuck along my way :)

mn_to_fl2 karma

were you working with ekso bionics?

not_so_hot_wheels2 karma

It was with the rewalk device, and it was with Cyclone, a UK company who sell the device.

VikingsVsRobots2 karma

Thanks for the ama. It's my first time asking a question so please be gentle. I've also x-posted to r/croatia, to get this ama more exposure.

So, for my question, why Croatia? Also, what's your target city in Croatia, and what's your ETA on arrival?

not_so_hot_wheels11 karma

Initially it was to make it to Outlook festival, although i did not mind so much if we made it there, i just wanted to go on the journey. dubrovnik looks amazing, and i would have liked to finish my ride there, but it is a further 700kms. At the moment i think we will probably finish in the lakes, which i think are in the north? Croatia just looks beautiful, it was partly just a 'fuck it why not Croatia?' but now it seems like a great end location. We get to go over the alps as well which is always nice.

VikingsVsRobots5 karma

Yup, Croatia is beautiful, but i'm biased being born here.

I've X-posted in the hopes of getting some attention of the media for your charity and possibly getting redditors to buy you a beer on arrival.

Good luck on crossing the alps! :)

Also, not sure what you mean with lakes, but looking at your twitter (you've got yourself another follower) it seems you're finishing in Rijeka, it's a nice city, a lot of good music came from there! Anyways, hopefully will see you soon in Croatia! Cheers!

not_so_hot_wheels6 karma

Thank you very much. To be honest the more the merrier. I will post when i am near croatia and if anyone wants to come along for a day or two of the ride they are more than welcome. The whole thing will be a bit of a laugh, and we will have a big party at the end :)

Plitvice national park (after a quick google), it is probably only a day or two ride more into croatia so maybe we can camp there or near there.

havearemotecontrol3 karma

Oh, if what you mean by "the lakes" is what I saw when I was there (Plitvice) - wow, what a great idea.

not_so_hot_wheels4 karma

Yep, after a quick google i think that is it. They look stunning.

King_Masada2 karma

Hey Dude, would love to come cheer you on when you start. Or is it private circle only? :)

not_so_hot_wheels2 karma

The more the merrier. Come cycle for a bit if you want. We start in liege and then head to neufchataux and then onwards to croatia. I will be updating the fb or twitter thing each day letting people know where we are in case they want to join, we will be going pretty slowly

weewoo44442 karma

How is life in Britain like being disabled? Do you experience any discrimination?

not_so_hot_wheels8 karma

It is great, where are you from? The government pay for my perscriptions, which otherwise would be very expensive. People are very helpful and kind. I rarely find trouble, and if i do it is usually because i am pissing about or doing something stupid. I have not really been in a situation where i can be discriminated about i don't think, but if i have, i have not experienced any.

If i get strange looks from people, they are smiles because i am messing around doing wheelies when i am bored. Or it will be kids and even grown men saying 'oh wow' or 'cook' seeing me on my handcycle.

It's great :) so much positive attention.

weewoo44445 karma


There is a lot of rhetoric of disabled people being persecuted by State and public, good to see you have had no problems. I think most people are just unsure how to act around someone visible disabled and concerned about being patronising. Hell I don't even know if I am meant to hold doors open for women.

Be interesting to hear your view once you enter the workplace.

not_so_hot_wheels6 karma

To be honest, even if people do stuff wrong, if they have good intention you cant get annoyed at them. That just stops them even trying next time.

Drmabuse92 karma

Did seem weird using the machine to walk, mind blowing at all ?

not_so_hot_wheels2 karma

before i started i was a little worried that i would get upset, but tbh i didn't really feel anything. My physio stopped my after 10 mins to make sure i was fine, but it was not too much of a big deal before, maybe because i was only taking part in the study to make up numbers, not because of my interest in walking.

Walking was a bit strange. i am 6 ft 3 and i was scared of my height at first. it was interesting how it all works, but i think maybe other people put more emotion into it and have their minds blown?


what kind of battery life do the exoskeletons you tried get?

not_so_hot_wheels2 karma

4 hours i think. It was the same one that a lady with a spinal cord injury a year or two ago walked the london marathon over 10-20 days, walking a mile a day.

pyrogamerman1 karma

Any plans on pimping out an exoskeleton to look like a certain robot?

not_so_hot_wheels2 karma

Haha, unfortunately i was not allowed to keep it. I would quite like to dress up as a irate and make my chair look like a ship and do the london marathon in that. Or maybe dress as the monopoly man and make a cardboard car?

massivegenius1 karma

Maybe it wasn't such a good idea the first time?

not_so_hot_wheels1 karma

That's what my dad says, i have never had good balance.

CaptainLameO1 karma

Have you ever thought about racing handcycles competitively, like Alex Zanardi?

not_so_hot_wheels4 karma

To be honest i would really like to do paratriathlons competitively. I missed the scouting events for british paratriathlon, but i really want to try it. I also spoke to someone yesterday who races and he said i should go along to some of the races as not many handcycles turn up.

At the moment i just go out with my local club, and try and keep up with normal cyclists, but it would be nice to see how i fair against other handcyclists.

I have always been really thin, with all my muscle in my legs, so never thought i would be any good at wheelchair sports, but i am getting stronger pretty quickly which is good.

big_phat_gator1 karma

Do you ever lay awake at nights wondering what really happened? Like "How could i end up like this just from doing that it doesnt make any sense"

not_so_hot_wheels3 karma

Nope, I think bout it a bit and wonder what happened, but i don't attach any emotion to that. The thing that keeps me awake at night was my time when i went back to uni, and more specially how the exam period went. I think that has probably affected me negatively far more than my accident, which generally has been positive. i just think, shit happens, some people get it worse,but we all have problems, you just need to deal with it.