April 15, 2024

Inspirational cyclist with Parkinson’s, 69, completes epic 380 mile journey

An inspirational cyclist who has Parkinson’s has completed an epic 380 mile journey for charity.

Determined Phil Doyle, who lives in Llanelidan, near Ruthin, thought his cycling days were over when the symptoms of the condition began to take hold.

But the extraordinary 69-year-old, who was born and raised in Liverpool, has fought back and has completed a version of the Snowdonia 360 as part of a 12-person strong cycling team.

The retired service engineer, who’s love of cycling began when he was in his teens, said he was so emotional that “burst into tears” when he reached Cwm Penmachno in Conwy, which was the main challenge of the four-day ride.

The team of eight men, and four women, who are all members of Ruthin Cycling Club, have raised over £11,000 for the Wales Air Ambulance so far.

Ana Palazon, Country Director for Parkinson’s UK Cymru, has described the accomplishment as “incredible”.

Parkinson’s is the fastest growing neurological condition in the world. Approximately 7600 people in Wales have the condition.

Phil, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s two and half years ago, got into competitive cycling when he was 16 with the renowned Phoenix Cycling Club. The club has been going for over 100 years and Phil has been a member 53 of them.

Phil said: “There’s a climb called Cwm Penmachno and that was the main challenge of the week. It really hurt. I actually burst into tears when I got to the top of it because of the emotion of it.

“Obviously I’d done a lot of preparation for this bike ride but at the back of my mind I was thinking ‘am I kidding myself here. Can I really churn out 100 miles a day? Am I going to get to 50 miles and ride myself to a standstill’. I hadn’t ridden a 100 miles for 15 years.

“But we did 114 miles on the second day of the ride and on the last 30 miles I was flying. I felt great. The week before I’d done an 85 mile ride along the coast and I just felt like I had good legs, and that gave me confidence.

“Anyway, I got through it, and it was emotional for everybody because the 12 of us who went, everybody had done their 100 miles a day, and were capable of doing it, but then to get up the next day and do another 100 miles was a bit of a challenge.

“What I didn’t realise was that the other 11 riders knew about my condition and they were sort of watching out for me and appreciating the effort I put in. I didn’t expect any concessions at all.”

Ana Palazon, Country Director for Parkinson’s UK Cymru, said: “Phil is an enormous inspiration to the Parkinson’s community in Wales and beyond. What he has managed to achieve is incredible. He is living proof of the amazing things people in our community can achieve.”

Phil described how Parkinson’s began to impact his life: “I’d had what they call an essential tremor for about seven years. It was a tremor in my hand. I always remember it because it coincided with the lock down, so that was three years ago.

“My tremor just started getting worse. With the lockdown the roads were empty so it was great for going out on the bike, so I made full use of that, and I was going out and doing 60 or 70 miles three days a week.

“I was going out and my neck was aching, my shoulders were aching and my upper arms were aching, the tremor was bad and I just started losing power in my body. I was aching all over and I couldn’t understand what was going on. It felt like I was riding in sand.

“So I was cutting the rides shorter and shorter. All of a sudden I couldn’t keep up with the other riders in the club on the climbs. They were waiting for me.

“I was going out less and less and doing less and less mileage and I went out one day and did five miles and just phoned my partner up and said I’d had enough and asked her to come and get me. It was distressing.

“I went from doing 60 to 70 miles and thinking I could do over a 100 mile ride to probably three months later looking at my bike and thinking ‘I’ve had enough, I can’t do it. I can’t go on like this any more’.

“I’d be getting changed to go out on a ride and thinking ‘I’ve got three hours of misery now’. It took the joy of cycling away from me, so I just stopped basically.

“After I was diagnosed I was given medication to try, and I had to increase the dose over eight weeks. I thought this was going to be a magical solution and that I’d put this patch on and at the end of eight weeks I’d be back to normal. It was far from it. I changed from the patches to tablets because my skin was raw and I just increased the dosage until the tremor eased.

“I started going out on my bike again and doing more and more to the point where I go out now and I completely forget that I’ve got Parkinson’s. Being on the bike is something quite liberating for me. The drugs must be having an effect on me and the condition must be affecting me. The only place I really notice it is on the climbs. I just haven’t got the power I used to have.

“I go to Mallorca two or three times a year with the club and we go riding around the mountains, and 18 months ago I wouldn’t have been able to do that. I thought I’d never do that again.

“After getting the medication things have gradually improved. I wouldn’t say I’m ever going to be back to where I was. But I did that 380 mile trip in four days.

“The medication has given me my life back, The only issue I have now is sleeping. My sleep is disrupted, which is quite difficult.  I just appreciate every day now. But I know it’s a degenerative condition so I just take each day as it comes.

“With Parkinson’s it’s so important to keep exercising. I’m used to the exercise so that’s helped me.

“Parkinson’s UK has been helpful. When you meet other people with Parkinson’s you don’t feel like you’re the only world who’s got it. With any illness you can feel you’re the only one who is struggling with it. So it’s good to meet other people who have the condition and get inspiration from them.”