A bike shop in Dorking has come to the rescue after a vital bike was stolen from a schoolgirl with an illness that makes walking long distances painful.
Twelve-year-old Lottie-Mae Terry-Evans, from Ashstead, has Marfan syndrome, a rare genetic condition that affects the body’s connective tissue. In August last year her mum Hannah Akers gave her a bike so she could ride to school in Epsom.
But last Monday the Apollo bike was missing from its protective cover after being stolen sometime over the weekend.
Hannah Akers posted an appeal on a village Facebook page, hoping that the bike might have been spotted, but there were no leads.
She told Jennifer Hardwick of the Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser: “I only let her start riding the bike a month ago because the weather has been so bad. It makes her life so much easier. She gets a lot of pains in her joints so it had been really helping. For it to be taken was gutting.”
Enter a knight in shining armour - or more likely a bike shop polo shirt - in the form of Max Whicher, also from Ashstead.
Max owns and runs Bikes Direct in Dorking, and wrote to Hannah to say he had a suitable bike in stock that Lottie-Mae could have.
Hannah said: “When Max first said it I thought ‘that’s so lovely but I can’t really accept it’.
“People say things but you can’t really expect them to do them. But after I spoke to the police again and realised it was very unlikely the bike was coming back, I thought ‘I literally can’t afford a buy her another bike”, so I did ask him. It’s amazing that he helped.”
Lottie-Mae was delighted. She said: “When I came home my mum said this man from the shop had said I could have a bike. I just started jumping up and down and screaming because I was so happy.”
When her bike was stolen, she’d been devastated. “I had to walk to school and I was crying all the way because I was so sad it had gone,” she said.
Hannah said the family would always be grateful to Max.
She said: “She loves her new bike, she was just so pleased.
“We got the train from Ashtead to Dorking on Friday and when we were walking there she was in a lot of pain. By the time we got there she was in agony, so when we left she got on the bike and it just took all the pressure off.”
Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.
Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.
Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.
The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.