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"Two wheeled rehab" sees crash survivor cycling to Paris for charity that helped save his life

Doctors said head injury would leave Chris West in a wheelchair - cycling has helped him prove them wrong

Next week Chris West will be riding to Paris for charity - a tough feat for a cyclist, but not a totally remarkable one - what will mark Chris’s ride out though is that he has defied medical opinion to make it - and cycling has helped him to do that.

Six years ago Chris West was in a coma in Southampton General after a horrendous car crash in which he was a passenger.  Doctors warned his parents Sarah and Gary their 16-year-old son might not survive his massive head and internal injuries.

“We were told even  If he lived, his brain damage indicated he’d either be bed-bound or in a wheel chair,” says Sarah, “and he’d be highly dependent for the rest of his life. “

Next week, Chris will happily prove those warnings wrong as he sets off from his home village of Downton in Wiltshire on a charity ride to Paris.  The last six years have been a battle, but cycling has been a major road to recovery.

“It’s given me all my therapies wrapped up in one, and something I really enjoy,” says Chris.  “Rehab on two wheels!”

If you would like to support Chris on his ride you can do so via his Just Giving page.

William Buglass is part of the team organising Chris’s fundraising  trip to Paris 27-31st of May.

“He did the last mile of a ride back to our welcome reception when we returned from a similar fundraising ride 3 years ago.  His balance was shot because the crash left him with vision problems in his left eye, limited strength on his left side and hearing difficulties.

“But afterwards he kept on biking with the team and spinning with his support workers – and came with us to Paris a year later doing as many miles as he could. 

“As far as we were concerned, he was just one of the lads.”

“I loved France and the countryside,” says Chris, “the food was brilliant.  Next time I’ll try oysters.  Or snails.   And this time I’ll be doing the whole ride.”

“When I saw him off last year at Portsmouth for the crossing to France, “ says his mum, “it was the first time he’d been without family or support workers.  Gary and I were on standby to go and pick him up from Caen the next morning. 

“But we didn’t need to.  The team treated him as a fellow rider, not a head injury case. 

“They gave him no quarter – and suddenly he was  a real part of a team. 

“He went out a boy and came back as a man.”

His parents had fought hard to have appropriate rehab for Chris including occupational, speech and language therapy and physiotherapy.  He had specially trained support workers, and his close family helping him 24/7.  He had to endure further operations, including a further one on his skull.

His physiotherapist’s scores under Hi-MATT (High Level Mobility Assessment Tool) show his physical improvement.  His latest test showed a good improvement on Chris’s fitness, balance and stamina.

“What struck me,” says physio Gerry Harlow, “was more his attitude.  He’s changed in terms of outlook, commitment and confidence.”

His support workers have also seen the transformation from Chris’s time on the road. 

“He was on Cloud Nine when he came back from France last year,” says Abigail Nash, “and decided to give a speech to everyone at the welcome home pub do.

“He wouldn’t have chosen to do that before.  And his speech was graceful and spot-on.  I think he had started seeing himself as Chris, a much-welcomed part of a team, rather than Chris the victim of a head injury.”

“It’s improved my life in so many different ways,” says the man himself.

“My confidence has improved, I’ve lost weight, I’ve met new people and meet more as I carry on.

“When I cycle to Paris at the end of May I’ll be doing the whole journey and raising funds for BASICS Hampshire – who sent out a volunteer emergency doctor at the scene of my accident.  She was the key part of the chain who helped save my life.

“But I’d like to add this.  For anyone who likes cycling and is in rehab as I am, I would seriously suggest going on the road as it puts all the rehab into one – and gives you such a good time.”

“I know I owe my life to so many people,” says Chris, “including the emergency services and the hospital team.

“But I especially remember the volunteer critical care doctor who kept me alive at the scene. I’m raising funds for the charity that kitted her out.”

If you would like to support Chris on his ride you can do so via his Just Giving page.'s founder and first editor, nowadays to be found riding a spreadsheet. Tony's journey in cycling media started in 1997 as production editor and then deputy editor of Total Bike, acting editor of Total Mountain Bike and then seven years as editor of Cycling Plus. He launched his first cycling website - the Cycling Plus Forum at the turn of the century. In 2006 he left C+ to head up the launch team for Bike Radar which he edited until 2008, when he co-launched the multi-award winning - finally handing on the reins in 2021 to Jack Sexty. His favourite ride is his ‘commute’ - which he does most days inc weekends and he’s been cycle-commuting since 1994. His favourite bikes are titanium and have disc brakes, though he'd like to own a carbon bike one day.

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dottigirl | 9 years ago

Cycling saved my life, there's no doubt about it.

It was up to me to discover it though. Had it been left to the medical fraternity, I would still be on double crutches and housebound, be about sixteen stone and addicted to several prescription drugs by now.

It was pure fluke that I discovered that I could ride a bike. That first ride I took, along the Thames, moving under my own steam? It was like a glimpse of colour after years of black and white. I hate to think how many others there are who haven't been as lucky as Chris West and me.

If you know of anyone with mobility problems, please encourage them to try cycling. There are charities such as Wheels For Wellbeing who can let you try different cycles.

I just wish that there was more recognition of how important cycling can be to the less-abled.

SR2 | 9 years ago

C'est très impressionnant! Hope he's smiling all the way to the city of lights.

Beatnik69 | 9 years ago


ron611087 | 9 years ago

Chapeau to Chris. Inspirational. I lived in the neighbouring village of Redlynch for about 10 years and his achievement is that much more impressive by the fact that outside of the New Forest, cyclists are not well served by the roads in that area.

giles | 9 years ago

Sounds like an inspiration to us all!

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