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Meet the Team: SIA's Overseas Cycle Challenge 2022

We are very pleased to introduce you to the next member of our overseas cycling team for 2022, Louise, who is taking on the challenge for the first time, after hearing about it from one of our long-term supporters, Emma Way, who took on the challenge in 2019.

Louise’s life changed overnight when she was diagnosed with a disc prolapse in her lower back, that unfortunately developed into cauda equina syndrome, a condition that affects thousands of people in the UK every year, often leading to peripheral nerve damage and limited mobility for many people affected by it.

Prior to her injury, Louise was a very keen cyclist, and an admittedly not so keen runner, and she was very open in explaining that the injury changed her life considerably.

With support, Louise can walk short distances with splints and sticks, but relies on a wheelchair when out and about. She realised that she was never going to be running anywhere again, and had come to the same conclusion about cycling – a real passion, that she was sad to have to give up.

Berkel Bike Pro tricycle with colourful flag attached to rear of bike However, in the summer of 2021, Louise was introduced to someone from Active Linx, to look at the ‘Berkel Bike Pro’.  In Louise’s own words, an “amazing piece of kit” a Berkel bike combines arm and leg power and an FES  system to enable spinal cord injured people to cycle under their own steam, with a bit of extra assistance which comes in very handy on hills.

Louise began to test the bike with support from an amazing physiotherapist from Dorset Orthopaedics (Beth Langley), who helped her get used to the bike.  Louise was overjoyed to find a way to start cycling again!

Very soon after that, Louise got in touch with us to say she would like to take on a challenge with her newfound kit.  Luckily, we had the small matter of a 200 mile challenge around Tuscany, that we are delighted she can join us on.

Louise has been hard at work getting the practice miles in, and having spoken to her recently, we know she is raring to go. Louise had the following to say about the challenge, and why she was so passionate about supporting SIA:


Cycling 193 miles through Italy is something I never dreamed I would be doing post-injury, and I am so grateful to Emma Way, Beth from Dorset Orthopaedics and Paul at Active Linx, for the support and hard work in helping me to get cycling again. The ride will definitely still be a challenge, but it is one I am so looking forward to. It will be lovely to meet the other cyclists and hand cyclists, and share such an amazing experience.’

‘Fundraising for SIA is so important to me, as the charity has made a huge difference in my life, and I know they are there to support many other people too – lots of whom are in the same situation I found myself in. I am very proud to be fundraising for them and incredibly grateful to everyone who has supported my efforts so far. Thank you.’

SIA’s Partnerships Manager, Chris Massarella, who organised this year’s challenge, had the following to add about Louise’s amazing efforts:

Since Louise was first in touch she has been absolutely wonderful, and it has been obvious how much hard work and effort she has been putting into both her training, and her fundraising. Having seen and heard about her bike, it will be a pretty big challenge to get around the hills in Tuscany, but I know Louise is determined, and am sure she will do an absolutely fantastic job with them. We cant wait to meet Louise when we get out there, and we are so, so excited to have her as part of the team. Thank you for all your hard work Louise, you really are amazing!’

We all want to wish Louise the best of luck, and cant wait to hear how it went. We hope you have a great time in Tuscany with Team SIA.

To read more about Louise’s story, or to make a donation to support her efforts, visit her Just Giving site here.