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Rotorua Adaptive Mountain Biking ‘Give It A Go’ Day To Bring Freedom For Those With Disabilities

In recent years the advancement of electric-mountain bikes and trikes has made it possible for those with a physical disability to return to mountain biking or to try it for the first time, a recreational activity they can enjoy with friends and family.

James Littlejohn of #AdaptMTB, rides an e-mountain bike, which gives him the ability to ride any of the trails his non-disabled friends ride.

James says “Mountain biking has many benefits for a disabled person like myself, exercise of course, but mainly it's given me the chance to get outdoors with family and friends just like before my accident.”

Rotorua local and #AdaptMTB board member Andrew Burt says “The sports and care organisations, equipment suppliers and Rotorua community have all jumped at the opportunity to be a part of this event since we first started to make plans to hold it in the Rotorua Redwoods.”

“Mountain Bike Rotorua is providing e-mountain bikes, Parafed Bay of Plenty and Parafed Auckland along with Melrose chairs and Trikes NZ are all bringing a huge range of exciting adaptive bikes and trikes for people to try. We’ve also had experienced adaptive riders offer to bring their own gear along so that others can check it out. You definitely get the feel-good factor when you have such an outpouring of support.”

Kim Littlejohn #AdaptMTB board member says “Rotorua Lakes Council have been really supportive of us holding this event and are allowing us to use the Redwoods under the Sails venue which is a permanent marquee set up in the forest, it's an absolutely stunning and unique location. The marquee will offer our beginners some shelter from bad weather while they get comfortable with the equipment, when they are ready they can head out on the trails with a couple of support riders.

Rotorua Deputy Mayor - Dave Donaldson, who is a keen mountain biker himself, will be attending to offer his support to the event, participants and volunteers. The #AdaptMTB board are grateful for Dave accepting their invitation and would also like to invite other locals to come and see what adaptive mountain biking is about.

Kim Littlejohn says “As well as this event being about giving it a go, we also see it as an opportunity to spread the word and educate the general public about adaptive mountain biking and the many benefits it offers those who are living with a disability. Locals can come by and visit and see what its about, or else people can follow us on Facebook or Instagram (search adaptmtb)”

#AdaptMTB – building an adaptive MTB community

#AdaptMTB board member James Littlejohn took up adaptive mountain biking in 2018 after an accident in 1999 left him without the full use of his legs.

“For non disabled people it can be relatively easy to take up recreational mountain biking, they can rock up to most mountain bike parks in New Zealand and hire a bike or even just borrow a bike from a friend.” says James.

“But for a disabled person wanting to get into mountain biking, either after an accident or who has never had the chance to try, it's not so easy. A handful of trikes can be borrowed from various disabled sports organisations but there are usually only one or two available for a whole region of the country. Then you have to get the usually large, heavy and cumbersome equipment to the trail and organise enough support people to ride with you should something go wrong. That could be something as simple as a narrow access barrier that you can’t get through, or a tight bend you can’t get your trike round.

We want to change this so one of the goals for our organisation, #AdaptMTB, is to provide regular opportunities for disabled people to ‘give it a go’. So far these have only been in the Bay of Plenty but eventually we want to be able to hold these events throughout New Zealand”

James says “#AdaptMTB wants to build a strong community of adaptive mountain bikers and friends here in New Zealand who can share their experiences and knowledge about the adaptations they’ve made, the bikes they ride and where they ride.

We also want to encourage and support adaptive mountain bikers by advocating for the inclusion and needs of adaptive mountain bikers at bike parks and events. We are stoked to be working with Ari Tibble and the Crankworx Rotorua team again this year to make the event accessible to disabled spectators - and to include adaptive athlete categories. We worked with them for the 2020 event and it was a huge success so we aim to build on that. This is a major international mountain bike event and for Ari to be so onboard with our goal for inclusivity and accessibility speaks volumes for the effort he and his team put in, it's really an example of what can be achieved at any event, big or small. Other event organisers need to take note!

Being at Crankworx is an amazing platform for us to showcase adaptive mountain biking and what our organisation is about, but we understand too that Adaptive mountain biking doesn’t just need to be about competing. For those who are already involved it's about being able to get out into our beautiful New Zealand to enjoy the environment with their whanau and friends, and the wellbeing this brings. This is something a lot of non-disabled people take for advantage, it's just there when they want it. Imagine no longer being able to go for a simple walk or ride with your child in a park or forest on the weekend, it's like you and your children miss out on a key part of what makes us kiwis. Outdoor adventure!”

Kim Littlejohn of #AdaptMTB says “Since forming #AdaptMTB the response has been incredible from participants and volunteers. So many people are keen to be a part of what we are doing. We have contact with international adaptive riders and organisations, sharing ideas they have or equipment they have tested. We know the need and want is here in NZ, we just need the backing to build similar setups that we see working well overseas.”


Other links of interest

James Littlejohn presents a Green Pavlova Conference 2021 here

Adaptive riders compete in 100% Dual Slalom - Crankworx - March 2020 here

James Littlejohn talks about adaptations he’s made so he can ride here


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