Thursday, 12 April 2012

The need for speed

I’m totally deaf and blind and have problems with balance – it’s like being permanently drunk (but not as much fun). I do everything through the sense of touch. My chosen favourite sports are quadbiking, jetskiing and tandem cycling. With the first two I normally sit on the front with a sighted pillion rider who uses a simple but effective system of touch signals to indicate the direction to steer and when to slow down. (I don’t need any encouragement to go faster!)

I used to motorcycle but when my balance started to go in the mid 90s, I bought my first quadbike which was fantastic fun. I was offered the use of a 100 acre field and the chance to get up some serious speed on the straights. It takes skill to do it safely without sight and a lot of practice to build up the speed and slow down on grass without skidding – you really have to trust your pillion rider and vice versa. It was exhilarating to reach speeds of up to 80mph in a matter of seconds riding a race-tuned 700cc quad. Other people’s attitudes can get in the way of disabled people doing sports. Chief among them is that it would be too dangerous. But where are the stats to back that up? Isn’t it true that thousands of sighted people crash their cars every year and yet still carry on driving afterwards? Shouldn’t disabled people be allowed to have accidents too without being made to feel somehow that it will be seen as a reason to stop their sport?
In 2004 with a serving police officer as pillion rider I smashed my previous quad world speed record reaching a top speed of 136mph and an average speed of 133mph.

Graham Hicks

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