South West Wales

Paralysed biker Martyn Ashton takes on champs' trail

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Media captionMartyn Ashton was filmed racing down the World Cup downhill mountain biking course in Fort William

Hurtling down a rocky mountainside with a look of exhilaration on his face, Martyn Ashton looks like any other thrill-seeking biker.

But closer scrutiny reveals all is not as it seems as he completes the World Cup downhill mountain biking course in Fort William in the Scottish Highlands.

His feet are clipped into the pedals and he is sitting in a bucket-style seat, with supporters on hand to help if he topples over. He does - once.

There is also a motor which he can use instead of pedalling.

Mr Ashton is paralysed. Nearly three years ago the former trial bike specialist lost all feeling below his waist after breaking his back doing a stunt in a live show in 2013.

But despite weeks in hospital and ongoing rehabilitation, he was always determined to get back in the saddle.

His first big challenge - to complete the downhill course usually tackled by the professionals - was his proof that disability was not going to dampen his drive or his dreams.

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"It's one of the toughest tracks on the circuit for the professionals," he said.

"The challenge for me was to get down it. Taking on a challenging course was important to make people question what is possible."

Before his accident, Mr Ashton, 42, from Margam in Neath Port Talbot, had built up a large following on social media for his viral videos, during which he showed off his daredevil cycling stunts.

So it made sense for his journey back to riding to also be captured on camera.

With a support crew in tow, he travelled to Scotland to film his challenge on his specially-adapted mountain bike.

Starting at the top of the mountain, he rolled down hill, taking in the twists, turns and jumps of the course - only stopping when new shots were needed to be filmed.

"It was amazing - if they needed to re-shoot anything, that was fine by me - I was happy for any opportunity to ride. I loved it," said Mr Ashton.

"It was definitely scary as I took it to the level where I hope other riders think 'I don't think I could do that'."

Image copyright Martyn Ashton

Mr Ashton puts his determination not to give up on his sport down to his mental attitude.

"Dealing with a spinal injury is life-changing and it takes an awful lot of rehab just to get out of the hospital, and to deal with it day-to-day is a huge challenge," he said.

"Luckily, I have the support to help me deal with it.

"But it's also the mental attitude you need. I'm quite a positive person. I try to focus on things I can do rather than things I can't."

Since posting his video - Down Not Out - on social media he has had "tonnes" of positive feedback.

"I'm really, really lucky the fans I had before as a professional rider seem to enjoy my story since," he said.

"They say they like seeing the smile on my face. I still consider myself a cyclist and I'm in a privileged position thanks to my videos and social media that I can have an effect and show what you can do if you put your mind to it."

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Mr Ashton's profile on social media has also helped him raise enough money to adapt his home for his needs and to buy specialist exercise equipment to help his rehabilitation.

After trying to sell his specialist Colnago C59 bike worth £7,000 last December, he was inundated with donations, along with a plea from supporters not to sell his bike.

In total, £55,000 was raised along with an offer to display the bike in Colnago's museum in Italy.

It sums up the attitude Mr Ashton has received from people since his accident.

"I have not had a single negative moment since my accident, not one," he said.

"Everyone I meet always seems so keen to help."

Image copyright Play Sports Network

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