Video: How Mountain Bikes Offer Freedom to a Rider with Rheumatoid Arthritis

Aug 19, 2021
by James Smurthwaite  

bigquotesKirsty has Rheumatoid Arthritis and spent lockdown in isolation. The first time she felt defined by her chronic illness, Kirsty struggled with admitting that she is vulnerable. She has always loved the thrill of riding her full-suspension mountain bike, but at the height of the pandemic, Kirsty didn't want to take unnecessary risks. Instead, she bought a new hardtail mountain bike and discovered a whole new world of cycling routes on her doorstep.

This summer, Kirsty is looking forward to riding the trails with friends and won't take that freedom for granted - plans will never be put on hold again. This is Kirsty's Golden Summer.

As a member of staff at Sigma Sports, Kirsty has always been inspirational to us - we hope she inspires you too.
Sigma Sports


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34 Comments

  • 53 4
 This is rad. For getting me stoked to ride a bike I’ll take a story like this ten times out of ten over another bro shreddit. Also kudos for not using this as another opportunity to shill e-bikes.
  • 9 1
 Agree, this is the best video I've watched on PB in quite a while.
  • 14 0
 Hey Kirsty,

Loved the video! If you check the comments here, you may want to check out, "When The Body Says No" by Gabor Mate. He's an MD from Vancouver BC and is an expert in mind/body connection, trauma, early childhood experiences. I work as a paramedic and had a couple of huge crashes 6 months apart. This book resonated with my job and how my experience pushing it on the bike. He talks about autoimmunity in a way that makes sense to me and it might for you as well!!
  • 7 0
 Great video and story. So glad you shared this Kristy. I was diagnosed with Crohns in my early 30’s and had been at my peak of riding. It felt like my life was turned inside out and once a suitable treatment was identified, my energy levels plummeted. Simultaneously I was going through torn ligament issue in both thumbs (at separate times) after years of riding including a of DH. It felt like my life style was suddenly ended. It took time, exploration with diet and lifestyle and confidence building to get back to a place I could feel confident again but my love of riding remained and I eventually got back to riding regularly again (albeit less knarly - I never want to go through hand surgeries ever again!). I love riding more than ever after being through this and I never take it for granted even if I only get a short ride in. Your story is very inspiring and helps people like me feel a little less ‘different’.
  • 5 0
 Hey Kirsty thanks for sharing your story.
I have Psoriatic Arthritis and therefore was also deemed vulnerable during the pandemic.
I've struggled this year with various flare-ups due to the diminishing efficacy of my medication.
(I'm waiting for a revised prescription).
And although restrictions were lifted for the vulnerable a couple of months ago, I haven't been able to ride.
I know it can be seriously frustrating and challenging when you know your friends are out there having fun.
Like yours, my trail bike (Bird Aether 9c) is excessive for the single track and fire roads I have been trying to ride to rebuild my fitness and conditioning, so I too invested in a hardtail (Ragley Marley) for the job.
I eased myself in yesterday with my first gentle(ish) trail ride on my Bird in a long time.
Choosing to ride around the blue section at my local trail centre at Swinley Forest in Berkshire in the UK.
It was great fun and I hope to get out again over the weekend.
Thanks again for sharing, somehow it's reassuring to know that there are others out there with similar challenges.
Happy riding.
  • 7 0
 Good story. But I am lucky I rode more than ever during "covid
lockdowns"
  • 3 0
 What an inspiring video, thank you for sharing this. I have crohns disease for 20 years now and more than 10 gut surgery’s in the pocket. Struggling with fatigue and decreasing fitness was always the biggest enemy of my love for riding. It helps a lot to see other people staying motivated because of their love for bike riding.
  • 3 0
 can definitely relate to this video, I have severe arthritis in my hands, I'm only in my 30's, riding helps alleviate the pain for 24-48 hours after riding. It's great that riding keeps the pain at bay for me.
  • 5 0
 Very nice, enjoyed the positivity.
  • 4 1
 Gotta love people who are moving past their issues. Surprised, however, that they couldn't take the van out on road trips due to lockdown!
  • 3 0
 Depends on what the restrictions are where they live. Also, people with RA are highly susceptible to colds and infections. Even the act of traveling can wipe a person’s energy out for days. I’m not surprised that they didn’t want to risk anything during a pandemic.
  • 2 0
 @piranah: some people with RA may be susceptible to colds and infections but it's certainly not the rule. Both my sister and my mother-in-law have RA, and neither of them are any more prone to getting sick than the next person.
  • 4 0
 @dsut4392: How vulnerable or susceptible to colds and infections (including COVID) depends very much on both the severity of the RA and the medications that the person is taking. Most people who have mod/severe RA are much more susceptible to infections, as a function of being immunocompromised by the medications they take. People who are not on these medications likely have mild disease and they are the exception, not the rule.
  • 3 2
 @arthriticchick: My sister was diagnosed around 2002 and her RA is so-far well controlled with prednisone and adalimumab. My MIL was diagnosed in the late 1980s and has been on many things over the years - gold, prednisone, methotrexate, adalimumab, infliximab, tocilizumab and others I don't know about and has had multiple surgeries hand and foot surgery and knee replacements for her RA. I think right now she's back on just methotrexate and prednisone and struggling with her RA, but can't take some of the 'better' drugs because her LFTs are all over the place and kidney function is impaired. She's had multiple BCCs removed requiring skin grafts and is currently dealing with her latest skin graft failing after getting MRSA.

I certainly recognise that a number of the drugs used are immunosuppressant, and that this must result in a greater susceptibility to infection, I still don't agree that "people with RA" are as a rule "highly susceptible to colds and infections" which was what I replied to. It's a broad spectrum of disease and disability, with a broad spectrum of treatments and dose levels. As far as the relative prevalence of mild/moderate/severe RA, I honestly don't know, but would be surprised if severe disease was more prevalent than mild and moderate.
  • 3 0
 as someone who grew up with juvenile idiopathic arthritis, i thoroughly enjoyed seeing this on the pinkbike homepage, especially a fellow girl shredder!
  • 1 0
 Kristy, Your story motivated me to try to ride more, but also left me with many questions about how do you deal with the joint pain when suffering from RA. I was an avid mountain biker for years and was recently diagnosed with RA. I have not been able to ride my MTB as my RA flare-ups and the subsequent pain in my wrists & fingers have not let me ride for extended period of time and/or hold on to the handle bars without serious pain. Also, on the good days I get to ride my cruiser on bicycle paths or streets, I suffer for it for the next few days with intense wrist/finger/knee/ankle pain. I was just wondering how do you deal with the pain while riding and/or afterwards, in order to be able to keep riding regularly. Do you just ride and deal with the consequences later or is there a plan/method that allows for you to manage the RA and ride regularly?
  • 4 0
 Love to ride my full-suspension mountain bike
  • 6 1
 Inspiring.
  • 4 0
 Fantastic stuff Kirsty. Never Give Up
  • 3 0
 Ankylosing Spondalitis. Moved to Kamloops and dry heat solved most of my issue tup
  • 4 0
 Ace video!
  • 3 0
 Just made me want to ride more and not take things for granted
  • 2 0
 Kirsty and Chris are some of the most sound riders out there. So glad to have met them while working at swinley!
  • 4 1
 Inspiring Video
  • 2 0
 Great stuff, really enjoyed that.
  • 2 0
 Golden summer, what an inspiration! Nice work, keep on riding.
  • 2 0
 awesome
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