Turning a negative into a positive can be a life-affirming event, but in many cases requires determination and hard work to achieve. Sarah Piercy, is a prime example of this. Sarah was born with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, a condition which can lead to a contracting of the joints.
This means that she can walk with difficulty but needs a wheelchair to get around. Sarah has a twin without the condition and in her own words this had made her “see what could have been” and also very determined to succeed.
World land speed record
Sarah took up wheelchair racing, winning the London Marathon at her first attempt in 2000, and eventually completing it 10 times. She is also, to date, the only hand cyclist to have completed the 138 miles of the Forces March. In 2016 Sarah was involved with Plymouth University with their Project Nevada, a successful attempt to break the women’s world land speed record of 24.75mph.
After retiring from wheelchair racing, Sarah turned her attention to restoring vintage handbikes. “I bought the first one on eBay and have slowly built up the collection so that I now have twelve,” she explained.”
Restoring the ‘Old Boys’
This group of 12 handbikes, some dating back to the 1920s, have been nicknamed the ‘Old Boys’ by Sarah and all have individual names: On-the-level Neville, Cranky Franky, Handy Andy, Gearbox Gilbert, Berty Bath, Electric Ernie, Frenchie, Van Den Haagus the flying Dutchman, All About Albert, Bugsy Alone and Shortass.
She has also had her friend, Michael Wood, researching into the history of each bike and he has revealed some amazing facts about what they have been up to previously. For example, Charles Hawkins cycled from Lands to John O’Groats in 1969 in one of them. Whilst Frenchie was raced by ex-French Army soldiers in the aftermath of WW1.
“I want to get all of these handbikes back to a condition where people can try them out for themselves and so better understand disability history,” said Sarah. “The biggest problem I have is in finding the spare parts to restore them due to their age. I am having to track them down and buy them and from places as far away as the USA and China, so it is proving to be very expensive.”
Sarah is now looking at setting up a Crowdfunding page to help her to restore and continue to grow the collection. So, if you want to help Sarah in her amazing work please contact her on firstname.lastname@example.org