I have Parkinson’s, but it doesn’t have me. Since my diagnosis in 2006 I’ve taken part in Prudential RideLondon 100, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and rode up Mont Ventoux, but that was curtailed by bad weather.
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In 2015, I rode 1,200 miles from Bangkok to Burma in 12 days. My father had been a prisoner of war in Burma and had been one of those who’d built the bridge over the River Kwai. I wanted to pay my respects and challenge myself in the process.
I rode with a local guide, Sang, who was in a support van, but after a day of cycling along a busy Bangkok highway I got him to re-plot our course so that I could take my mountain bike off road. I cycled through villages and up jungle-covered mountains.
After a landslide hit, I was hurtling down a mountain path barely 18in wide with a sheer drop beneath me.
We stopped each night at a hotel where I fuelled up on noodle or rice dishes, and one night we discovered a Burger King and I ate six!
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When we finally crossed into Burma we had to pass through 19 different military checkpoints, including one where I was held at gunpoint while an army officer deleted images from my camera.
The whole ride was an incredible experience, which to date has helped me raise over £50,000 for charity and has given me the inspiration to set my sights on a ride through China.
I’ve found that cycling and exercise help me control my Parkinson’s better. During the ride to Burma, a combination of the heat (never less than 38°C) and the intense cycling made me forget to take my medication, but I felt fine without it.
Cycling from dusk to dawn was tough, but it’s such an engaging country you don’t notice how long you’ve been in the saddle until you get out of it.
John's top tips
1. Take cream
You need to be prepared and take loads of saddle sore treatment when you’re riding in humidity. I’ve had blisters like you wouldn’t believe.
2. Keep hydrated
Jungle mountain cycling means you sweat buckets. I drank up to 16 litres of water a day, snacked on watermelon that my guide kept cool in an ice bucket and I still lost over two stone during the ride.
3. Get off the bike…
And talk to people. The people in Thailand are the most welcoming and engaging, and make every moment that you are riding through their countryside that bit more amazing.