Judges comments – “quite simply inspirational”
In 2010, I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, so I built a mountain
My bike serves a dual purpose: it separates my mind and body, and
simultaneously bridges the gap between them. My mind has been
compromised, from birth, by my condition. It makes noises overwhelm me,
touch is hypersensitive, and I can’t imagine my life without control over
the insignificant details that otherwise make me cringe and turn hollow.
But, worst of all, I can’t understand other people. Knowing what to say,
or do, in any given situation - to please or appease the expectations of
others - is a mystery to me. My mind doesn’t speak that language. Its
metric to everyone else’s imperial.
You can understand, then, why I might not trust my mind all that much. It
sends me false messages. I see that face of yours. I hear that tone in
your voice. It means nothing to me. I resort to guesswork.
What it needs is something it does understand. Something simple,
complete, concrete, tangible. Spoke length calculations, chain-lines,
ISIS drive axle lengths. These are things it can learn, read and reflect
on with easy understanding. There is no effort, no chore to making that
judgement between the fat tyre/rigid fork combo or expensive suspension.
It’s a breeze. And while we’re there, lets line that valve stem up just
I’m in familiar waters. The tape measure doesn’t lie, it doesn’t use an
expression I don’t understand. It just gives me exactly what I need. The
pressure falls away and I can think like myself, without the constant nag
of the second guess.
And then I’m in the saddle. I’m sure I’m not the only one who talks to
his bike, but I bet I get more out of it than most. My bike tells me
things about myself. My mind doesn’t matter at the moment. Who else is
there, 60kms from home, for me to struggle to talk to, to avoid eye-
contact with, to bumble and grope for words before falling over my cleats
in awkwardness? No-one. Just me, the occasional Muntjac deer and my
bike. Who cares if my mind doesn’t work, out here, alone in the
My body works. I know, because my bike tells me. I feel my muscles
moving, soaking up the terrain, informing me of the history of this
earth. Its bridleways and the churches, schools and farms they connect
teach me about the humanity that populates its surface, the humanity that
can feel so distant to me. My bike gives me those bumps. It places me
where I can finally compartmentalize the fractious segments of my
identity, and locate myself in the fabric of humanity. I’m alone, but
still in good company in the history of mankind.
And there I can qualify that my mind does work. It can build this amazing
contraption: transport, tool of therapy, and instrument of self-
sufficiency. I can survive out here, and get home. I am capable.
Perhaps not in the same way as you. I can’t handle a job interview. I
need to psyche myself up (washing my hands works) if I want to make a
phone call. I will literally go mental if you talk while I’m watching a
But looking at my bike (the bike I built on my own), and the mud that
embellishes it, and my printed maps… I know my mind is capable of looking
after me. And I know I am capable of looking after myself.
Alex's superb Blog site http://autistgraphy.wordpress.com/