Adaptive MTB Ireland : The Story

Hi! My name is Noel Joyce. I’m a wheelchair user, designer and adaptive mountain biker.

After a life changing accident in 2006 as a result of a mountain bike crash I became a wheelchair user. I had become paralyzed from the chest down and could no longer walk. This accident ended my career in the military but also set me on the path which led me to write these words today!

I had loved cycling and then subsequently mountain biking when the sport was in its infancy and found the technology fascinating. This obsession led to me working in a bike shop and getting to learn about and develop an even deeper interest in the technology and mechanics of bicycles as well as the interest in using them for fun and exercise.

I eventually moved on from working in the bike shop to joining the military but always had mountain biking as part of my life, even competing on behalf of the military in adventure racing which included mountain biking as a discipline.

It was while I was out riding as part of my training that I had a crash that would change everything. Coming down a steep hill I hit a tree and fell awkwardly into some rocks on my back which crushed 2 of my vertebrae at T6 and T7. It wasn’t long after my surgery that I would learn I wouldn’t walk again. It was a difficult time but with great support from friends and family I managed to re-establish a life again by going back to education and studying to become a designer.

I have worked as an industrial designer since I graduated from college and this work has taken me all over the world including many years working in China.

As a result of the global pandemic I ended up staying back home in Ireland and began using my handbike more.

The Legend : Robert Ziabek

One day I was outside my home when my neighbour and now great friend Robert suggested I try going on the fire roads in the Slieve Blooms 30 minutes from where we both live. Robert who had been mountain biking for a number of years offered me the opportunity to go with him one weekend. That was in late 2020. Since then we have been hitting the hills almost every weekend. It truly has been a life changing part of my existence. The opportunity to pursue once again the sport I love has been incredible and wouldn’t have been possible without Robert.

In the time since I first got back on the trails I have worked on a new bike and developed my riding skills to be able to manage on almost every trail in the Slieve Bloom trail networks in Laois and Offaly here in Ireland. This has been a great journey so far. It hasn’t been without its adventures and mishaps but it has almost always been awesome. The journey isn’t over and I look forward to seeing what’s to come with more opportunities and challenges out on the trails!

I am as far as I know the only wheelchair user in Ireland who is participating in adaptive MTB, I hope that others who think that this sport is not possible as a wheelchair user can get some encouragement to try from seeing our antics on the trails! I would love to see more adaptive MTB riders here on the trails in Ireland!

Stay Shredding!!!!