IF you’re on one of Perth’s cycle paths and a low-lying three-wheeled bike whizzes past you, chances are it’s being ridden by WA Paralympian Nigel Barley.
With the London Games fast approaching, the Parkerville resident is ramping up his training as he prepares for the toughest sporting battle of his life – the gruelling 64.5km cycle road race event.
And the man ranked fifth in the world is every chance to bring home a medal among a wide-open field of competitors from around the globe.
A London triumph would complete a remarkable story for the 37-year-old.
After breaking his back in a three-metre workplace fall in 2001, Barley spent a year weighing up his options before giving hand-powered cycling a go.
“I was basically sitting around doing nothing, and had put on a bit of weight as I adjusted to my new life,” Barley told PerthNow.
“I tried this hand cycle one day and I never really intended to get to the level that I’m at now, but it just sort of snowballed from there.
“I just meant to ride socially and lose a bit of weight.”
A decade on, the WA athlete has become a worldwide leader in his sport. Barley broke the record for non-stop hand cycling in 2004, notching up a remarkable 462km in 24 hours.
More recently, he represented Australia at the UCI Para-cycling World Championships and took home Cycling WA’s Sports Star of the Year in 2011.
Barley has achieved it all with the help of an arm-powered recumbent cycle, which has been modified to support his spinal-cord injury.
“You’ve got two wheels at the back and one at the front, and all your brakes and other gear is on your crank handles because your arms are propelling the machine,” he said.
“There’s a lot of training involved and a lot of hard work, but it’s worth it.
“I’ve been doing big kilometres on the road and have been doing some really good times, so hopefully I’ll go alright (in London).”
In the meantime, Barley’s preparations close to home will include a ride at next month’s RAC Freeway Bike Hike for Asthma, the annual race that incorporates the Mitchell and Kwinana Freeways.
Barley said he was looking forward to tackling the new 70km ‘full hike’ from Mandurah to Perth’s Langley Park.
“It’s flat so it’s going to be quite a fast ride,” he said.
“I think it’s great we can have an event like this in Perth – to close the freeway down and you can ride along it. It’s terrific for the public that they get a chance to take part.”
For more details on the event, visit www.freewaybikehike.com.au