Neil Fachie - My love of cycling
Neil Fachie is one our amazing Fight for Sight #champions, he's taken time out from winning multiple gold medals to tell us about his love of cycling.
My love of cycling
First and foremost, I love the feeling of travelling around a velodrome at over 70kmh on the back of a tandem you’re not in control of. It's not for everyone! I’ve also always been keen to master something. When I get started on a task I tend to get quite obsessed with it and want to be the best I can be at it. I am aware I will never fully reach my expectations, but this is a good thing, as it means I will keep striving to improve.
I also love the feeling of winning. I am very fortunate to have experienced some great results over the years, and I am continually chasing that high again.
I am extremely fortunate that I have been able to compete in two home games, the London Paralympics in 2012, and the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow 2014. Winning the gold and breaking the World Record in London was really special. The crowd was immense and it was deafening in the velodrome. That was the pinnacle.
Racing for Scotland in Glasgow was really special too. There was a lot of pressure on us to win, and personally I felt as though the Australians were slightly better than us. With the help of a passionate home crowd we managed to win double gold. It was a really special few days.
If you are visually impaired and want to ride tandem like me, then you will be surprised how many people will be willing to take you out on a bike, so long as you can find yourself a tandem to ride. Cycling is a popular sport at the moment, so there are a lot of clubs out there!
For children I strongly recommend getting out there and trying lots of different sports. There’s no need to tie yourself down to one sport too early. Get out there and have fun!
If you enjoy the cycling and want to take it further, then again making it fun is key. In order to really improve your pedaling technique you’re going to need to spend quite a bit of time on the bike. Longer group rides will be great for this. Even if you are a sprinter like me, improving your general fitness, improving your pedaling technique and building on the social side is a great place to start.
Like anything, the journey has had its ups and downs. When I was young I struggled at times with my eye condition, which has always affected my self-confidence. I found sport helped me overcome that. It is why I am such a strong advocate for people getting involved in sport, purely just for the social aspect.
Losing my British Athletics funding was a real low in my life. I felt completely lost and entered a bit of a stage of depression. I found motivating myself to do anything incredibly tough. I realised after some time that I had to make a change though. Often it’s at the most challenging times that we make the most life-changing decisions. Within a year I started cycling, moved to Manchester and became a World Champion. It was an incredible turnaround, but once I got started on the path I was so driven to give it my all.
I never really accepted the fact that my sight was deteriorating for a long time either. I particularly struggle with seeing in low-level light, and so I would tend to avoid heading outside in an evening if possible. This is obviously very limiting, especially in winter. It wasn’t until I met my now wife, Lora, that I realised how silly I was being. Lora is completely blind, and she was doing loads more with her life than most fully-sighted people. Seeing what she was doing was the kick up the rear I needed.
My final piece of advice is to surround yourself with the right people. Learning from others can take years off of the learning process for you. Find yourself a coach or mentor, or just some people who are slightly ahead of where you are. Have fun and enjoy the ride!
Neil has retinitis pigmentosa, you can read more about some of the research we are funding into this in Professor Michaelides blog.