A woman from Lossiemouth is gearing up for an uphill challenge with a difference.
Karen Cox usually relies on her mobility scooter to get around. Now the self-named Wobbly Cyclist is planning to make it to the top of Ben Rinnes – on an electric mountain bike.
The 54-year-old suffers from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, fibromyalgia and arthritis and finds balancing a real problem, so she confides that the challenge is going to be a tough one.
She said: “Living in Lossie, I’m always looking at Ben Rinnes, and I’ve always wanted to see the view from the top, so this summer, with the support of some of my colleagues, I’m taking an electric mountain bike up Ben Rinnes.
“Wobbly is definitely how I describe myself! Because of my core stability, if I look over my shoulders I wobble. I’ve had a couple of tumbles and some near misses, so wobbly is definitely the way it goes.
“Falling off has always been my biggest fear because when you live with chronic conditions and you’re in pain anyway, the last thing you want to do is make things worse.”
Karen hopes to complete the Ben Rinnes bid by the end of the summer but says she will only go when the weather is good.
“I’m not setting a date until nearer the time because if it’s pouring with rain, I’m not doing it that day as I have to see the view. I’m only going to get up there once, so I need to see the view,” she insisted.
Karen, who was practising with a ride up Bin Hill at Cullen at the weekend, is raising money for Flying Scholarships for Disabled People and Outfit Moray, the charity where she works as an admin and fundraiser.
When I’m on my mobility scooter, I’m disabled; when I’m on my bike, I’m a cyclist
Her colleagues at the Moray charity, which helps young disadvantaged and vulnerable people through outdoor adventures, have been instrumental in helping her deal with her disability. Last year, she borrowed an e-bike for a couple of weeks and due to lockdown ended up keeping it for a few months – and she said it completely change her life.
“It’s the simple things that I’m doing, like I cycled along Lossie west beach by myself, and you couldn’t wipe the grin off my face,” she said.
“If I’m going round the shops or if I’m going for walks, in inverted commas, I’m on a mobility scooter, which doesn’t go very fast. So whizzing around on my e-bike at 14 or 15 miles per hour, although I’m still limited on the number of miles I can do, I can still get a lot further than I could on my mobility scooter.
“When I’m on my mobility scooter, I’m disabled; when I’m on my bike, I’m a cyclist, and it just gives me that sense of a little bit of freedom and a little bit more normality. I’m a cyclist at that point and I can forget about everything else.”
Karen, a mother-of-three, is no stranger to adventure, having previously learned to fly and abseiled off the Forth Bridge.
She said: “I have got an absolute fear of heights – I won’t stand on a chair to change a light bulb! I abseiled off the Forth Bridge in 2017 which was horrendous! The poor guy had to peel my fingers off with me sobbing at the top, but I did it.
“I like to challenge myself. I think you need to keep those brain cells going and to keep the adrenaline going a little bit.
“My mantra really is if I can fly a plane, I can do anything.”