A Scottish former Royal Marine, who nearly lost his foot when he stood on an IED in Afghanistan, has turned the sport that helped his recovery into a thriving business.
Don MacLean, who grew up in Bearsden where his family still lives, is about to celebrate the first anniversary of his bike repair and accessory shop and café.
Called Ryde and based in a former brewery in the city of Liverpool where Don has lived for the past 14 years, the venture is a fitting symbol of his ‘ride’ to recovery since his military career so unexpectedly came to an end.
After undergoing numerous operations and receiving extensive treatment following the explosion back in 2011, Don was back in the saddle before he learned to walk again. And, within six months of the incident, he competed in ‘Race Across America’ with a group of other injured veterans.
Next month, the former pupil of Mosshead Primary school and Bearsden Academy, will once again be attempting the long-distance race (known as RAAM) – this time as the ride’s qualified mechanic.
And as soon as he returns, he will be marking the 1st birthday of his cycle related venture.
“It’s been an amazing journey,” admitted the 39-year-old. “I have been lucky and well-supported during my recovery and I am at the stage where I am able to give something back – to Help for Heroes which has always been there for me, and to wounded ex-military in the North West who perhaps haven’t got the support they need in the region.”
Don’s first offer of help was to provide a meeting room and friendly welcome at Ryde to members of Help for Heroes fellowship groups, Band of Brothers (those wounded, injured or sick) and Band of Sisters (those who care for BoBs).
Next, he hopes to expand his business by keeping a small stock of bikes for hire by veterans so that they too can experience the benefits of cycling as he did.
“I’ve always been a keen cyclist and it was, and still is, a massive part of my recovery – I started static cycling in December 2011, before I could even walk again and within six months had completed the RAAM.
“The lads I raced with were inspirational - proving every single day that there really is life beyond injury. We set ourselves a tough target: to complete the race from west to east coast America, in just eight days and we smashed it, completing the 3000 mile race in seven days and seven hours. Not bad for a group of eight blokes with seven legs between us!
“Cycling is completely inclusive. No matter what your injury or disability, almost anyone can get on a bike. Rehab can become monotonous but, with sport, you end up doing it without really realising it. It gives you a focus and I definitely wouldn’t be where I am without it.”
That’s why the Glaswegian decided to take his interest in cycling to another level and make it his new career. He learned his trade while working for a company that provides mechanical support to long-distance cycling groups. Alongside that, he taught Bikeability – safe cycling – in primary schools. A chance meeting with fellow cycle lover Ian Magill led to their setting up of Rydes.
With help from electricians and builders who were also former Marines, it took the business partners just ten weeks to transform and kit out the corner of the old brewery premises that they rent. The result is a funky, industrial look with recycled wood, corrugated steel, scaffold and cushions made from padded hessian coffee sacks. Cycles adorn the high painted brick walls, cyclist wear and bike products are on display for purchase and the integrated workshop enables visitors to watch repairs taking place while they eat. Little surprise that it has become the perfect stop off for cyclists needing a destination during their rides out from the city.
“We had no idea whether we would be busy enough and, while the café side is our main bread and butter, the cycling side is ticking over nicely too.
“Liverpool is very similar to Glasgow, particularly in terms of history and the people, with a fantastic independent scene at the moment - whether that be restaurants, bars, shops or coffee shops – to which, hopefully, Ryde is a great addition.”
To sponsor Don on his Ride Across America, and help him to continue supporting fellow veterans through help for Heroes, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Don-Maclean
If you want to support Help for Heroes, either by fundraising or volunteering, or if you are a wounded, sick or injured veteran who needs support, find out more by visiting http://www.helpforheroes.org.uk/ and clicking on Give Support or Get Support.