This episode, number three in our series, is a little different to the other stories of workshop/garage builds, restorations and bike collections. But when Steve Boydell contacted us, it had the makings of a slightly unusual and very human story, and so it turned out.

From time to time the motorcycle press and media remind us of the value derived from motorcycling in terms of its advantages in preserving a healthy and positive mind and body. Research studies have shown those involved in motorcycling over a long period of their lives are generally more alert, skilled and confident riders/drivers, and in comparison with the majority of the population, keep away from having to consult with medics.

Of course, motorcycling is not a shield or panacea from the ills that can visit us, and one day in 2015, Carol Boydell, a healthy, active and enthusiastic rider for many years, was the victim of a stroke.

She had fallen from bed and bumped her head, but her husband Steve, who had been a police officer for many years and more recently had worked for the ambulance service, recognised what was happening and was aware of the importance of the FAST acronym people may have seen in the campaign to help us respond appropriately if confronted by a victim of stroke:

Facial Weakness – Can the person smile? Has their face fallen on one side?.

Arm Weakness – Can the person raise both arms and keep them there?.

Speech Problems – Can the person speak clearly and understand what you say? Is their speech slurred?.

Time – To call 999.

The ambulance crew arrived within minutes, the important clot-busting drug administered (thrombolysis), and then the blue light dash to hospital.

Steve and Carol's lives have been wrapped around their love of riding for many years. The little Honda SS50 Carol rode. Steve's CG125. The Honda Super Dream they owned together, and when that was traded, a Honda XL250. The fun that bike gave, and because they didn't have car licences at the time, was ridden by Carol when pregnant with her first daughter. The tank acting as support, and a backpack to stash the shopping.

As they progressed to bigger bikes, a succession of Hondas satisfied their riding time. They became advanced riders through East Sussex Advance Motorcyclists (ESAM). Carol was one of their observers, and in 1995 was awarded 'Rider of the Year' status. In that same year, when Carol took a ride on her brother-in-law's Honda VFR, she instinctively knew this was a motorcycle she wanted to own and ride. A 1991 model was spotted for sale near Brighton. A deal done, she throttled away from Steve following by car on the return home, feeling comfortable and in control of her new mount.

Many memorable touring trips followed when their daughters were in their teens and able to accompany them, with Steve riding his Honda Blackbird, a bike he loved and has generous praise for. Then, as happens to any number of us, other priorities in life intervene. In this case, a house extension, including losing some garage space, which prompted the sale of the VFR that Steve said was starting to get tatty in 2004, along with the Blackbird. They compensated with a memorable trip to Australia and the World Superbike round at Philip Island.

A couple of their friends were involved in crashes. Good, experienced riders. And this period planted a few doubts in Steve and Carol's heads: 'if it can happen to responsible skilled riders...'. But it wasn't long before they had to get back on two wheels, and touring again. This time with Steve buying a CB900 that he soon swapped for a Triumph Tiger 1050 with touring kit. While Carol was smitten by a KTM Super Duke she took for a test ride. They used these bikes to ride the Lands End to John O'Groats route. But Carol couldn't help commenting on the lack of adequate luggage space on the 'Duke'...'where do I stash those shoes?'.

They even found the time to experience the Ron Haslam racing school at Donington Park and were shown the way round by a young James Ellison and an even younger Leon Haslam - now both top British Superbike riders.

Their touring journeys through Europe continued on a pair of Triumphs. Then Carol's stroke brought these good times to a halt. Not knowing how she would recover and what faculties she would regain meant that motorcycles were replaced with a motorhome.

Carol is a woman that the words determination and resilience were invented for. As she regained and reclaimed her well-being, through the hospital treatment and subsequent therapy, riding a bike again became her goal. The therapists that looked after her once she was home devised exercises whereby she went out into the (now smaller) garage and was able to come to terms with a motorcycle again with exercises designed to get on and off Steve's Triumph Trident.

With recovery continuing and Carol going to a gym to rebuild strength and balance, Steve began to look for a bike. He logged on to eBay - the second or third bike on display was a VFR. Closer investigation showed it to be the bike they had sold thirteen years earlier. It was for sale in the west country, and the deal was a two for one, as the seller had another VFR he had intended to use for spares. They had to take both, and bought them back to Sussex on a trailer with thirteen tie downs keeping them from toppling. An anxious trip.

After chatting in their living room it was time to view this two-wheeled coincidence and reunion. The two VFRs were parked line-astern next to Steve's lovely 1993 Trident. He's used a number of parts from the 'spare' bike and intends to hang on to the engine. The 'new' VFR is looking good. They haven't run the engine yet, as a starter clutch repair kit needs to be obtained and fitted, but there's a summer target to get Carol back on her beloved VFR. And if this bike turning up again is some kind of good omen, they'd love to see the return of the Honda XL 250. So if anyone is still riding or knows the whereabouts of an old model in the E Sussex area that may have belonged to them, let us know at Wemoto News.

Carol's time from the shock of a stroke to the beginnings of a recovery has been helped by her referral to the local Stroke Association and through their programme of recovery therapy which has included specific exercise and taking part in a singing group. This has enabled her to gain enough coordination and strength to get back into the gym three times per week.

She now devotes some of her time to the Association, is Chair of her local group, and through her experience is intent on helping others and disseminating information about the how strokes can affect people's lives and how best to mitigate against them.

I was quite taken aback when she quoted the prevalence statistic that a stroke affects someone approximately 1520,000 times a year in the UK. That's one every 3mins 27secs.

My opening remarks about motorcyclists being a generally more healthy bunch notwithstanding, our average age is rising, so it's worth spending some time informing ourselves about this condition and its major causes.

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21/03/17 - Thanks for the right up John. Very nice piece. And the build continues!

07/04/17 - Sending best wishes for continued recovery! Great write up. xx

Posted by John Newman
for Wemoto News on 21 March 2017 in Features

Edited By: Daisy Cordell



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