Former stunt trials world champion and "Road Bike Party" star Martyn Ashton's world changed after a 2013 accident left him paralyzed, but in a new short film titled Back on Track, released Thursday by the Global Mountain Bike Network, he's on the bike again, ripping down a singletrack with friends. In the video, we see Ashton go from his wheelchair back onto a different set of wheels with fellow cycling legends Danny MacAskill, Chris Akrigg, and Blake Samson at the Antur Stiniog trail in North Wales. He is given a push, sets off down the Welsh mountain, and has a smile on his face the whole ride.
In an interview released with the video, Ashton explains what it was like coming back from an injury that paralyzed him completely from his T7 vertebrae (right below the ribs) down. "It was 'career over' when I had the accident," he says. "[But] I guess because of the type of people bike riders are — we're like, 'Oh, I wonder how I'll do that,'" says Martin of his return to the bike. "It was almost fun straightaway, because I knew I was going to have to learn how to ride a bike again, and I knew that was going to be pretty funny."
Ashton's custom bike has a sit-ski seat designed for use in Paralympic snow sports and a safety belt that keeps him upright on the trails, but it's otherwise unmodified. To keep his feet steady, his friends tape them to the pedals. Everything else is under the control of Ashton's hands, and he is able to fishtail and pop wheelies with the rest of the group. "I'm kind of gliding through the air, and not getting the same feedback from the suspension that you normally would, because you feel so much through the pedals and your knees. I don't know, it sort of feels so awesome. Just the excitement of that and knowing that I'm getting nearer to it — that's what's driven me on."
Ashton hopes to inspire others and advocate for paralyzed athletes beyond the film by working with spinal-cord research foundation Wings for Life, his Try Before July blog, and his long-term goal to use his own breakthrough to help create mountain bike events at the Paralympics.