A new hobby after heart surgery

James Cadman practising trial biking

Heart valve surgery led James Cadman to look for a new way to keep active. He tells us how his hobby  is a source of strength in more ways than one.

In February 2014, James Cadman had surgery to treat a mitral valve prolapse.

When he’d recovered, James, 52, knew he had to stay active and was keen to try something new.

I'd done coarse fishing and match fishing, loads of dog walking and I work on the railway, but I wanted to do something different,” he explains. “Because I’m into my military history, my wife suggested going on a Roman or Viking re-enactment day. I said: ‘No thank you! I’m not running around in my underpants in November.’”

While browsing the internet for more ideas, James stumbled upon the site of Inch Perfect Trials, a trial bike training centre in Clitheroe, Lancashire. Trial bikers ride motorbikes, standing on pegs rather than sitting, as the bikes have no seats. It requires great balance and involves climbing hills, navigating obstacles and hopping from rocks to logs.

“The whole idea of trial biking is not to get the fastest time. It’s a bit like show jumping,” says James. “If you put your foot down or clip an obstacle, you’re penalised, so you can just take your time.”

Although he’d never tried the sport, James was curious. “I rang up Matt, who owns the company, and he said they cater for absolute beginners, like me,” says James. “I went and did an hour, getting used to the clutch control and the throttle. I fell in love with it; it was absolutely brilliant.”

I fell in love with it; it was absolutely brilliant

James Cadman

Motorbiking may not sound very physical, but James explains it’s a great workout. “It helps with your hand–eye coordination and you don’t realise how much energy you’re burning off and what muscles you’re using,” he says. “When you get off, you know you’ve had a good session.” 

James likes that trial biking lets you go at your own pace and that riders are always ready to help one another improve their skills. “If you come across a section that’s too hard, you can just skip it and go on to the next one,” he says. “It’s all good camaraderie; everybody is willing to help everybody else. It’s about getting out and meeting new people.”

Sue, James’ wife, surprised him at Christmas with his very own trial bike. Now he’s training to do his first beginners’ competition, known as a ‘Wobbler’.

James says staying active through trial biking, plus the support of new friends he’s made, has aided his recovery. “I went back to the cardiology department and they did an ECG and said the repair I’d had done was holding up no problem,” he says.

“I was fortunate. My dad died at 50 of a massive heart attack and for me to be told, younger than that, that I had heart problems, you’re thinking: ‘Oh my God.’

“But I’m back at work and I’m doing a new hobby. It’s good to exercise – as long as you’re doing something and not just sat watching television all day.”

Related publications