Riding the North Coast 500 route in Scotland

Davy Zyw cycles North Coast 500 for Doddie

Davy Zyw (32), from Edinburgh, who has motor neurone disease (MND) has raised £150,000 for My Name’5 Doddie Foundation by cycling the gruelling North Coast 500 route, two years since he was diagnosed with the disease. 

Zyw’s challenge of tackling Scotland’s most revered cycling challenge whilst battling MND has been documented in a poignant new film, The Ride On, which was directed by his childhood friend, Will Nangle. The film follow’s Zyw through his personal life living with MND, training for the North Coast 500 fundraising ride and the emotions during the ride itself. It also includes interviews with his twin brother Tommy, his wife and his mother who share their heartbreak and inspiration. 

“I do have dark days and dark moments. There are times when I don’t get out of bed. But if I wallow too much, I am literally missing the best days of my life and the best days of my health, and that’s what gets me up,” said Zyw. “If, in however many years, I can’t get out of bed, I don’t want to look back and think: ‘That morning, I was so low, I couldn’t get up.’ I’m like, ‘No. I’m going to get up and ride my bike.” 

Cycling 120 miles each day for four days, with nearly 10,000ft of vertical ascent is a gruelling endeavour for anyone, especially on a route which famous long distance cyclist Mark Beaumont describes as a ‘leg sapping’ with sections like ‘The Shark’s Teeth’ having to be ridden to be believed. 

Zyw’s MND means his body is already under duress, making the challenge significantly greater. The Ride On film captures these tough moments, including Zyw needing help to put on gloves and jacket during the challenge. He says of the difficulties: “I’ll take that now and again. At least I can still use my legs and move my head, but it’s only getting more difficult, particularly when the cramps are so bad on my left side, and things that I could pick up before fall through my hands.” 

Zyw continues: “The muscle wastage has gone up my hand into my arm, back, shoulders and neck. Obviously, riding a bike isn’t an ideal position because I need to use the brakes and gears. I’d built time into my week, regardless of the North Coast 500 ride, to keep fit, healthy and active. Looking further down the line, I need to counteract the effects of my disease.” 

Zyw’s motivation to complete the fundraising ride was to raise both awareness around MND and raise money for the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, the MND charity set up by Scottish rugby legend Doddie Weir to help further research of MND. 

Zyw met Weir at a rugby legend’s charity cycle ride and told him that he too had a diagnosis of MND. Weir hugged Zyw and told him to arrange a further conversation. He said of his contact with Weir: “I have seen so many consultants and fancy doctors over the years, but the email Doddie sent me the next morning was the most useful information I’ve had about my health and how I should be living. Is it a privilege to have MND? No, but to be part of the solution is a special thing: to help move people’s lives forward who are yet to be diagnosed or suffering. I’m really happy to play my part.”

Jill Douglas, CEO at My Name’5 Doddie Foundation said of Zyw’s achievement and attitude: “Davy is a remarkable individual. He has faced his MND diagnosis with great strength and positivity as anyone can see in the excellent The Ride On documentary. Filmmaker Will Nangle has captured Davy’s personality and determination, while remaining sensitive to the impact of motor neuron disease on his family and friends. Davy is a great friend to My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, his efforts have raised thousands of pounds for vital research, and he is always engaged and interested in the work we do – a powerful ambassador for the charity. We hope as many people as possible can enjoy the film which is both uplifting and enlightening.”

The Ride On is available to watch on Amazon Prime and Vimeo On Demand https://vimeo.com/ondemand/therideon

The trailer from The Ride On can be watched here: https://vimeo.com/willnangle/therideontrailer

Header image: The Ride On – Davy Zyw riding the North Coast 500 route in Scotland. Credit Alex Treadway

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