After developing a form of autoimmune arthritis following a mountain bike race in the snow 12 years ago, Tama Easton is set to come full circle. This morning he departed Lake Tekapo on an 800 km eBike tour to show arthritis sufferers how much fun and adventure can be had despite the condition.
Easton is on a self-supported loop over 11 days, riding an average of 60-120km daily to raise awareness for Arthritis New Zealand’s annual appeal month. The route aims to avoid roads as much as possible and crosses at least two mountain passes and some of the most iconic and stunning backdrops of southern New Zealand.
Tama Easton is ready on Day 1 of his 800 km eBike tour on Tuesday, 19 October 2021.
Easton has ankylosing spondylitis, a chronic, incurable inflammatory arthritis condition that can create a fused and deformed curved spine if left untreated. The condition can also cause chronic pain in the back, shoulders, hips, ribs, heels, hands and feet.
“At my worst with ankylosing spondylitis, I could barely walk or lift my baby son; then in early 2010, I ended up in intensive care due to complications as well. This all led to me taking a step back from my involvement in mountain biking,” he explains.
“Over the past 12 years, I’ve worked out how to manage my condition with diet, lifestyle, exercise and some sophisticated drugs for when things get really bad. Unfortunately, the drugs gave me some bad side effects, so I’m incredibly motivated to manage my condition in other ways.
“Fortunately, regular exercise helps massively, and cycling is relatively gentle on the joints, so I eventually got back into riding with varying degrees of success.”
Arthritis New Zealand often recommends cycling as a form of exercise for people with arthritis as it is gentle on the joints and helps build muscle. As with all forms of exercise, it is recommended to check with your doctor or specialist before taking on any new type of exercise.
“I decided to ride every day of 2018 – partially for my wellbeing, partially to raise a middle finger to ankylosing spondylitis,” says Easton.
“I got to the end of 2018, shrugged and continued riding every day, even if it was just around the block – I’ve been riding for 1,376 consecutive days so far.
“I believe people living with arthritis shouldn’t feel limited by their condition as that can lead to a self-fulfilling downward spiral for activity, health and mood,” Easton explains. “It’s important to maintain an active lifestyle, and I’ve found eBiking a great way to do that.
“I bought a Trek Rail 7 eBike powered by Bosch eBike Systems in 2020 which stepped things up no end – I rode 1,000km on the Trek in the first ten weeks (and that’s not counting rides on my other bikes). I also got a second Bosch battery so I could do the long rides I love too without range anxiety, which will come in handy for this adventure ahead as well.”
Easton explains that he will be heading south through McKenzie Country down into Otago on this ride. The touring route he has crafted uses a combination of off-road rail trails while connecting key mountain bike trail networks such as Alexandra, Dunedin, Naseby, Clyde and Cromwell.
Tama says he would appreciate it if followers of his journey could acknowledge the valuable work Arthritis New Zealand does by donating to his Donorbox page here. Donations help Arthritis NZ fund research, contribute to health policy, and collaborate with healthcare professionals. This work supports the 700,000 New Zealanders who suffer from more than 140 types of arthritis – a leading cause of disability in Aotearoa with no cure.
Please acknowledge the valuable work Arthritis New Zealand does by donating. All funds donated on my Donorbox page will go towards the development of resources and programmes for people with ankylosing spondylitis.
Ankylosing spondylitis is a form of inflammatory arthritis that affects the spine and sacroiliac joints of the lower back. Symptoms include chronic back pain and stiffness. In severe cases, the affected joints in the spine may become fused and inflexible. There may also be deformity or curving of the spine.
Ankylosing spondylitis can cause inflammation, pain and stiffness in other parts of the body too, such as shoulders, hips, ribs, heels, hands and feet. The degree of pain and inflammation will vary from person to person and range from mild to severe. Sometimes the eyes are affected as well (known as iritis or uveitis).