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Charley Boorman: Why I'm delighted to be riding again – over Sally Gap

In a Big Issue series on celebrities and nature, travelling biker Charley Boorman describes how he "got freedom back" after a serious motorbike crash

Charley Boorman

The Sally Gap [pictured below] runs from north-west Dublin over the Wicklow Mountains all the way to Glendalough, and then down past the house where I grew up. It’s one of the most beautiful pieces of road that you can ride.

When I was young I used to ride motorbikes all around that area. My friend, who lived on the other side of the river, and I used to fill our bikes up with petrol then put a little spare in a bottle on the back of the bikes. We’d head out into the mountains until our petrol tank ran out then we’d fill it up again and ride home.

It’s one of the most beautiful pieces of road that you can ride

Last year I had an accident in Portugal and smashed both my legs up. Going into emergency surgery because my leg was almost hanging off, I remember asking the surgeon, “Look, just tell me the truth, how long will it be until I can get back on the motorbike?” He looked at me as if to say: Charley you’re an idiot.

I ended up spending five months in a wheelchair, lying in bed for months. The big luck of the whole thing was two days before the crash I’d bought a really big TV for the house. When I got back I put a bed in the TV room and watched TV till all hours. I finally had the opportunity to watch some boxsets: House of Cards, Suits, Banshee. I think I’ve kept iTunes afloat for the last ten months.

Sally Gap

I’ve always tried to be a positive person. What’s happened has happened and there’s not much I can do about it – but what I can do is try to get better. There were some dark moments, you’re looking down at your leg with a giant Meccano set all around it with wires coming in and out of all parts. A friend of mine said, Charley, you’ve got to stop looking at it day by day. Each week think, that’s not been a bad week, I’ve gotten better.

I was on crutches by then, but I knew I could ride my wife’s Vespa

My goal was always to get back on the bike. Last year I snuck out the house. I was on crutches by then. I had a big cage so I couldn’t get my leg close enough to change gear on a motorbike but I knew I could ride my wife’s Vespa. I raced off down the road, I was wobbly, but I’d got my freedom back.

My walking now is not so good, I hobble around still, but I can ride a bike so I’m delighted. I was just over in Ireland, visiting my father for a couple of days and I met up with some mates and went for a ride – over Sally Gap. I feel like I’m back now.

Charley Boorman’s Long Way Back is out now (AA publishing)

Find out more about ‘how to get lost’ – from vendors and celebrities – in this week’s Big Issue, on sale now

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