Paralyzed mountain bike trials rider Martyn Ashton: his philosophy of life is one to emulate

Tym Manley, editor of the British cycling magazine Rouleur, has an article titled Reasons To Be Cheerful – One, Two, Three about his visit to the hospital bed of legendary mountain bike trials rider Martyn Ashton, paralyzed from the waist down from an accident during a trials demo in September.

Martyn Ashton - photo by Steve Behr

I really resonate with Ashton’s answer to Manley’s question, “Are you a religious man?”

“No, I wouldn’t say that.  It fascinates me and I’ve read a lot of stuff, but I don’t have a faith. But what’s come to my mind these last few weeks is stuff from Eckhart Tolle, which is all about ‘now’; about staying in the moment, not thinking about the past, not letting your ego be who are you, not letting the ego transform into a physical thing because it’s just thoughts. And I felt the relevance of that, right at the moment I crashed.

“I had this beautiful blue sky above me and I was like: ‘Right, well, that’s something to focus on. So focus on that. Don’t focus on this, because this is shit!’ So I just was looking at the sky, just staying in that moment, not doing anything else, it’s simple. Doing that stopped me panicking all the way to the MRI scanner.

“I don’t think Eckhart designed his system for emergency action, mind you; it’s supposed to be a life philosophy! I’ve maybe not used it correctly!”

“You have to try not to believe all the stuff in your head, you know? The bit of the industry I work in is all about people saying how brilliant you are. And my job is to try to persuade people to say how brilliant I am too, or else why am I worth sponsoring? But that isn’t actually me.

“People write things about me, but it doesn’t make them real. The ego is comprised of the thoughts you have, but they’re just thoughts, they’re not actually real. You build up a character in this business and it’s very easy to think: ‘Well I’ve got to say this and that and the other because that’s who I am.’ But that isn’t who I am – I’m just exactly the same as everyone else.

“The past? Well you think about the past, that’s it. It isn’t something you can go back to. It’s just thoughts, which are your memories of it. And what you think is the future is the same. It isn’t what the future will be. There’s only right here and now. That’s it. And I think if you can stay in the now, and appreciate it as much as you can, that is as real as you get.”



  1. Philip said:

    Hey Griff,

    Interesting that this was the first article I read. I love faith. My life is so full because of it. And I don’t know where I’d be without it.

    I struggle with anxiety, depression and have felt suicidal at times. Medication, exercise and balance really helps. But finding that my life is a gift, being compassionate towards myself and others is informed by my faith and gives me great hope in the now. My faith also teaches me that ego leads down dangerous paths.

    My greatest hope and deepest desire is to work with God in the restoration of this world. It’s what I live for in the now, when my ego isn’t in the way. And I’m learning to fail and move forward with joy.

    I’ve noticed that mountain bikers often have really unique and fascinating takes on spirituality. Few don’t have some sort of worked-out spirituality.

    I particularly like Ryan Leech’s thoughts…

    December 19, 2013
  2. Griff Wigley said:

    Phil, I’m a fan of Ryan Leech, too. I bought access to his bicycle trials videos earlier this year and THEN discovered his current writing. For example I like his post-race reflection in this blog post.

    December 20, 2013
  3. Griff Wigley said:

    Yeah, ego and its supporting cast of mistaken ideas is my nemesis, too. Every time I put up a photo or video of myself I try to remember to pause and see what mistaken ideas might be the real motivation.

    For me, there’s a reasonable level of showing off that’s fun but it sure can take over if I’m not careful.

    I’m a former Catholic (I studied to be a priest for 8 years) but have been an atheist for quite a while. But I still practice a form of spirituality that to an outside observer, looks very much like what many Christians do.

    Glad to hear you’re working on your self and the world. I am, too.

    December 20, 2013
  4. Philip said:

    Hey Griff, that’s great to hear you like Leech too. Maybe sometime we can chat about what won you over to atheism. And studying to be a priest for 8 years! It sounds like there’s quite a story there. I’d love to here/read your story if you have it posted anywhere. Cheers!

    December 24, 2013
  5. Philip said:

    want to follow thread 🙂

    December 24, 2013
  6. Griff Wigley said:

    I’ve not posted that story online but i wouldn’t mind doing so. I’ve run a community blog in the town where I live for over seven years and could post it there, as a few people have asked me about it.

    December 25, 2013
  7. Jenn said:

    Griff, I would be interested in hearing your journey too!

    January 5, 2014
  8. Griff Wigley said:

    Thanks for your interest, too, Jenn. I guess I’ll have to move this up higher on my to-do list!

    January 6, 2014

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