Change-Maker 2. Foot Engineer – Ryan

NFE’s Founder, Rachel Parsons, has been out and about meeting some of the New Forest’s most inspiring local legends… aka ‘Change-makers’…in today’s interview, Rachel met with Ryan Drayton…

Ryan lost his leg aged 35, from a major bmx accident and now wears a prosthetic from the below the knee down. His drive and determination to succeed and inspire others is why I interviewed him as a ‘change-maker’ – an attribute he doesn’t recognize in himself… yet!

Bike fixer. Limb-different. Inventor of a prosthetic foot-to-pedal kit for para pro-athletes. Professional mountain bike coach. Dad.

Ryan is humble, driven, focused and starting to share his story as a public speaker to inspire others to accept and rise to their life challenges….

Q. What is your day job now?

I’m trialling for the Paralympic team as a para snowboarder. I’m a privateer mountain bike racer, endurance downhill events are my favourite. I love the hard, challenging rides, the harder they are, the better they are.

I work at Bicycle Jacks in Lymington which is where I’ve been since I lost my leg. It’s a good place. Relaxed. Top kit. We help people get organised on bikes and educate them to maintain their bikes better. I also help people guide and am a professional mountain bike coach – technical and race riding as well as general guiding.

I am starting to do more public speaking and really want this to grow.

Q. Given your injury and goals – your drive and discipline is extraordinary. Tell us more.

Having a prosthetic definitely brings its challenges, it’s how you adapt, it’s only ever what’s in your head that limits you.

I’ve got an innate thing inside me that will not accept any excuses. I have zero tolerance. I know there’s always a way. Where most people say it hurts, or I can’t, I will find a way. Pain is a feedback system not a barrier. All these things are challenges in a positive way, I find it a focus. Everything’s a lesson.

Q. What change do you want to see in the future?

I’d like to see people grow to their full potential. Develop their desire for resiliency, for owning their challenges, for living life to the full, with no regrets. I had my years of feeling like a victim, but feeling that way keeps you down, so I chose to take responsibility for the situation and make the best of it.

We can all do that. It’s not easy. But it’s right.

Q. What annoys you?

Bullying, belittling, misogynistic behavior and big egos really, that really upsets me.

People being flakey, giving excuses, not giving it their all, not willing to try. People that are too complacent, happy with mediocrity. Happy with safety. Not prepared to push hard, try and to learn lessons. Too afraid of judgement.

If I get to 80 and look back, and thought I never pushed myself, how hard I can have gone, how big you can go, never learnt ay lessons, never tested my potential, I revaluate my pot every day, I see no limits. I’ll carry on pushing it til I go down in flames, and my wife and kid know it, and accept it. I want them to say, ‘He inspired loads of people’. That’s what I want.

Q. Can you give us one idea that would make a big difference?

Learn to love yourself fully before you love another.

Spend as much time outside as you can. Fully outside away from everyone else.

I’d like everyone to keep a gratitude diary. Love the small things. Take the time to be quiet, notice the weather, birds, trees, temperature.

Q. How did you get here, in this place, in the world, today?

I trained with Army Cadets and Air Training Corps from age 11-17. I wanted to be a tank driver, destroy things and create havoc. I had to be an adult at a young age. I questioned everything, challenged my identity, but I loved to ‘’go like hell”. My life goal was to join the Royal marines. I wanted them to be my family. But I wasn’t allowed. I had an issue with my early medical records, and was asked to leave twice. It was a very hard experience. After that I was off the rails a bit. I partied hard and I rode my bike – a lot.

I have no degree. I spent 20 years in an engineering and mechanical environment. I smashed my leg in 2020. It wasn’t amputated until 18 months after that. They tried to save it but it wasn’t working. After that, Jack needed help in his bike shop. I’ve been here ever since.

My biking focus today is downhill mountain bike racing in the French Alps from the top of the glaciers. I ride the MEGAvalanche race and the Mountain of Hell Races. These are some of the worlds toughest races, with a mass start. Megavalance is a glacier start, 3400m above sea level. Riders go down at up to 100 kmph. I’ve nearly died a couple of times. Once I crashed at 60mph, didn’t realise my brakes were dead. I got back on and got going again, but when I tried to use my brakes, they weren’t there. I had to use my body and head as a ‘ground-anchor’ – throwing myself into the snow and rock to slow down. “I couldn’t talk properly for 3 days after that because I was in shock, I leaked out my blood pretty bad. I use duct tape and super glue to fix myself up. But yeah it was good fun.

The riders there are usually gentle humble people. I love to empower them to do more. They look at me and see that it’s possible. I tell them to relax and go and do it. Watching them overcome their own fears motivates me. Fears are prefabricated. To see them do that thing, watch the elation on their face, gives me such positive feedback.

For my snowboarding I’m a student of Snow sport Scotland, with a feeder coach for Team GB Para sports. I’m hyper a independent bloke. I don’t ask for help and trust it will come naturally when the time is right.

My accident was just one of those things that a professional rider risks. It was a half-pipe accident. I put my leg out to correct my fall, and my ligaments severed and bones broke. They tried to save it, but couldn’t. I had 15 months rehab’ during COVID, but I had a good understanding of biomechanics and knew I wasn’t recovering, so went for surgery.

Q. How do you get downtime?

Biking and snowboarding is my happy place. It’s the only time that my mind is quiet, when I’m riding. Spending time with my wife and daughter, watching and helping her grow. I also spend a lot of time designing and improving prosthetics for all, to improve functionality and remove limitations for athletes and recreational users alike.

Q. Give us a tune for your change-maker vibes. Something to inspire us.

As a child, I was heavily influenced by music, never the TV. I’m always listening to music.

Rainbow, ufo, Black sabbath, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Slayer. Definitely raved a lot in my 20’s Jungle, Drum and Bass, trance and Techno (I liked to escape in the music). Also a lot of Punk throughout, NOFX, Millencolin, Less than Jake etc..

  1. 1 Dyers eve – Metallica 1987
  2. 2 True Brew – Millencolin 2015
  3. 3 Shindo – Less that Jake 1996
  4. 4 Forest – System of a Down 2001
Whats App Us!