The Optical Express Group are pleased to sponsor the journey of three young men as they embark on the first ever circumnavigation of the globe via mountain bikes. Tom Allen, Andrew Welch and Mark Maultby have embarked on a three year trip that will take them to off-road trails around the world.
“This summer I benefited from two activities that a lot of people talk about doing, but few do. They were: a mountain bike tour of over three thousand kilometres from Leicester to Budapest, and Laser Eye Surgery through Optical Express. Talking to people before either of these, the common responses would be, ‘Phew, good luck!’, ‘rather you than me!’ and ‘aren’t you afraid?’ I hope that by the end of this article a few attitudes might have changed, and, although I’m fairly sure few will be convinced to cycle long distance, perhaps a higher number will consider laser eye surgery.
I’m choosing to write about these two events together, rather than in separate articles because, for me, they were inextricably linked. As soon as I’d committed to Ride Earth I knew that I would have to make a decision about my eyes. At the time, I wore monthly contact lenses, with a broken pair of glasses that I propped on my nose if my lenses failed me. Wearing contact lenses was something I got used to doing from dawn until dusk. It became second nature. I originally opted for contact lenses because my glasses kept breaking, and quite simply because I found the idea of prescription glasses a bit redundant in a world that offers laser eye surgery. But, I found contact lenses didn’t solve all the problems.
I’d taken contact lenses with me to Scotland for a mountain bike expedition, but I didn’t want the same hassle for a much longer bike trip. The problem with contact lenses for the mountain biker is that they dry out whilst riding and leave your eyes itchy, which is not what you want when you require optimal vision for difficult riding. Yes, you can wear expensive sunglasses to help with the problem, but this doesn’t alleviate matters in the long run. If you’ve no guarantee of washing your hands properly, as you might not have on a long distance tour, then making contact with your eyes twice (or more times) a day increases the risk of infection that could make your eyes worse permanently. I didn’t want this risk. I also didn’t want to fork out more money for glasses, which I knew, with my penchant for outdoor pursuits, would eventually get broken again and typically steam-up when riding anyway.
I’d heard of laser eye surgery, but had never looked into it properly. When I did, the statistics were astonishing: the rate of those achieving better than 20:20 vision was something like 70%. I hadn’t even known it was possible tohave vision better than 20:20! And now, having had CustomVue LASIK laser eye surgery through Optical Express, my eyes are better than 20:20. This really is extraordinary, and has made such a difference to my life. The best aspect is that I no longer regard myself as short-sighted. I’m just me. My eyes are exactly what I need them to be. I can jump on a bike and blast some trails, see crystal clear at the cinema, or jump in the sea without worrying about a lens floating away.
When I meet people now who wear glasses or contact lenses, I ask them if they would consider eye surgery. More than half wouldn’t, and the reason they give is that they’re unsure about the procedure. They fear their eyes being interfered with. The response I normally give is to tell them that of course this fear is natural, but ask them whether they would reject dentistry work because they feared the procedure. This is why I wanted to write this article; to reassure. Having been through the process, I can confidently say that the surgery is nothing to be afraid of. During the whole procedure I was looked after by very, very friendly professionals. Despite my nerves I was grinning the whole time. And, the actual operation lasted less than five minutes. How remarkable is that?! Less than five minutes! And the operation itself isn’t anything to worry about either. Your eyes are anesthetized, the surgeon is swift and confident, and before you know it you’re wondering why you were ever worried. Exactly like a visit to the dentist.
For those, like me, who think that life is for living, I urge you to consider eye surgery. My mountain biking skills have improved immeasurably since (despite what my brother says) and throughout my ride to Budapest I was continually amazed at just how far and well I could see. Friends expect me to tell them that the cycle tour was the life-changing experience, when really it has been the results of the eye surgery…”
Mark Maultby, Ride Earth