From the Northern Star

One-armed bandit's amazing journey

BARRY Simpson - or the one-armed bandit as he used to be known to his mates in the Richmond River Motorcycle Club - doesn't see himself as a pioneer for amputees or a role model.

He rides quad bikes because they're the next best thing to motorcycles and they are 'a hell of a lot of fun'.

But the Leycester hobby farmer is quietly proud of the fact that in July when he sets out on a 3000km off-road quad bike odyssey from Atherton to Cape York and back, he will be the first amputee to do so.

Barry, who lost his right arm in a hit and run motorcycle crash at Tuncester in 1981, will take part in the Aussie Quad Bike Adventures Cape York Expedition and raise funds for the Child Abuse Trust.

He will join 34 other riders on the 10-day round trip, travelling 300km a day on mostly bush tracks, crossing numerous rivers and creeks along the way.

It's a long hard ride that's been known to wear down experienced able-bodied riders, but Barry is not daunted in the least.

He's prepared for the pain he's likely to experience after hours riding over rough bush tracks and the concentration that will be necessary to ride, manoeuvre and control a quad bike with just one arm.

"My aim is to finish the ride - I'm totally focussed on it," Barry said.

"Although I am a little worried about being damp all the time - I've been told your feet get wet and stay wet from all the river crossings and that some riders have ended up with foot rot.

"That said, it's going to be a real adventure. I'm not sure if it will be the adventure of a life time because life itself is an adventure, isn't it?

"But it will be a group of like-minded quad nuts sharing their passion for riding and the freedom of the bush."

Barry took up riding quad bikes after he lost his arm and realised, after several attempts, that riding motorcycles was no longer a practical option for him.

He used a quad bike to round up the cattle on his hobby farm and progressed to racing a souped-up version of his farm workhorse.

However, age catches up with us all and Barry decided in 2004 that it was time to make a graceful exit from the sport while he was still able.

Since then, he's done a few organised trail rides, including a two-day event at Woodenbong last year in which he rode his self-customised - Barry has transferred the regulation right-hand throttle and front brake to the left - Raptor 700, a two-wheel-drive sport and recreational quad bike.

It was at the Woodenbong event that he was approached to take part in the Cape York expedition.

But with just six weeks' preparation time, Barry thought it was just a little too soon.

"I wasn't prepared physically to take it on then, and frankly I wasn't mentally or financially prepared for it last year either," he said.

"But I did set myself the goal of joining it this year, before I got too old!

"It's not about being a pioneer for amputees or proving anything, although I'm pretty sure I will be the first person with only one arm to do the trip.

"I'm doing this to have fun - and of course I get to see the Cape. You have to admit it's a pretty great way to see Cape York."

Although he's prepared physically and mentally to take on the expedition, Barry still is seeking sponsors.

"I'd be happy to speak to anyone who may be able to help - it's quite a significant cost to take part," he said.

"There's plenty of scope to put advertising signs on the quad bike, or maybe someone could help me with fabricating a crate to go on the back of the quad bike which I will need to carry a few tools and things."

Anyone who may be able to help can contact Barry on 6629 3349.

Meanwhile, the one-armed bandit is counting down the weeks until the start of his top-end adventure and desperately trying to figure out where he can stow a few extra pairs of dry socks on his bike.

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