Brad’s back on a bike

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In 2021, Brad Jones had a nightmare motorbike crash at Brands Hatch, followed by three weeks in a coma. Now he’s back on two wheels – Steve Keenan reports

Brad Jones at home in Stalbridge with his new cycling passion.
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Steve Keenan

‘I had a highside accident – where the rear end slides then suddenly regains grip and violently flips. I rolled through the gravel, and knew I had broken my collarbone but then I was knocked out, which it turns out was great.
‘The bike had flown through the air and came down on my head and chest: that’s where the bad injuries happened. Luckily, I crashed right outside the medical centre: British Superbikes employ the best medics. They had my visor up after 12 seconds – there was blood pouring out of my head.
‘I was airlifted to Kings College Hospital in London. I had broken the base of my skull, shoulder blade, pelvis, collarbone and five ribs, which punctured my lungs. I was put into an induced coma for three and a half weeks…’

Brad recovering in hospital, with dad Tim and mum Maxine.

Brands Hatch, July 2021
Brad Jones was 23. It was his debut season in the Superbikes Championship riding 1,000cc machines competitively for the first time. He was more used to 600cc bikes. It was, as he says ‘a lot more power, a lot more for me to learn.’
The third race of the season was at Brands Hatch, the closest race circuit to his home in Stalbridge. ‘It was the first race of the weekend, on the Saturday,’ he says. ‘I kept having mechanical issues. Maybe I went into that bend on the first lap a bit too fast. Perhaps it was the cold tyres. I don’t know. It was just one of those things. I do remember vague little bits. I’ve seen the footage. But talking to you now, it’s like I am talking about someone else …’
Brad is now back living with his parents and working as a heating engineer in his grandfather’s business.
He’s talking about that crash 21 months ago: ‘I was in hospital for seven and a half weeks. When I came out of the coma, I was asking the same questions all the time, I was all over the place,’ he says. ‘I’ve still got two screws in my pelvis and a plate in my collarbone but physically, I’m 100 per cent recovered. Psychologically, I’m not 100 per cent. I struggle with short-term memory: the doctors said it could take four years.’
Brad is polite, warm and quietly spoken, and is well liked in the local community and racing world. His dad Tim is a mechanic: he raced competitively himself, and Brad caught the bug. He started in motocross aged six, following his older cousin Ollie, and over 15 years worked his way up to the 600cc British Supersports circuit and the fringe of the World Championships.

Pre-crash Brad on his bike

Turning to Superbikes
In 2019, Brad came ninth in a field of 25 at Donington Park and received a wild card for a World Championship race in Qatar. But, he says, the reality of getting a place in a World Championship team meant having to secure £150,000 sponsorship each season. ‘The thing that stopped me going on the world stage was money. It was demoralising – but I could see that it just wasn’t going to happen.’
Brad turned to British Superbikes, then the highest level of racing in the UK, with a season of 11 rounds (this year it begins in April at Silverstone and ends at Brands Hatch in October).
The pandemic delayed his first competitive season until 2021. Then came two races – and then the crash. Brad’s parents Tim and Maxine were at the hospital daily, as was his girlfriend Courtney. The family was allowed in for an hour a day but only one at a time, so they were allowed 20 minutes each. At times he was partially conscious. ‘One time, he squeezed his mum’s hand and was able to focus but then he was back into a coma,’ said grandad Bob Jones.

Community strength
At one stage, doctors told the family that the next 24-48 hours was down to Brad. Only his inner strength would pull him through. Added Bob: ‘I was watching that race live on television. I didn’t think Brad was going to make it when I saw the screens go up around him on the track.’
It was a dark period for the whole family.
‘At the start, there was lots of talk about maybe having to adapt my parents’ home for me,’ says Brad. But the community rallied to help. Cousin Lucy Calvert set up a crowdfunding page with a £20,000 target, helped by selling T-shirts, caps and stickers with the hashtag #KeepFightingBrad. The page eventually raised £40,979 from nearly 1,000 people.
The money proved invaluable: instead of having to travel to Poole for NHS physio, Brad could have intensive physio and rehab work at home. He had his teeth repaired, lost seven kilos and was advised to get a therapy dog (he now has a cavapoo called Rufus). By September he was able to walk without crutches.
Over the winter of 2021-22, Brad worked hard to regain strength. He struggled to breathe properly and had to go cold turkey on medication – ‘I worked to remain positive but that was the time I struggled mentally.’
He was barred from driving – but he did have an exercise bike at home. And it got him thinking about the possibility of racing on two wheels again …
In April 2022, he began riding his pushbike out locally, to Marnhull or Sturminster Newton, as part of the rehab and because it was ‘good for my head.’
Brad had the all-clear from hospital, stepped up the intensity of riding – and entered a race. It was at Thruxton, one of the familiar Superbike tracks. But this time it was all down to pedal power – a one hour Category 3 simple circuit race; first over the line wins, entry fee was £20 and the winner gets a pat on the back.
Brad hasn’t stopped cycling since. He’s now risen to Category 2 where the racing is much harder. With his best friend Scott Ridding, an established name in World Superbikes, he cycles all over the country.

Brad with Rufus, his therapy dog

No more engines
I met Brad on a Monday, fresh back from two weekend races in Lancaster and Oxford. Oxford was eight laps – 62 miles in total – and Brad did 40 before calling it a day. Could it be that perhaps it’s no longer about winning but being out there, with a friend? ‘Scott and I will talk about Superbikes for 15 minutes, maybe, and that’s it – we just talk about cycling all the time!’
Brad is clear that cycling is a hobby, that he’s not going to make money out of it and that it’s a game. But there’s a light in his eye. ‘I’ve always been competitive. I don’t like being beaten – which helped me in my recovery. This year, I want to win some cycle races. I want to buy a house. And I will go and watch some motorbike racing: I have so many friends that I won’t see unless I go to the track.’
And how would he feel about that? Would he be thinking of a return to the motorbikes?
Reflecting on his life before the crash, and where he is now, Brad’s response is thoughtful.
‘I was living the dream. I was working three days a week and racing motorbikes at weekends. My dad was my mechanic and my grandad and nan were coming to watch.
‘Motorbike racing has changed financially even just in the last two years. It used to be £20,000 sponsorship was needed for a good team in Supersports – now it’s £60,000.
The way I look at it, things happen for a reason. I had a great time doing it – and I was very lucky to get away with it. I would say I had my bell rung.
‘Now I can still go to work, earn some money, see my mates and ride a pushbike.
‘I’m enjoying doing my own thing. I can even have a few drinks – I never used to drink when I was racing. It’s all new to me. It’s what you’re supposed to do when you are 18!
‘Even now, I see local cars driving around with the #KeepFightingBrad sticker on. The support from everyone has just been unbelievable. I reached the pinnacle of where I thought I could get to and now I am simply grateful to be here. I thought it was the worst day of my life – but it was the best day, as I pulled through.’

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