Ever thought of giving Adaptive mountain biking a go?

By William Sangster

James and Kim Littlejohn’s passion project and charity, #AdaptMTB is making mountain biking more accessible for people with disabilities. Learn more about their backstory, the community, and what's in store in 2023 for them.

For many people with disabilities, racing through the bush on a mountain bike is almost unthinkable. 

But James Littlejohn, an incomplete paraplegic, is determined to change that!

James and his partner Kim are the founders of #AdaptMTB. This charity supports and encourages people with disabilities to get into adaptive mountain biking and experience the freedom, mobility and thrills that come with this high-speed sport.

“Mountain biking has many benefits for a disabled person like myself, the exercise of course, but mainly it's given me a chance to get outdoors with family and friends just like before my accident - James Littlejohn.

Life changed dramatically for James in 1999 after a dirt bike accident. In the years that followed, he took part in a variety of adaptive sports, including skiing, rowing and waterskiing, but James never thought he’d ride any type of bike again.


Photo credit - James and Kim Littlejohn


Now, thanks to the advancement of E-mountain biking, James is once again participating in a sport that was a big part of his pre-accident life and, more importantly, is encouraging others to follow his lead.

“#AdaptMTB is a non-profit organisation to provide opportunities for those with a physical impairment to try adaptive mountain biking. We wanted to not only make the sport more accessible but also to promote it to the general public to help further growth and acceptance.”

In general terms, an adaptive rider is someone who typically cannot ride a standard mountain bike due to their physical, intellectual or neurological abilities and requires some adaptations to their equipment.


Photo credit - James and Kim Littlejohn


Founded in 2020, #AdaptMTB is also working with mountain bike parks and clubs around the country to help improve trail design and accessibility so that more people with disabilities can participate and compete.

‘It's basically what our slogan says. A Community for adaptive mountain bikers, family, and friends to share, encourage and advocate. Bigger than the sport itself, it’s about the sense of community and feeling of belonging. When you're around a bunch of like-minded people, you feed off each other, which always feels energising to me.”

#AdaptMTB has worked to get people with cerebral palsy, visual impairment, stroke and amputations back on bikes. For many people, the biggest barrier to participation is cost. That’s why the charity also concentrates on helping newbies get involved.

“There are a lot of benefits from the sport, not only physical but for mental well-being too. But most adaptive mountain biking equipment is expensive, so it can be a barrier for those with disabilities to be able to get into; that's something we are trying to do with our Give-it-a-go events, making it more accessible for people to try.”



Photo credit - James and Kim Littlejohn


The rewards are huge.

“At our Give-it-a-go events, we’ve had a couple of amazing stories of parents with a disability being able to go for their first-ever ride with their child. Of people who have had to give up their outdoor activities now being able to return to something they love.”

The risk of injury is something that has never phased James or his wife, Kim.

“James' ability on a bike and anything he rides, even getting about on his segway, he has amazing balance and control considering the limited function he has in his legs. I mean, he definitely comes a cropper sometimes, and that can be hard to watch, but we usually try and laugh it off and put it down to the laws of gravity.”


Photo credit - James and Kim Littlejohn


James and Kim’s message is simple, give it a go!

“Don’t be shy or afraid; we’re still learning too, so if you are open to just trying, we’ll work out something together that will work.”

The #AdaptMTB team has a lot in store for 2023. The season will begin with hosting two exciting events in Rotorua this month. An Adaptive Mountain Biking Give-It-A-Go Day on Saturday, 18 March and Te Poaka Adaptive Downhill on Sunday, 19 March. 




Photos credit - James and Kim Littlejohn