A chat with Andy Corles about his latest challenge

19 Oct 2021

When Te Rerenga resident, Andy Corles, invited The Informer for a chat to talk about his latest challenge we didn’t hesitate to take up his offer. 

After surviving a major car crash in 2014, which left the former chef a tetraplegic, totally paralysed from the centre chest line down, he along with school teacher wife, Shelley, and 11-year old daughter, Maddie, have had more than their fair share of challenges and changes to face and overcome.  

The Informer has always kept tabs on Andy and his family, and their determination to set themselves new goals in life such as producing and commercially selling a range of sought-after homemade sauces, chutneys and dressings. It’s a business which is still going, selling the products to walk-up traffic at home, online and to some supermarkets. Along with his mother-in-law, Margret, Andy now also hits the road several times a year setting up a stand at some of the popular expos, markets and fairs in the lower North Island to promote and sell the products. 

On a personal front, after his accident, Andy set his focus on learning to operate a competitive handcycle. In 2017, after months of intense training, he ticked of an amazing achievement by hand-cycling the 50km Tairua to Whitianga leg of the K2 Road Cycle Race, raising money for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter along the way. 

Four years on, the passion for what must be one of the hardest physical activities for a man with Andy’s disabilities, still burns bright. It was in fact the reason for our visit, to check out his new machine, a top of the range carbon fibre handcycle specifically designed for on-road competitions. It was imported into New Zealand from America and took seven long months to arrive on Andy’s doorstep.   

“It has been a pretty tough year to be honest,” Andy said. “I have had two operations which were related to my accident. One operation was to relieve compressed nerves in one elbow which affected my grip in general, but was a real problem on the cycle trying to hold the hand-operated pedals securely. The other operation was to open up the airways in my nose to help with my breathing, which was another issue when I was under a bit of stress on the cycle,” says Andy.

With that now behind him and the new handcycle parked on the home veranda, Andy is rearing to go again and has set his sights on the 100km Thames to Whitianga leg of the K2 which is set down for March next year. “Because of the hilly terrain I will be facing, the cycle’s gears have been modified plus I have made other adjustments to make it a better all-round fit for me,” he says. “It has been an expensive exercise, but the challenge is tough enough so attention to detail and getting things set up the way I like is very important”. 

Andy is also planning to use the ride as a fundraiser for the New Zealand Spinal Trust and, once again, the Westpac Rescue Helicopter. His training revolves around a specific training programme developed by his long-time coach, John Rich from Velolab in Thornton Bay on the Thames coast.

On the roads around his home at Te Rerenga, Andy has become something of a local identity when out training. “Most of the locals, including the logging truck drivers have got used to seeing me out training and are very supportive,” he says. “Even though the bike sits very low on the road, I wear high-viz gear and the bike has lights front and back, plus a flag, so I tend to stand out from the crowd which I’m sure the other road users appreciate.  A friendly toot and wave are always a sign of encouragement.”

While it has been a tough couple of years for many Kiwis, Andy and his family certainly haven’t been spared, but they make a real effort to stay positive and focused in trying times. Andy says getting out on the roads on his new machine is a great way to clear the head and helps with his mental wellbeing. 

The new hand-cycle wasn’t cheap and Andy is always on the lookout for some form of sponsorship to help with ongoing costs. “We always find a way, but a few extra dollars in the kitty takes a bit of the financial pressure off and is always much appreciated,” he says. To find out more, Andy can be contacted emailed at andyandshelley@gmail.com or phoned on (07) 866 4542.

Pictured - Te Rerenga resident, Andy Corles, at his new handcycle.