Brady reveals passion for cycling and how it helps avoid burnout

January 31, 2023 -- What does the European Society of Radiology (ESR) President do to unwind and relax? Get on a bike and keep pedalling, whatever the weather. That's the philosophy and approach of Prof. Adrian Brady.

The poster is based on the trispiral
At the top of the ECR 2023 poster is the trispiral (triskelion), or "Spiral of Life," an ancient motif carved in the Irish neolithic passage tomb at Newgrange, Ireland, built around 3200 BC. One suggestion is that the motif represents the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. The clock is shown at 20:23, the year of the congress. "One life ends and another begins -- the cycle goes on," Brady says.

Brady is now gearing up for ECR 2023, which begins in Vienna on 1 March and for which he's selected a cycling theme. In this Q&A interview, he speaks about his biking adventures and memories.

Q: You've chosen a cycling theme for ECR 2023. What do you love about cycling?

A: The ECR 2023 theme and poster started as a personal, self-indulgent joke; I was determined to get a bike on the poster. When thinking about how to achieve that, I came up with the "Cycle of Life" idea, emphasizing the role of imaging and radiology throughout (and even beyond) life. Actually, the specific bicycle pictured is one of mine -- I'll leave it to bicycle obsessives to work out the make and model -- but, sadly, I don't look anything like the cyclist pictured.

I used to run for exercise and fitness, but repetitive injuries eventually forced me to stop. I've always liked cycling, and I have used it as my main mode of local transport for decades. When I stopped running, I increased my cycling distances, joined other like-minded friends, and have had some wonderful experiences and trips to great locations.

Brady enjoys nothing more than a weekend bike ride with a group of friends
Brady enjoys nothing more than a weekend bike ride with a group of friends. This photo was taken in September 2021 at Beara Peninsula, near Cork, Ireland.

Q: What's the most difficult ride you've made?

A: Without doubt, it was the Fred Whitton Challenge in May 2013. This annual charity event is held in memory of Fred Whitton, who was a great advocate for cycle sport in Cumbria and North Lancashire. It consists of a 112 mile/180 km ride in the Lake District: over 4,000 m of climbing, max gradient 33% (Hardknott Pass), driving rain all day, and single-digit temperatures.

It was enjoyable, in the strange sense of banging your head against a wall -- it feels great when you finally stop. I should add that the Fred Whitton doesn't always take place in heavy rain and Arctic temperatures; that was just the case when I chose to do it.

Q: And what's been your most pleasurable trip?

A: There have been many wonderful days with my friends, both in Ireland and in the rest of Europe, with fantastic trips to the Dolomites, the Alps, the Pyrenees, and Catalonia.

The standout is probably the day I did the Cinglés du Mont Ventoux with two good friends on my 55th birthday. It involves riding all three road routes up Mont Ventoux in Provence on the same day. It involved about 4,300 m of climbing and a long day, but the weather was lovely, and the sense of achievement was very satisfying.

Spain is one of Brady
Spain is one of Brady's top destinations for a cycling holiday. This picture was taken in Girona, Catalonia, in June 2019.

Q: Do you have any other hobbies and interests outside of radiology?

A: I've always been an avid reader, on eclectic topics. A reader need never be bored; a good book can always occupy the mind and transport one to other places, times, and lives.

I also collect antique maps of Ireland. It's a rather niche interest, but I'm fascinated to see how geographical depictions have changed from the 16th century -- when the focus was on coastal elements visible to seafarers, with absent or inaccurate internal detail -- to the reasonable accuracy achieved in the 19th century due to gradually improving surveying and mapping. Maybe it's a pictorial thing; radiologists tend to see the world somewhat in pictorial fashion.

Editor's note: We'll post two more interview articles with Prof. Brady in the first half of February. Part two will be about radiology in Ireland, and part three will focus on ECR 2023.

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