Amputees Across America allows BikeAble to tag along

BikeAble would like to express its thanks and admiration for Joe, Luke, and Sean of Amputees Across America. They were kind enough to allow me to join them on a short stretch of their trip which also happened to end in the town I live in.

After arriving at HealthSouth, we all had some time at a podium to say a few words, toured the facility, and sat down at a luncheon with a number of the HealthSouth staff. As a result, BikeAble has now started research into possibly cycling solutions for a woman in attendance who is a quad amputee.

The local newspaper, the Centre Daily Times, covered the event. Their article follows:

Tuesday, Jul. 29, 2008

Amputee bike tour raises awareness

PLEASANT GAP — The seventh annual Amputees Across America coast-to-coast bike tour rode into town Monday, one stop along a 3,500- mile trek across America to raise awareness about maintaining an active lifestyle with prosthetic appendages.

A group of bicyclists from Amputees Across America ride down East College Avenue toward HealthSouth Nittany Valley Rehabilitation Center in Pleasant Gap on Monday.  

CDT photo/Christopher Weddle
A group of bicyclists from Amputees Across America ride down East College Avenue toward HealthSouth Nittany Valley Rehabilitation Center in Pleasant Gap on Monday.

Tour members arrived at 10 a.m. at HealthSouth Nittany Valley Rehabilitation Hospital in Pleasant Gap and were greeted with applause from upbeat hospital workers and community members.

They also were given a check for $325 to help with expenses, compliments of HealthSouth.

“You are an inspiration to all,” said Kathi Kaber, director of marketing for HealthSouth. “Our admiration and respect for you is unspeakable.”

Joe Sapere, lead rider and coordinator of the tour, lost his left leg during a skydiving accident in 2000.

“Having a physical challenge does not mean you have to give up on life,” said Sapere. He said God helped him through his ordeal, and he has now channeled those energies into helping others.

David “D.J.” Emery, 22, a Bellefonte Marine who lost his legs in a 2007 suicide bomb attack in Iraq, attended the news conference.

Emery, who is undergoing rehabilitation at HealthSouth, said the riders inspired him. When asked if he’d consider someday riding in the tour, he replied: “Yeah, I’d probably do it.”

His mother, Connie Emery, said she wouldn’t be surprised if he did just that. “He’s still very active,” she said, adding that her son can cut the grass from his wheelchair.

Luke Myers, 19, of Colorado Springs, Colo., said riding with the tour has helped him to concentrate less on himself and more on others who need inspiration. “This bike ride is more than just a bike ride,” Myers said. “We’re doing something for other people.”

Myers, a volunteer firefighter, lost his right leg to injuries sustained in a 2002 car accident. Even with his prosthetic leg, he said he fights forest fires and leads a normal lifestyle.

“When I first lost my leg, I thought to myself: ‘I’m a freak show,’ ” he said. That attitude changed after meeting Sapere and other members of the tour at a rehab center in his hometown.

Sean Brame, 12, of York Haven, is the youngest member of the tour. He joined the crew Monday and will go as far as New Jersey. He lost both of his legs, his right hand and three fingers on his left hand after suffering from a rare disorder caused by a broken ankle. The injury led to internal blood poisoning.

It happened during a soccer game in April 2005. After an 11-week stay in an intensive care unit and another 11 weeks in rehab, Sean eventually received his prosthetic legs.

“When this first happened, I didn’t want to go anywhere or do anything,” he said.

Having a good attitude and moving on is key, he said, adding that the biggest thing he’ll miss about losing his legs is not being able to drive at 16.

“You want to get away from your mom sometime,” he said, laughing.

Sapere said losing his leg has actually created many new opportunities for him. Emery said he’s experienced that too.

“I’ve had more people call me with opportunities to do stuff than ever before,” he said. “People call to ask me to go on fishing trips and I have even had someone ask me to drive a NASCAR (vehicle) with hand controls.”

Riding with Amputees Across America

On July 28th, BikeAble will be joining Amputees Across America for a short leg of their 2008 tour.  The ride starts at 9:30 and will end at HealthSouth Nittany Valley Rehabilitation Hospital in Pleasant Gap, PA.

Once at the center, BikeAble will be showing a small variety of bikes, trikes, and adaptive equipment from Hase.  We will also be attending a luncheon during which we will give a brief talk and Q&A about adaptive cycling.

If you live in the central Pennsylvania region and wish to support the AAA riders, plan to join in on the festivities at HealthSouth.

ONE-OFF Titanium – the mountain handtrike

Image of ONE-OFF rider on trail, gritting his teethI was recently contacted to do research into a variety of handcycles. The parameters were fairly straightforward: satisfactory gear inch range; adjustable foot rest position; seat that won’t be a problem for spine curvature.

That sent me off on a search for a good solution, a search that pretty much ended with the Hase Kettwiesel handcycle. But I didn’t want to stop there. A little more digging turned up the ONE-OFF Titanium, a full blown mountain bike/trike that puts the rider in a prone position.

The core advantage of the ONE-OFF is instantly recognized: it is an off-road handcycle. In the niche that is handcycling, most cycles are either for racing or for casual use. Nobody tackles the handcycling equivalent of mountain biking. What’s amazing is that the ONE-OFF hasn’t been more widely copied since its introduction.

So what are the other advantages of the ONE-OFF?

It offers a prone position, allowing the rider to put their body weight into stabilizing the trike. That body weight serves a second purpose – it can also control steering. The torso cushion of the ONE-OFF rests on a pivot that links to the steering. Lean to the left and you’ll turn left. Lean to the right, turn right. The result is the ability to turn the trike without having to let up on the pedaling.

Photo of back side of ONE-OFF handtrikeThe ONE-OFF also allows steering through the handles to which the brake levers are mounted. This allows the rider to switch to a more stable control mechanism for high speed descents. It also provides a resting point for the hands should the rider want to flex a bit and relieve some of that torso pressure.

Unfortunately, the ONE-OFF site doesn’t provide much more detail about the specs of the bike. No word on gear inch range, types of disc brakes, wheel sizes, or availability through third parties. Judging by the contact info on the ONE-OFF site, all ONE-OFF handcycles are made to fit the rider’s specifications.

If you’re a handcyclist who knows there’s more to trail riding than riding rail trails, the ONE-OFF is probably worth some investigation. No other handcycle that we know of will get you up a mountain.

For those who might be interested, included below is a YouTube video showing a method of transferring into and out of the ONE-OFF.

The challenges of Alzheimer’s and bicycling

Photo by Auntie P @ flickrWhen we think of cycling and limitations, we often consider the physical limitations of riders. We rarely consider conditions such as Alzheimer’s Disease.

It is widely known that Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) affects the memory of those afflicted, but it is not commonly known that as AD progresses, functions of balance and movement can be affected. These present an interesting challenge for those wishing to cycle in the midst of AD.

As with most issues of balance, we look to the recumbent tricycle as the logical solution. Recumbent tricycles (and quadcycles) remove the dependency on rider balance that bicycles require. AD patients suffering from physical imbalance certainly can benefit from a trike, but there’s a unique issue that comes into play.

AD sufferers might not remember how to ride a bike. The old adage that “once you learn, you never forget” does not apply here. Once seated upon a bike or trike, a person with AD might find that they no longer understand the basic mechanics of cycling. While it might be easy enough to quickly retrain them on pedaling, the complexities of shifting are not so easily retained.

There are three ways to address this. First, use a trike that uses a single gear with a freewheel. There’s no shifting involved. Second, invest in an automatic transmission system. Shifting will happen without requiring operator intervention. Third (and likely easiest), shift into a moderate gear combination such as the middle ring at the front and the middle cog in the rear, and then tape the shifters into place so that they can’t be adjusted.

That third option sounds simplistic, but it is an actual solution used by a man for his wife with AD. Until my conversation with him, I had not really considered the impact of AD on bicycling.

A diagnosis of AD does not mean that a support family should take away a bike, replace it with a trike, and seize up the shifters. Take things one step at a time as the disease progresses, and make changes only as the symptoms of progression demand them.

If you find yourself at that point and are considering a move to a trike, try to avoid configurations that will be wholly alien to the rider. Tadpole trikes in particular will be sufficiently unfamiliar as to introduce further confusion. Look instead to delta trikes with over seat steering, perhaps along the lines of a chopper bar. If necessary, a trike could be modified for a coaster brake if the rider is unable to remember to use the available brake levers.

The primary requirement will always be patience. If you’re working with a patient or loved one with Alzheimer’s, take the time to determine whether or not they want to continue riding. Take the time to determine what levels of cycling they can still process. And take the time to find a solution that fits them best. The point of putting an Alzheimer’s sufferer to pedals is to enhance their quality of life, not to frustrate them further.

It may very well be that, in time, they will no longer remember the fun they had getting out for a few rides. But while they can still ride, they’ll at least experience joy those days.

High ride tadpole trike

Recumbent trikes have an instant appeal for both disabled and elderly riders as they provide stability and support that are lacking in cycles of the two-wheeled variety. However, a trike isn’t just a matter of having three wheels. They come in all shapes and sizes, not all of which suit every rider.

One common comment made when people see a standard tadpole trike is that it is far too low to the ground to be entered and exited comfortably. For anyone with back problems, body strength issues, or reasonable fears of being far too low to be visible, tadpole trikes seem like a very cool but very unpractical solution. Delta trikes, with their higher center of gravity and chair level seat, often become the ride of choice for that audience.

Photo showing Cycle Genius logo at the front of the tricycle.

Cycle Genius is of the opinion that tadpoles don’t have to be low riders, and they’ve proven it with the introduction of their Phoenix tricycle.

Dubbed the “Mobility Extender”, the Phoenix was meant to bridge the gap between the height of a delta and the lateral stability of a tadpole. It does this admirably though at a cost.

The sheer size of the Phoenix gives it some real heft, so keep that in mind if you need to load, transport, and unload the trike yourself for travel. With that heft comes a very smooth ride – you’ll have none of the jarring ride of tadpoles like the Catrike and WizWheelz models. For those seeking a sense of thrill, the Phoenix is not your bird. If, however, you’re seeking what might be called a “cruiser” trike that gives up fast handling and high speeds for a softer, slower ride, then the Phoenix is right up your alley.

Upon first seeing the Phoenix, my thoughts instantly went to trail use. The Phoenix seems an ideal trike for casual rides away from busy streets. That is until I measured its width. Most trails, whether multi-use paths or rail trails, feature gate posts to prohibit motorized traffic. Those posts are typically 36″ inches apart from one another. Fine for most bikes and trikes, and enough width for wheelchairs and scooters, but guess what? The Phoenix measures 42″ across at its widest point. If rail trail use is your plan, you may need to look to a slimmer trike.

Fortunately, that’s the only real negative to the Phoenix. Unlike many trikes, the Phoenix adjusts for rider height via an adjustable seat. There is no boom to adjust. This means that everybody from a height of 4’1″ to 6’8″ will be able to use the Phoenix easily. The seat angle is also adjustable to suit those who wish for a greater or lesser degree of recline.

Image showing heel strike while turning the Phoenix tricycle.The pedals will take platforms for foot restraints, but a word of caution: if you need to use restraints, try them on the Phoenix at a dealer before purchase if at all possible. While riding the Phoenix myself, I noticed that the heel of my size 11 shoe was striking the steering linkage during tight turns. You’ll want to make sure that any pedal platforms you need to use are going to clear the linkage. Note, however, that I was pedaling using the balls of my feet. If you tend towards the middle or heel of the foot as your point of contact with the pedal, you’ll probably have room to spare. Most casual riders will place the foot further forward, and some platforms are designed to hold the foot at the middle position.

Of interest to those who lack the use of both arms – the Phoenix by default links both front disc brakes to a single brake lever. This lever can be placed on the same side as the rear shifter for one handed operation. There is a second brake lever for the rear tire, but that is used mostly as a parking brake. Also, the shifter is an SRAM Dual Drive, giving you access to all 24 gears from a single grip.

All in all, the Cycle Genius Phoenix isn’t a bad trike. If you are performance oriented or are looking for something sleek, the Phoenix is not for you. If you are looking for an adaptable trike that lets you pedal around with ease, the Phoenix is worth a test ride.

At print time, Cycle Genius was offering the Phoenix for $1,600, minus shipping and assembly. For complete specifications, please see the Cycle Genius site.

What’s happening at BikeAble.info?

If you’re visiting BikeAble for the first time and wondering why there seems to be so little here, the answer is simple: we’re in the process of redesigning the site to complement out new logo!

Our new logo was crafted by Shannon Lake of Lake Creative Communications.  We would like to take a moment here to thank her for her fantastic work and to recommend her to anyone out there who has design needs.  She can be reached via e-mail.

So now that we have our final logo, we have to get cracking on developing our site to build off the promise it makes to everyone that sees it – that we’re here to support you on your path to cycling.

Thanks for your patience with us.  We hope to have something for you in the next few weeks!