Fun on a bike might not be a
thing of your past after all.
Remember that vivid moment- after seemingly endless false starts-when balance, strength, and attention all magically came together, along with the realization: I'm actually riding this bike!
For me, that moment lasted maybe six seconds before I spiraled out of control, bike and body toppling to the pavement without further fanfare. But what an exhilarating six seconds those were! I can still see the whole layout of the playground. I know it must be spring because I can see trees budding in the distance. I can feel a slight burning sensation where my shin is raw from scraping the blacktop.
I take bicycling for granted. Not everyone does. For people with MS, symptoms such as fatigue, iffy balance, weakness, and muscle spasticity can make riding a bike difficult or impossible. Traditional bike riding, I should say. The fact is, such a variety of adaptations are now available, that someone who really wants to ride might just find wheels that will work.
For people with MS, symptoms such as fatigue, iffy balance, weakness, and muscle spasticity can make riding a bike difficult or impossible. A variety of adaptations are now available, that someone who really wants to ride might just find wheels that will work.
1. Tandem Bike
2. Electric tricycle, photo courtesy Bob Vogul
3. ElectriCruiser®, courtesy Zapworld.com
4. Tricycle, courtesy Haverich
Don't wheelchairs and scooters provide the same basic function as adapted bicycles, recumbent bikes, or handcycles? Well, yes, but "function" is not the right word here.
Let's face it, few of us think of bicycles as "functional" transportation tools-not in the U.S., anyway. Bikes are recreational. The role of a good cycle is to provide the rider with a pleasurable form of exercise. The same is true of adapted cycles.
The average adapted cycle is faster than the average wheelchair or scooter. And some adapted bikes are better suited for use on a greater variety of terrain. Besides, cycles are designed to be-well-exhilarating!
A good place to familiarize yourself with the adaptations available is Haverich Specialized Adaptive Cycles on the Web at http://www.haverich.com/, or call toll-free 800-529-9444 to ask for a catalog. Haverich makes not only a variety of bicycles and recumbents, but also adaptive equipment to transform standard and alternative bikes. Backrests with padded straps, leg and shoulder harnesses, even hip pads, provide added support and can help the cyclist maintain balance. Footrests with leg guides help position and retain foot placement on pedals.
Sit back and relax-on a bike?
On a recumbent, you can. These bikes are so comfortable, so easy to ride, they're popular among people with and without disabilities. If you've never seen one, imagine a sort of stretched-out tricycle with a seatback like you'll find in a director's chair. You sit all the way back into the seat, with your legs outstretched, cranking the pedals. The handlebars are like "normal" handlebars, but are easily graspable from a relaxed, sitting-back position.
A good place to start a search is http://www.recumbents.com/home.asp, which includes general information and tons of links to other recumbent-related Web sites. Many other recumbent sellers can be found on the Web by typing "recumbent bicycle" into your favorite search engine, or by looking in the Yellow Pages.
Kurt Wullschleger, who wrote about his participation in The Tour of Champions along the California coast in our Spring 2001 issue, got himself back on the road using an e-bike-an 80-pound bicycle with a rechargeable battery and a small electric motor that he used when he became fatigued or needed an extra boost up a steep hill. At Cycle Electric International Consulting Group's "Electric Bikes" site, http://www.electric-bikes.com/, you'll find an overview of the electric bike, including everything from power-driven two-wheelers to "personal activity vehicles". These are elaborate tricycles that include not only a motor, so you can rest your legs in between pedaling, but a high back seat and optional fold-down armrests, so you can relax the rest of your body as well. There are numerous other e-bike manufacturers and dealers out there (see resources below), so definitely compare features and prices.
If you have Web access, visit http://www.bike-on.com/ for a quick but thorough overview of new and used handcycles, including descriptions and photographs of everything from the Top End XLT jr (a handcycle for children) to the Quikie Sopur Spirit 470, an aerodynamically designed adult handcycle. Another helpful place on the Web is Family Village's exhaustive handcycle link list at www.familyvillage.wisc.edu/at/handcycles.html. From there you can link to resource sites such as the United States Handcycling Federation, http://www.ushf.org/, or to manufacturers' sites, such as Varna Innovation & Research Corporation http://www.varnahandcycles.com/. Varna makes, among other things, a "hybrid tandem handcycle". (In English, a two-person bike with a leg-powered two-wheeler for the front rider and a hand- cranked three-wheeler for the person in the rear.)
If you prefer the telephone, call AbleData at 800-227-0216 and ask them to look up "hand-propelled bicycles" or "hand-propelled tricycles" for you.
Whereas handcycles are typically front-wheel drive, One-off Titanium, Inc., http://www.titaniumarts.com/, offers a rear-wheel-driven model, which gives extra traction for climbing steep grades. Resembling a low-to-the-ground, backward tricycle, Titanium's 15-speed handcycle can go everywhere a 27-speed mountain bike can go. It offers a very tight nine-foot turning radius to boot.