Making a disability a little safer, maybe a little faster

©Barry Sandland/TIMB - Cyclist with paralysed arm on bike path in Ottawa

©Barry Sandland/TIMB – Bike trails with the chance for distance and speed

“When I first got the bike, I reached over to change the gears and I was alongside the curb and I fell and I thought I would never let that happen again. When I fell, my knee fell on my arm and bruised it so badly I had to go to hospital. So my girlfriend, who is really into cycling, said, ‘When we go riding, I got you this. Please put it on’. And so I wear a sling. So doing the ride, people notice the guy is hurt.”

Photographer’s notes: This ended up as a longer chat about the mechanical issues surrounding riding a bike. He had made the change and had both gear shifters on the same side, but the brakes were his next worry. He could only use one, and had opted for the rear brake.

With the new bike, he will be looking for a dual-brake design so both front and back will work simultaneously. They exist. Easy to find with a web search.

What always lurks in my mind is the bike control with just one hand. I mean, I try and ride off a simple lip of the pavement with one hand and often lose my nerve, reaching for the reassurance of the second grip. But I suppose you get used to it.

Years ago, I was at a triathlon where there was a para-division and the riders there had missing arms, legs, various body parts. My contact for the day was a one-armed rider and the way he stormed down hills and the forced his way over the other side. Fast and then faster. It would take a few kilometres to get that sort of confidence with the new balance arrangement. But I guess that is what training is for.

Oh, my para-cyclist for the day won his event. Just a couple of minutes behind after the ride and then swept past everyone in the run.

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