I have always loved cycling and prior to my injury I commuted to work every day and rode with my local cycling club at weekends. When I became injured 15 years ago handcycles were quite crude and inefficient so I held back from buying one at the time. I bought my first handcycle about 12 years ago and haven’t looked back since!
Over the years I have handcycled competitively and raced in Europe and around Buckingham Palace. I guess my biggest handcycling achievements have been completing the Lands’ End to John O’ Groats over 14 days in 2008 and the Fred Whitton Challenge in 2009. This is a one day gruelling 112 mile sportive in the Lake District taking in all of the biggest climbs including the infamous Hardknott Pass at 100 miles in!
When I got my first job as an OT in the Spinal Unit at Salisbury I used to commute there each day on my handbike. This enabled those newly injured people to see what was possible and in my last job I realised a boyhood dream of working in a bicycle shop as a mechanic, again commuting each day on my handbike.
Since I have had a family I have grown tired of riding on our increasingly busy roads and sold my road handbike to buy an off-road model. Riding off-road allows me to completely get away from the stresses of daily life and immerse myself in some beautiful countryside and to really ‘connect’ with nature. Off-road handcycling teaches you to be totally independent and self-sufficient when you ride alone. You can get yourself in some ‘interesting’ situations. I rode with friends in the French Alps in 2011 but when riding solo closer to home I have ended up waist deep in water and stuck in enough New Forest mud to earn myself the unofficial title of ‘New Forest Bog Snorkelling Champion!’
I currently own an off road handcycle made and supplied by Schmicking and it has proven to be the best so far and certainly stands up to everything that I have thrown at it! The only downside was the price but I was lucky to secure funding from the Southern Spinal Injuries Trust.
The Handcycling Association UK has a small number of bikes for people to try out. See http://www.handcycling.org.uk/
Steve Hodges, T6