Mobility was never this cool: disabled or not, riders are grabbing on to the handbike phenomenon
It takes more than being confined to a wheelchair to keep an adrenaline junkie down. Andrew Stodel – who handles marketing services for POPULAR MECHANICS’ sister magazines CAR, Leisure Wheels and WIEL – may spend his working day in a ‘chair; but what he really lives for is the kind of rush that comes with strapping himself into his high-tech handbike and slogging up, then screaming down, Hout Bay’s infamous Suikerbossie hill.
Anybody who has ridden around the Peninsula in the annual Argus Pick ‘n Pay Cycle Tour will know that these climbs are not easy. Having done them previously by bicycle, Stodel couldn’t wait to try them on a handbike. His verdict: “It’s a whole lot harder using your arms, but much more rewarding, I guess – the bicep burn results in some colourful language.”
Stodel’s R28 000 imported machine, a Quickie Shark, is one of the first of its kind in the country. What sets it apart from others of the breed is a unique separate front section that permits easy assembly and disassembly.
If the growing worldwide interest in handbikes is any guide, we can expect to see many more on local roads. Certainly, the likes of South African wheelchair super-athlete Ernst van Dyk, holder of countless world titles, are turning to handbike racing. Even able-bodied riders are experiencing the delights and challenges of getting about and competing by handbike, as opposed to pedalling in the normal way. Still, two aspects of riding a handbike represent a challenge for most people:
The need to use arm power;
Weight is concentrated over the rear,
so the front-wheel drive layout lacks traction uphill.
My own view? Like the man said, don’t eat at a place called Mom’s, don’t play cards with a man named Doc, and under no circumstances accept an invitation to arm wrestle with a handbike rider. Upper-body strength is a given. After a brief photoshoot, involving scooting up and down an absolutely level sidestreet, I had quivering upper arms that felt like they’d been pummelled by Mike Tyson – and a new respect for those who do it by hand.
Weight: from 14,8 kg
Frame width: 38, 42, 46 cm
Rear: angle adjustable 30 – 90 (7 basic and 3 fine settings)
Crank length: 17,5 cm
7-gear hubchange: Sram S7
3×9 gear: Sram 5.0
Brake: Shimano Tiagra brake and parking brake