As I mentioned the other day, having established the bike club at the school I work at, I realised that a number of students were excluded through disability (the school is SEN and all students have a disability, physical, cognitive, mental or a combination). To help rectify this I started searching for options. One that I decided to explore was hand cycles.
After a bit of research and fundraising I acquired a pair of hand cycles for the school. These came part assembled and required a bit of work from me so I finished the build and took them for a spin around the car park. Both seemed to work fine but I was unhappy about letting the gang loose on them until I had had them checked Iut by a qualified spanner jockey so, grabbing the bull by the horns (or the hand cycle by the pedals in this case) I decided to ride one home after work one Friday evening and take it into the shop on the day i worked at the weekend.
Now, my commute home is between 7 1/2 and 8 1/2 miles depending on the route I use but, both options are relatively flat. Being unfamiliar with the cycle I decided on the shorter option. This would usually take 28- 35 minutes depending on traffic, bike used, weather etc. This evenings ride was a doozie! Light traffic, perfect conditions- apart from the rider. 1 hour 15 minutes or there abouts! On the flat it was OK but, as soon as the gradient started to rise, even slightly, the progress slowed. I'll put my hands up and admit that, from about 2/3rds of the way into the ride, there were occasions when the gradient had me walking and pushing. Descending was fine. In fact, as much fun as descending on any recumbent trike- go like stink, lean in to the bends and try to get the back end out a bit if you can.
By the time I got home I was an quivering, exhausted wreck. My upper arms and shoulders were killing me. In fact, I was still feeling the ache caused by the unfamiliar muscle use a week later.
The hand cycle build got the nod of approval from Mike, the senior spanner jockey but, this riders wimp factor had me putting the machine in the back of the car for the return to work on Monday morning.
My respect for anyone who uses a hand cycle went way up and remains there. If you get the chance to try one, do so and then understand why Alex Zanardi is so ripped.