After fracturing my calcaneus and having an operation to insert 9 screws and a plate, I was told to expect a long recovery from this injury. I thought “Six weeks. Tops.” Wrong. Many months passed by before I could even think about weighting that foot. Nearly 2 years later it is finally feeling close to being better. My main passion, climbing, kept pulling at me despite it being the reason I was injured. I was also missing my bike. The injury began to take a toll on me. I felt isolated and lonely. It was a beautiful summer and my friends were off doing summer things as they should. The lack of moving and pushing myself was starting to weigh heavily on me. I missed the release that came from pushing my body. I don’t exactly remember where the idea came from initially but I had this idea about getting a hand-powered trike. I’ve seen others on them, assuming that the people using them where paraplegics but why not use it for me? I put the word out on Facebook and within a few hours I found a local resource that rented out mobility devices for very reasonable rates. A friend drove me over and I actually had three different models of trike to choose from. I choose the most sporty model. It was low to the ground, light-weight and just looked fun. And for the amazing price of $5/week I could rent it.
I took it home and did some short rides around the neighbourhood. It definitely took some getting used to because everything was done with the hands: pedaling, steering, braking and shifting gears. I was aware of how vulnerable I was being so low to the ground so the first thing I did was get an orange flag for it. And I would go out at quieter times of the day. Being summer that meant after supper or on the weekends. After pushing the distances a bit each day I found myself doing between 10 and 14km almost daily at an average speed of around 14km/hr. I never would have thought my arms could propel me that far or that fast. I learned about all kinds of quiet streets and shortcuts through parks. And despite living about 5km from the ocean, I managed to find a relatively flat route to it and this became my loop. I would sit by the ocean in the evening sun, just enjoying the view and then from there I could choose a flat route to the local beach, or a hilly route along the ocean. Once at the beach I would enjoy a bit of time with a book before heading home. I ended up mounting a box on the back between the back wheels where I could put a water bottle, snacks and my crutches strapped to the back of the seat. I even went out for supper with a friend – me on my trike, she on her bike.
My wife would notice my mood swings. And if I was feeling down or grumpy, she would just tell me to go for a ride. When I got home my mood was the complete opposite. I felt like a had a workout, I got some fresh air and enjoyed being mobile. I felt okay about my predicament once again. And I must say my pecs and shoulders didn’t look too bad after several months of this routine. Once I was well enough to ride my real bike again it took me a long time to stop missing my trike.
A few things I learned about trikes:
- Start slow. Take the time to learn how to operate it. If you find yourself in a dangerous situation and need to make a quick maneuver you can’t think about how to do something.
- Avoid hills initially and then gradually introduce gentle inclines. Hills are a bitch when you are going up them with your arms.
- Be extra careful in traffic and around cars. You are very low to the ground and not very visible. Wear bright colours and make sure you have a flag on it.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, and you are in a reasonably sized community, check out resources for handicapped people. They too might have this kind of option available. If this doesn’t work, put out the word on social media.