one off handcycle agility

snow riding demonstration of one off handcycleMIKE'S RANTS

Views and opinions on handcycles, bicycles, riding and related matters.




The September 2012 issue of Sports 'n Spokes Magazine featured an article "On Top of The World: Is it possible for a wheelchair user to get to the top of famed Mount Kilimanjaro?". Below are some of Mikes thoughts, which were printed in the their entirety in a later edition.

Thoughts on Davis' Trek Tech - LETTER TO SPORTS 'N SPOKES MAGAZINE

Dear Sports’n Spokes,

Regarding your article of SnS vol 38 and the story of Erica Davis summiting Kilimanjaro in her wheelchair. Sports’n Spokes magazine is about people, not technology. That is good. I would like to add some observations just about the techlology.

To my knowledge Kili has been attempted by a wheelchair athlete 5 times before. At least three of these have been covered in your magazine. I use the word wheelchair athlete here because Erica certainly is that, and because disabled people have been up Kili using wheeled carts where the rider is passive.

As the person who built the handcycle that was used in the first three attempts, and having close connection to Chris Waddell’s four wheeled version, one might understand my interest in your article. Please note that I don’t know Derek Gates, or Erica or any of her team, and don’t mean any of my comments to be taken personally.

Jimmy Goddard, Jeff Pagels, Darol Kubacz, and Chris Waddell are the four athletes I had direct contact with. There is also the Explorer from Poland, a copy of the One-Off. They were all trying to climb with as little assistance as possible. None of them were able to do it without at least some help.

These observations are in no particular order.

--Wheelchairs position the user at generally just about the right height for sitting at the kitchen table. That riding position is too high for steep terrain. It’s not hard to see, the body positioning that works for sitting at a desk is unrelated to the best body position to wheel up a huge mountain.

--There is little mention of going back downhill. High speed stability has always been a priority for me. I asked Jeff Pagels, regarding this part of his Kili climb, “What are you going to do about the way back down? You could be back down the mountain way before those poor folks who have to walk. Are you going to wait for them?” One of Jimmy Goddard’s videos showing his descent was titled, “Land speed record”.

--All the wheelchair athletes I know have a strong desire to do as much as they can without assistance. Whether it’s transferring into a car, or taking a shower, or climbing a mountain, they value the often used description “unassisted”. It is safe to say that Erica’s percentage of “unassisted” time would much greater if she were in a more appropriate vehicle.

--Bicycle racers use the best, lightest equipment they can. Rowers don’t use extra wide rowing shells to slow them down, they use the fastest boat they can find. It has to do with respecting the athlete. It seems sad to me that Erica isn’t using the best possible equipment.

--How much effort is she exerting? I don’t mean how hard is she trying but which muscles are being used? As we all know, wheelchairs mostly use the triceps, shoulders,  and the hand grip. She is working really hard, but only able to use some of her arm muscles. I see this again as a respect for the athlete issue. The bicycle cranks of a handcycle would yield much more forward motion from her Herculean effort.

--I would also like to be as respectful as possible towards the porters. Does the wheelchair make their effort as efficient as possible? Of course not, at the very top where they didn’t even use the chair (nor would they have used a handcycle). There have been carts made just for carrying people over very rough terrain. (Kilicart and TrailRider) One of those would have been easier on the porters in many places. Is there some reason to use such a conventional wheelchair?

 Colours made her a “special chair”? I’m not impressed.

Best regards, Mike Augspurger, President One-Off Handcycles

The May 2011 issue of Sports 'n Spokes Magazine has a cover photo and accompanying article about a copy of our handcycle. The following is under the category of "clarification".


Dear Sports 'n Spokes,

My name is Mike Augspurger from One-Off handcycles.

I'm probably in the minority among your readers, being, "not disabled yet" but I do follow your magazine closely. I built and sold the the first One-Off handcycles in 1997 and have been making them ever since in my shop in New England. The One-Off handcycle was on the cover of Sports 'n Spokes in November of 2001 and November of 2006.

People often ask why I wanted to build an off road handcycle even though I'm not in a wheelchair. I was introduced to Bob Hall in 1987 and became aware of the need for better equipment. Being an avid mountain biker and frame builder (co-founder of Merlin Metalworks) I wanted to make mountain biking an accessible sport for people in wheelchairs. This dream was realized in 2006 when The Crested Butte Adaptive Sports Center, USHF and One-Off handcycles sponsored an off road handcycling race. All the vehicles in the race were One-off handcycles and there were no breakdowns or injuries.

It is now 2011 and I was glad to see a copy of the One-Off handcycle on the cover of your magazine. My goal has always been to make sure that the off-road handcycle in some form will continue to be made and produced, which is why I have agreed to license the design to Reactive Adaptations (patent #6070894). I am also especially interested in helping people with fewer resources, in developing countries, build their own.
> See more information on the developing country model.

Maybe I'm overly sensitive since I have nursed the One-Off handcycle from its inception for over 15 years, but I do feel that there is an unfriendly bias to your article.

For example it says: "He created a chain guard to protect rider's legs and groin area from getting scratched,". This implies that the One-Off handcycle causes the rider's legs and groin area to get scratched. In fact, the chain guard on my handcycle is called 'the transmission hump' and all of our bikes have it. This was one of the things Jake didn't copy. I guess now he has. You also state in the article that the Reactive Adaptations bike is: a "new and improved" version of my handcycle, that it is stronger. Without comparing the differences in weight between the two vehicles, the statement is simply unfair. As for "holding up under the most extreme conditions" let's talk about that again in ten years, once Jake's bikes have stood the test of time.

Most of the design differences between the One-Off handcycle and other arm-powered off-road vehicles are discussed in my overview of the other brands on my site.

These differences are fine. I enjoy and benefit from the exchange of ideas. Back in the 80's there were a lot of small bicycle frame builders and tremendous amount of innovation. Even though we were direct competitors there was no thought of dissing anyone else's bikes. In the bike shops there might be a Mountain Goat next to a Fat Chance next to an Ibis next to a Merlin. There was an exchange of employees, technology, and good will. Whenever we went to the Bay area we would go for a ride together. Whenever any of the Californians visited Boston, we were glad to play host, give anyone a tour of our shop, and ride, because we were friends.

Another name from that time (who is still building bikes) is Lightfoot Cycles. I guess Rod Minor and I are sort of competitors. A friend of mine wanted to hire Rod to build a 4 wheeled copy/version of my handcycle. I told him to tell Rod that I was fine with that. A couple of weeks later Rod called me to "just make sure" he wanted to "speak to me directly" before building the handcycle. I assured him that as long as he was just making one, it was OK with me. We then spoke on the phone for a while exchanging ideas. I tried to think of how I might help by selling him some parts and offering advice on some of the difficulties I expected him to encounter. We compared shop rates and prices, much to our mutual benefit.

I hope to inspire this same spirit of inclusion and cooperation by writing this letter.
Handcycling is a very small industry and off road handcycling smaller still. The more of us, the better. Let's exchange ideas, help each other out, ride together and make bikes better by doing so.


Mike Augspurger


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