This is a part of the Hot Topic podcast series from the Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center on Exercise and Fitess After Spinal Cord Injury. Lee Tempest, SCI Survivor, discusses About Hand Cycling.

A little bit about what a hand cycle is. So it’s a bike that you — it’s kind of backwards. The crank is in front of you here. You’re laying down, and the whole gearing goes out in front of you. It’s not like a bike where you’re having the pedals below you and the gearing behind you, but it’s out in front of you there. So it’s kind of a weird setup.

You’re laying kind of flat, and people kind of sometimes look at you like you’re doing the lazy way of biking. I’m okay with that. Maybe it is a little bit, but it’s tough. It’s fun to do. It rides just like a regular bike, but the way mine is set up is more like a racing one; so it’s very aerodynamic. So you can go a little faster. It makes it a little bit easier to climb some things. You don’t have wind pushing on you.

But it’s just like a regular bike, you know. It’s just getting out on a regular bike. The crank actually is when you’re pedaling, it’s not like a bike with opposite hands like this; it’s both hands together. So it allows somebody who’s using their upper body to actually get a little bit more push where I can’t — like somebody on a regular bike actually can get their whole body weight into the pedals. This allows me to use my whole upper body to push and pull the bike and get a little bit more power into the bike. And also the bike is set up to give you some stability.

You have one wheel out front. You have two in the back. So you feel no matter where your level of injury is, you have some stability and you don’t feel like you’re wobbly from it, and that also goes with using both hands together. You’re not twisting your body at all. It’s a nice, nice circular push that you’re having, almost like in a chair. You can keep a nice balance with it. So the bike is perfectly set up for people with disabilities. It’s a little hard turning radius, which gets a little — in tight spots, but you learn to find parking lots to do big loops around, and the loops are kind of fun. But it’s just the same as biking as anybody else.

I go out with my friends a lot, and, you know, I can keep up with them just as they pedal along. Sometimes I’m a little faster than them and a little bit more aerodynamic. My girlfriend — she loves to bike, so I go along with her. And sometime she’s got to tell me to slow down; and sometimes I just let her take the lead, and I’ll follow her. So it’s a wonder we get to enjoy it together and enjoy it with others. That’s probably one of the better things I’ve taken out of it, too, the personal things of trying to climb the hills but also the fun things that I can do with people who can’t play sports, my friends who aren’t going to play wheelchair basketball with me, but we can go out and ride a trail together. That’s pretty awesome.

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