sSTELLARTON — Hand bikes are giving physically disabled athletes a new option to compete and stay active.
Let Abilities Work of Pictou County now has two hand bikes that bikers ride along the track at the Pioneer Coal Field. Summer sessions concluded recently, but the program will resume in the fall.
“We want to provide activity for people,” said Devin Forbes, Let Abilities Work’s vice-president.
Hand bikes can also come in the form of a tricycle. They have two coasting rear wheels and sit higher, like a trail bike.
Front driving wheel conversions can be attached on wheelchairs.
A trail bike with its bigger tires arrived last year through a federal grant. The more recent edition is a recumbent racer that weighs much less, rides on thinner tires and can be hand pedalled much faster.
“I hope to get this racer out on the road,” Forbes said. “I may get one myself. You can go for exercise or a leisurely ride.”
Forbes took the racer for a spin around the track, while Bill MacKenzie rode the trail bike. They participate in wheelchair curling each season, and Forbes sees hand biking as a way for both of them to improve their physical condition for both cycling and curling.
Forbes and MacKenzie are members of a team that curls out of the Bluenose Curling Club in New Glasgow, which has hosted the provincial wheelchair championship for the past several years.
“It’s definitely a good workout,” Forbes said. “We’re trying to figure the bikes out so they’re usable. The racer is set low so you can go fast.”
MacKenzie said he prefers the trail bike for handling and easier control with its slower speeds while sitting higher.
Let Abilities Work has about 15 active members.
“We’re always looking for more participation and ideas,” said Allan Collie, who volunteers with the group.
Collie appreciates the opportunity for hand bikers to use the track. He also hopes it;s a way to attract more members.
“It’s easier to learn on the track,” he said. “It’s so smooth.”
Allan Collie kneels between Devin Forbes, left, and Bill MacKenzie who are seated on hand bikes before a practice at the Pioneer Coal Track. (Goodwin photo)