April 9, 2009
Adaptive bikes help paralyzed riders hit the road
By Susan Christensen
Health and Research News
When Wiley Clark goes for a bike ride, he leaves a wake of double-takes. Most people have never seen a cycle that you pedal with your hands.
“They take a good look at it,” said Clark, a Moss Point resident who lost the use of his legs in a 1980 car accident. “Kids say: Whoa, what is that?”
The answer is a handcycle. And those who want to learn more about the adaptive bike are invited to attend a free clinic from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. April 18 at the Jackson County Campus Gymnasium of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (MGCCC) in Gautier.
The event is sponsored by Methodist Rehabilitation Center and MGCCC, and funded by a grant from the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, a non-profit that supports spinal cord injury research and rehabilitation.
A guidance counselor at the college, Clark is eager to introduce others to a sport that has become one of his favorite activities. “”I got more or less addicted to doing sports and fitness a long time ago,” he said. “Handcycling gives me a lot of aerobic exercise.”
Until recently, Methodist Rehab had only a limited number of handcycles on hand. But the Neilsen Foundation’s generosity made it possible to purchase seven new bikes, said Ginny Boydston, director of the Jackson hospital’s therapeutic recreation program.
“We’ve wanted to get more people involved in handcycling, and clinics are a good way to accomplish that goal,” she said. “When people get a chance to actually ride the cycles, they see that a disability doesn’t have to keep them from enjoying the benefits of biking.”
Boydston said the Coast handcycling clinic will be the first of four this year. “We’re also planning clinics in Meridian, the Delta and Tupelo,” she said. “Our aim is to give as many people as possible some hands-on training.”
Clark will be one of the instructors at the clinic, and he’s a good illustration of the opportunities available for wheelchair athletes. Clark was a three-time Paralympian in wheelchair racing, and the 52-year-old only recently retired from the demanding sport of quad rugby.
Handcycling gives Clark a means to wind down after work and a way to share an outdoor activity with his wife. But true to his competitive nature, he also makes sure he gets a good workout. “You can get into a cadence and push for hours,” he said. “I’ve gone 83 miles on the Longleaf Trace.”
The free handcycling clinic is 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 18 in the Jackson County Campus Gymnasium of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in Gautier. It is open to individuals with paralysis, ages 15 and older. For more information, call 228-497-7641.
Wiley Clark of Moss Point, left, and Randy Lavender of Tupelo rest for a minute during a group handcycle ride on the Longleaf Trace.