Hands-on cycling

Michael Taylor on his hand cycle

Spin those cranks: Michael Taylor races his hand cycle. Photo: M Taylor

Back in 2003, returning from holiday Michael Taylor was involved in a motorcycle accident, throwing his then heavily pregnant wife and family into a state of shock. The surgeons at the Alfred did what they could, but from this point on Michael was a T5 paraplegic. With many battles to face Michael attended rehab at the Royal Talbot Hospital rehab spinal ward learning that no pride or dignity could be allowed to stand in his way despite it being hard, draining, frustrating and embarrassing while having to re-learn life’s skills. It was in rehab that Michael was first introduced to hand cycling, putting a smile back into life by introducing a new freedom for the long road ahead.

To get a picture in your mind of a hand cycle, think of the components of a normal race bike. Then picture a low trike frame with front forks with the rear wheel of a race bike with gears and derailleur’s attached upside down. A crude seat with two free wheeling hub wheels at the rear. To propel the hand cycle at the top of the front forks is the cranks and chain rings brakes and gear changers incorporated in hand grips in lieu of pedals. The legs of the rider are usually strapped in cradles along the front forks.

Michael reflected that the steering is quite good when travelling at speed but when going slow its like turning a bus, not made for 3 point turns that’s for sure. Some 7 years on Michael is racing at national level with consistent average speeds of 30 kilometres an hour and suggested to be competitive on a good track would need to be at an average of 32-33km/hr. To achieve this, weight reduction is premium on his custom made hand cycle using all Shram components, Zipp wheels, Carbon – Kevlar frame all weighing in at a total of around 11.5kgs.

Hand cycle racing is an international sport in Europe. They hold their race series over about 6-7 months with big turn outs where over 150 athletes compete in different categories. H1 – Quadriplegics, H2 – T1-T10 Paraplegics (ME), H3 – T11 and below as well as amputees, FH1 – Female Quads, FH2- female Paraplegics etc.  The cost for Australian athletes is one of the biggest hurdles to get to compete as when they get there they regularly get top 15 results, even a few top 5 and occasional wins.

With the increasing international opportunities the Australian National Handcycle Series grew through the enthusiasm of a small group of athletes knowing to improve they needed to do something, and they did. Last year Michael was an part of the organising group of four rounds race series which took in Victoria, Queensland, Victoria and back to Queensland. Begging, borrowing what they could, and putting their own money behind the idea such efforts not realised put in by this team of extraordinary people. It’s now 2010 and through the proud sponsorship of DiBella Coffee and the TAC a new series of National Series of competition is covering four States.

  • Race 1 – Launceston Tasmania,
  • Race 2 Echuca Victoria,
  • Race 3 Sydney NSW,
  • Race 4 Sunshine Coast Qld, AIS training camp at Sunshine University and then
  • Race 5 Brisbane Qld (with a mixture of Individual Time Trials, Road Races & Criteriums).

Michael is a member of the Echuca & Moama Cycling Club and has gained their support to host Race 2 on the 27/28 February. Saturday’s Individual Time Trial should be an interesting affair with the nation’s best coming together, the favourites coming all the way from West Australia. The road Race on Sunday will be a mass start, 3 laps of a 13km circuit for H1 and 4 laps for all other competitors. Drafting will play a huge part for the winners.

Echuca & Moama Cycling Club will be holding graded scratch races for all who are keen to not only witness this spectacle but enjoy a race themselves.  This will be a 9am start on the Sunday morning. It is believed that 20 elite hand cyclist are coming to Echuca just for this event not excluding any other hand cyclist from coming and having a race. The encouragement received from other hand cyclist’s is tremendous, participation is really the key to the success of this series. More information can be obtained from visiting www.australianhandcycleracing.com

See you on the road soon God willing

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