By Sydney Jacobs
The garage door opens, groaning and twanging, as sunlight floods the space cluttered with bicycles, boxes, garden tools and camping equipment. At the center is a gleaming red handcycle. Lifting its front end, I pull the Freedom Ryder outside and let it roll forward against the bumper of the van parked in the driveway. I check the tire pressure, put on my silver helmet and stash snack food, water and cell phone into a small bag on the back of the frame. A long, yellow fiberglass pole topped with a neon-orange flag slips easily into a ferrule behind the seat.
My wheelchair bumps against the seat of the trike as I transfer heavily down into it. I lift each leg into the legrests, securing them with bandannas wrapped around the cycle frame. Finally I push the wheelchair back into the garage, watching it settle against the lawnmower, and adjust my sunglasses.
Pushing backwards and leaning away from the car, I glide down the steep driveway, pick up speed and flow left onto the street. As the wind brushes my cheeks in greeting, I take a deep breath. My Freedom Ryder and I are off on another adventure.
And we’ve had a few since the handcycle came into my life two years ago. The first time I’d ridden one was in Seattle, 20 years earlier. I’d borrowed a cycle from George, a friend who rode 12 miles to work and back over that city’s hilly terrain. The sensation of speed, the pumping rhythm of my arms, transported me back to the freedom of youthful cycling days. They began as a 6-year-old, careening down the driveway and crashing in the street. At 16 I bought a sleek 10-speed and went on a memorable 100-mile mountain ride with my high school sweetheart. In college I couldn’t imagine exchanging the freedom of my green Raleigh for the burden of car ownership.
In the years since, many new handcycles have appeared on the market. I tried several, but either couldn’t justify the expense or found them unsuited to the kind of riding I hoped to do. Cycling remained a distant desire while kayaking dominated my outdoor life.
But as life changed with marriage and children, and my shoulders progressively suffered from overuse, cycling became more attractive. It seemed like an ideal family activity, and I had no shoulder pain when riding a CYBEX stationary cycle. I just needed to find the right trike and the money to buy it.
Then an Abilities Expo came to town the same week I came into some unexpected cash. At the Expo, I climbed aboard a Freedom Ryder prototype and knew immediately that I’d found both a new toy and a new passion. It arrived four months later, in time for my birthday.
Riding the handcycle was not as easy as I expected. It took weeks