In Kelly’s Words – Offroad Handcycling with Greg
While my biggest satisfaction with my active lifestyle is that I’m included in everything my friends and family do, every opportunity to do a sport I love with other people with spinal cord injuries (SCI) is a huge learning experience for me. It’s all about swapping tips and sharing stories. There are so many unique experiences that you can only truly understand if you have an SCI. While someone can look at what you’re doing and offer advice (ah hem… my husband…), without knowing how it feels to have an SCI and all that comes with that (muscle isolation, balance, etc.) it’s really hard to fully understand how the mechanics work.
This weekend I had the opportunity to go mountain biking with Greg Durso, a friend who also has an SCI. Greg has a similar level of injury to me and had his SCI just a couple years after mine. He is a crazy athlete (he’s completed an Ironman!), he road bikes, skis, and does lots of other activity. While I often ski with other monoskiers and I road handcycle at the Kelly Brush Ride with other handcyclists, I have rarely done other sports like mountain biking or golfing with others with SCI.
This weekend Greg came to Vermont and used one of Vermont Adaptive’s offroad handcycles. The bike he used was different than mine for a couple reasons. First, the position of his was prone (laying forward) so he is in a more aggressive position and is able to crank harder (and probably more efficiently) than my bike. In my bike I sit more upright and I crank with the pedals in front of me. Both bike have knobby mountain bike tires, have high clearance off the ground, some suspension, and have gears similar to any other bike. My bike is a more comfortable ride for my level of injury and more social for what I use my bike for. There are certainly advantages to both types of bike.
The other big difference between my bike and Greg’s is that my bike has an e-assist. This was one of the most striking differences this weekend (sorry Greg…). I had decided to get the e-assist so that I could go with Zeke or other able-bodied friends or family and keep up with them. It would also allow me to go on steeper or more aggressive terrain that may be hard with just my arm power. The e-assist that I have magnifies my pedaling (it’s not a throttle), so the more and harder I pedal the more it kicks in.
This is no slight on Greg (I mean… he’s finished an Ironman…), but when Greg and I rode together I was amazed at how much my e-assist helped. There are 4 speeds and just being on level 1 or 2 I was able to go a lot faster than Greg on moderately steep terrain, even though he is much stronger than me and was on a more powerful bike. At one point he collapsed in exhaustion at the top of a hill and I wasn’t even sweating! It made me both appreciate that I had the e-assist and humbled by how much harder Greg had to work to do the same terrain. I guess that’s the gift and curse of e-assist!
More importantly than being an incredible athlete, Greg is an awesome guy. This year he is captaining an open Kelly Brush Ride team, Team Durso, encouraging anyone to join and fundraise with him. Greg has been involved in the KBF for several years and has come to the ride for all of those. He’s doing weekly updates for his team about handcycling, his training, and generally about his life. He has set a goal of raising enough money to fund 5 Active Fund grants for this fall. I’m so happy that Greg is a friend and has become such an incredible ambassador for the KBF.
My last blog I talked about Dylan swimming and that she was pretty timid but was starting to warm up to swimming. Well she has definitely warmed up now! We were at the pool last week and she not only was swimming (wearing a floaty) without anyone holding on to her but she then decided to walk over to the diving board! We didn’t think she would actually go but she walked right out, asked Zeke to go in the water so she could jump to him, and jumped off. She then proceeded to jump off the diving board continuously for the next half hour until we told her it was time to go. It has been such a pleasure to see her become more brave and more comfortable with this activity that is such a big part of our summer. I can only imagine how fun it will be to watch her learn to ski!