Thursday, February 11, 2010

My MS Story Chapter 31- Handcycling

IMG_0045 Despite my illness, and the challenges it presents, I still find moments of supreme joy in life. Sometimes I share these with my lovely wife, my family, friends, or even people I stumble upon in the community. Other times, I’m completely by myself.

I’m a person who thrives on occasional solitude: sitting by the ocean and watching the surface of the water sparkle from the setting sun; positioned on an old woods road, rifle in hand, senses piqued, waiting for a whitetail deer to reveal himself; reclined by the warm fireplace in my home, reading a book that puts into words some truth that had previously eluded me.

My handcycle is one of the best purchases I've ever made.  It has allowed me to enjoy exercise year round (I set it up on a trainer in the winter months). While doing my body some small amount of good, I'm improving the welfare of my mind and soul immeasurably. I feel alive and even temporarily healthy when I propel myself down a road or a path, completely under my own power, alone in my own little world.

When I began using the handcycle I could manage as many as 18 miles on a single ride. If my body had been stable, instead of getting worse due to MS, I'm sure I could've improved to at least marathon distance. But, instead, each successive year I've had to shorten my rides. Last summer I could only manage a couple of miles a day. 

Transferring from the handcycle to my wheelchair at the end of a ride is a feat requiring flexibility, dexterity, and strength- three characteristics I no longer possess. On more than one occasion I’ve ended up flat on my back in the driveway. When that happened it took the combined strength of both Zach and Kim, a bit of my engineering knowledge, some scrap lumber from the shed, and a roll of duct tape to get me propped up into my wheelchair again.

It’s still worth it. With MS, you have to pick your fights. I’m going to fight to maintain my handcycling for as long as I can.

On some of my rides I’ve had the forethought to bring along a camera. Here is a link to some pictures I've taken from my handcycle. (Once you get to the photo album, just click on the first picture to enlarge it, then use the arrow keys above the picture to move through the album).

Come on, spring.  I'm ready.


  1. Your photos are breathtaking. That ocean view is gorgeous. My fave was the lighthouse. What a fantastic bicycle. That must be some ride.

  2. I've tried a hand cycle once (thanks to the local NMSS and Outdoors For All ( I LOVED it.

    Can you tell me more about your bike? Who makes it? Where did you purchase it?

    I agree - come on spring!

  3. You may not be able to bring yourself to call it a tricycle, but you do almost everytime you mention it! Why not call it a handcycle like the rest of us do? Or handcrank, if you want to sound more macho?

    Darren, the primary US manufacturers of the type of handcycle Mitch rides are Freedom Ryder, Quickie and Top End. There are a wide variety of handcycles from upright cycles that are an attachment to a standard wheelchair to very low profile competitive racing machines. There are several different steering mechanisms, and anything from zero to twenty seven gears.

  4. Rae,

    I'm glad you like the photos. I really love where I live...about 8 months of the year.


    I strongly recommend handcycling. Mine is a Top End, 27 speed. I don't often use the top gears, but I frequently use 1st gear for steep hills.


    Handcycle? I like that. I've changed this post to use that term.

  5. Your photos are great. I keep thinking I should take a camera, then I forget!