Hand Over Foot

Armed with more gears than a Mack truck, a new generation of disabled athletes cranks onto snow and singletrack

Outside

Outside    

FRUSTRATED WITH THE OFF-THE-SHELF mobility options available to them, a new generation of disabled athletes (they call each other "supercrips") are taking up torches, welding together chrome-moly tubing—and then bolting the newfangled frames to planetary transmissions, knobby tires, and tractor treads. Their goal: to pick up where the paved loop trail ends.

Take the One-Off all-terrain handcycle—a low-slung mountain bike built by Mike Augspurger, who's crafted custom bikes for the last decade. "It is a bike you wear," says Bob Vogel, 40, a paraplegic hang-glider pilot who has owned a One-Off for nearly two years. "It's opened up a whole new backcountry world." A mere 33 inches wide—and tricked out with Schlumpf Mountain Drive transmissions, plus a titanium handlebar and sternum support—the 35- to 50-pound, $4,500 trike is narrow enough to navigate many singletrack mountain bike trails.

This winter, altitude-inclined supercrips will doubtlessly covet the SnowPod—a miniature tank designed for mountaineering by Peter Rieke, 46, who was paralyzed from the waist down six years ago in a climbing accident on Washington's Index Town Wall. Last June, he cranked his way up 14,410-foot Mount Rainier while strapped into his cat-tracked, yellow-tubed SnowPod, signaling a new high in wilderness access for the disabled. Rieke invested $25,000 and nearly five years welding and bending steel to create the Pod, and his success on Rainier won him a $32,000 grant from the Arthur B. Schultz Foundation to build four more. Weighing in at 65 pounds, the 49-speed vehicle will handily climb a 45-degree slope. Touts the Web site for Rieke's Pod-building company, Mobility Engineering: "Looks cool, chicks dig it."

 

Data

Bridge Day, West Virginia
Hours it will be legal to BASE jump off Fayetteville, West Virginia's New River Gorge Bridge on October 21: 6
Total number of jumpers expected this year: 350
Total jumps last year, approximate: 1,000
Distance from deck to ground, in feet: 876
Time, in seconds, for a free-falling body to travel it: 8
Seconds most jumperswait before pulling ripcord: 4
Seconds seasoned jumpers wait: 4
Spectators on hand: 200,000
Ambulances standing by: 18
Total injuries last year: 6
Those classified as "minor": 5
Average number of canopies that are open at once: 4
Pizzas donated to jumpers by Bridge Day organizers: 75

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