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z

Creating the Cycle - The First Trike

When Arnold was young, Arnold watched the other kids ride their bikes and thought one day Arnold will be able to do that. Later, at the age of 25, Arnold had been at university for 4 years already and was burnt out, not just from school but all of the volunteer work he had been doing for various organizations, and difficulties with family and homecare, as well. Things had come to the point that when Arnold walked onto campus, Arnold would have an anxiety attack. That summer, Arnold started working for a company in Saskatoon doing some computer programming. It was an O.K. job and the people treated him O.K.. When the end of August came Arnold really wasn’t ready to get back to school, Arnold just needed a break.

He came up with a proposal for this company, Arnold would work for a year with them if they would provide him with 3 things. his living expenses were being covered by a government welfare program and if Arnold earned over $100.00 a month on his own, it would be deducted from the welfare. Arnold knew he could not yet earn enough to make it on my own. Arnold asked for the following three things: 

1. to be paid only $100.00 a month

2. a high quality monitor to work with

3. have them design and build a cycle for him

They agreed. Arnold continued working for them and earned $100.00 a month, but by December when the monitor and the cycle did not materialize Arnold made inquiries. Shortly a monitor was provided and the company found a student studying CADD, who needed a project, to design the cycle for him.

About every 3 weeks the CADD student came around with designs, but Arnold was not consulted about them. By the end of February Arnold was getting frustrated. The cycle had not been started. Then, one day they came to his workstation, all excited. "Come out and see what we have for you!" A second hand 3 wheel bike had been purchased with a high seat right in the middle of it, something you might see a senior citizen riding.

Arnold’s heart fell. It was probably about 20 years old and had no back on it to hold him up. Arnold guessed they saw his disappointment and said it was only their ‘prototype’. A couple of months went by and a cage-like thing was added to hold Arnold onto the bike. Finally, they told him they were ready for the first test ride. Arnold took one look and thought, you have got to be kidding! Arnold was put on it but was only able to stay there for 3 minutes before his tail bone began to ache badly. Arnold would endure that pain for 3 more months!

He was angry. It seemed they were not really trying, that they didn’t believe Arnold could really ride a bike. That night Arnold phoned his Dad and asked for his help. The next day Arnold went into work and told them he was taking a week off, and he took the cycle to the farm. 4 days later they had something that could work. They cannibalized 3 other bikes and took the seat from a 1944 Ford tractor. The ‘cage’ used to support Arnold’s back was covered with foam and duct tape. It had a steering lever and two gears on the front wheel, attached with a motorcycle chain. Two levers stuck up and to one side. One lever was a brake and the other was for the gears. To brake or change gears Arnold had to use my right hand. His right hand is not his ‘good’ hand, in fact his Mom calls it the ‘crazy hand’ because it, most often, does not do what Arnold wants. Because the center of the cycle sat so high it had a tendency to tip backwards so two ‘wheelie’ bars were attached. It was the ugliest, heaviest cycle you’ve ever seen! And scary to ride! If it hit a bump, Arnold would end up on his head quicker than you could say, "Uh, oh!" But, it worked for his purpose, to prove Arnold could ride and control a bike!

This cycle weighed easily 200 lbs. Because Arnold used mainly his left leg to push himself around in his chair, his right leg had a lot of catching up to do, strength-wise, in order to pedal. At first, Arnold could only go ½ a block at a time between rests. Arnold only had one brake on the front wheel so it would get really interesting when Arnold picked up speed going down hill. Arnold would pray no one got in the way, because Arnold was sure he wouldn’t be able to stop in time. Arnold ran many a stop sign! He would avoid having to stop as much as possible for two reasons, it was difficult to stop and once stopped, it was a bugger to get going again!

When Arnold brought it back to Saskatoon they were amazed. They really thought it had been impossibility. Arnold gave them the bike and told them "O.K., now you know it can be done, make me a good one". They took the bike and prettied it up a little and said: "Here, we’ve made you your bike". Arnold was not impressed but he kept working. This bike broke down about every 2nd week. Arnold couldn’t ride without someone coming along to put the chain back on every time it came off, or make other minor repairs. Like Arnold said, it was only made to prove it could be done, but it wasn’t built to last.

One day, while out riding, Arnold hit a hole and to keep upright Arnold had to turn quickly, but he turned into a car that was waiting at an intersection. There was no damage to the car but his wheel was bent. He’d heard about a shop in town, "The Bike Doctor" and he took it there for repair. Arnold got to talking with the owner of the shop about how this was only a prototype to prove that he could ride and how he wanted to build a ‘real’ bike. Then the "Bike Doctor" told Arnold he could build him one for about $3,000. Arnold went to his place of employment and told them about the shop owner. He suggested they pay him to build the bike and then their part of the bargain would be fulfilled. But the company was afraid the shop owner might abscond, so Arnold came up with another idea. Arnold asked them to co-sign a loan and pay the interest, while Arnold made the payments. He also told them that he’d gone to legal aid and had spoken to a lawyer about their ‘verbal contract’ who indicated the law was on his side. The company jumped at this proposal. So, his term of employment ended. A couple of months later the interest cheques stopped coming, Arnold got mad and quit making the loan payments and he never heard from them again.

One day the prototype bike was stolen from his front yard. They had just had the first snowfall of the year. About 1:00 a.m. there was a knock on the front door. Arnold’s live-in caregiver answered and found the police at the door. They asked if he owned a 3 wheel cycle. Some kids had taken it for a ‘joy ride’ and crashed it into a pole. The police had been able to follow the tracks in the fresh snow back to his front yard. It was pretty much a wreck when it was returned to him. Both the back axle and front wheel were bent. It looked like a little car in a Warner Brothers cartoon, ready to quit from exhaustion! Arnold wanted to cry! Arnold took it to the Bike Doctor. He took one look and laughed, "I guess we better get started on the new one!", he said. It cost Arnold $400.00 to repair the old bike and it was still a piece of junk, but he’ll never forget that piece of junk. It was only meant to be ridden for a couple of weeks but he’d ridden it for 14 months!

He’d used it in two walkathons and a 24 hour relay. Where is it now? Arnold sold it to a handicapped friend for $200.00. Arnold created some great memories with that bike. He broke the 10 mile per hour mark, under his own steam and control. Arnold knows that doesn’t sound like much, but for him always limited to propelling himself backwards in a wheelchair, it was a great moment.

He’d learned to propel himself backwards in his wheelchair in order to get around with some kind of independence. But the chair is made to go forward and is always twisting to try and return to its natural forward position. The faster Arnold tried to go, the more difficulty he encountered with control. Just try driving a car in reverse. The faster it goes, the more unstable it becomes and if the steering wheel is released the car will naturally swing around to go forward. The big difference is, the car has a steering wheel to control it with, Arnold has to control his chair by kicking the front wheels. It would get pretty dicey trying to go faster than 5 mph.

Arnold attended his first C.P. National Games in ‘88. All of the other track chairs were reverse chairs with the small wheels on the back. Arnold couldn’t keep up on the track because of the lack of control Arnold had over his wheels. Having the cycle gave him a welcome sense of freedom and independence. All his life he’d been ‘the last one in’.

Arnold often participated in walkathons but by the time he’d get to the finish line, everyone else was packing up to go home. Arnold never told anyone, but this was a real downer. Arnold had often participated in the "Ricky Walkathon" in Saskatoon but the year he first rode his bike in it and came in with the first ten participants, was a real thrill for him that he will never forget.

The downside of cycling was being stuck on the roadside for a couple of hours because the chain had come off and he’d have to wait for someone to come along who could put it back on for him. Or, even more frightening was tipping over and being knocked out cold for 2 mintues! There’s nothing Arnold could do when it started to tip! It was a weird feeling waking up with a crowd of people standing around and then acting like he’s o.k. so they wouldn’t call the police or an ambulance because all Arnold wanted is for someone to set him upright and let him get his bearings so he could head home. Arnold still has no idea what happened in those two minutes. Arnold used to buy helmets that claimed a damaged helmet should be replaced and when you purchased the helmet you could have it insured so if you cracked up within 3 months, they would give you a new helmet. After Arnold had the third helmet replaced, they would no longer insure it for him! But that bike was the first taste of freedom.

 

 

Copyright © 2005 Anything is Possible Tour. All rights reserved.
Revised: April 24, 2013.