HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — In less than a week, Huntsville will host the first-ever Para-Cycling World Cup in the United States. On Sunday, the Adaptive Cycling Community Day and Development Clinic offered the community the chance to try out bikes that have been adapted for physically challenged and/or visually-impaired people. These bikes are very similar to the ones used in racing competitions.
"The big problem in the disability community is [not having] awareness of what's out there," explained David Kyle, director of the UAH Ability Sport Network. The ASN is an adapted youth sport league focusing on Paralympic sports and intended for middle and high school students with functional limitations based on physical disabilities. "We just want to introduce people to hand cycling - we've got the World Cup in town.
Adaptive bikes can be modified to fit the individual needs of the rider. A para-athlete, Kyle lives with Multiple sclerosis.
"After I finished my racing career in Paratriathlon, I started this program to spread the joy and get other people involved," he said.
Coaches from the U.S. Olympic/Paralympic Committee led the workshop and were available to assist participants and answer questions. Kyle said the para-athletes making their way to the city will be an inspiration to younger people with disabilities.
"As a little kid you want to grow up and be Michael Jordan. These are the Michael Jordans of the world in these different sports."
Attendees were offered the chance to ride around the parking lot on handcycles and take a spin in a wheelchair made for wheelchair basketball.
Case in point: an attendee we met named Caiden, while trying out an adaptive bike, was met by his own basketball coach, who uses a wheelchair. Caiden, a basketball and baseball player, said how cool it was to look up to his coach, "because he teaches me all the basketball tricks."
Rocket City Trikes brought a selection of recumbent trikes for anyone to try. These trikes are adaptable to all fitness levels and most special needs and can be a good exercise option for older people.
Like Caiden, a double athlete we met named Faith examined the bikes. Faith is a soccer player as well as a track runner. She was able to test an adaptive bike she would use for sprinting. She also looks up to the older generation of para-athletes.
Her biggest challenge, she says, is breaking a sweat.
The UCI Para-cycling Road World Cup the following weekend, May 26-29, in Cummings Research Park.