AMPUTEE SEEKS CUSTOM TRAINING WHEELS
August 13, 2005
I used to love cycling when
I had both legs. I lost my right leg 15 years ago to a bone
tumor and haven't been on a bike since (I have about 1-1/2
inches of my femur bone left). My husband and prosthetist
both said I should get back on a bike. So my husband bought
a bike for my birthday with a shoe & clip system. I
can't ride with my prosthetic leg, so I'm just using the
one leg to pull up and push down. I tried the pedals with
straps and those were pretty awful!
I am really struggling with holding
my balance while getting 'clipped' onthe whole thing
is just scaring me. I have one good leg left and the last
thing I want to do is get stuck in the clip, fall over and
break that leg.
Do you know of anyone who would
make strong, but slim/sleek/"cool" looking training
wheels to attach to my 26" wheels? Or do you know anyone
who sells such a thing? Without my leg I weigh a little
over 100 pounds, and am 55" tall. I looked at
Fat Wheels, etc., and I don't really want two huge wheels
on either side of my back tireyikes! I don't need
that much support and balance. I just need a littletraining
wheels that are more slender, less noticeable, yet fairly
strong. You know what I mean?
Anyway, any info you could provide
me would be very, very much appreciated by myself and my
husband. Thank you.
I know what you mean about training
wheels. Ive got some ideas about that and about a couple
First, lemme list your options as
I see them: a standard bicycle with training wheels, a standard
bicycle alone, and a hand-powered cycle.
The bad news about training wheels:
I havent found any like the ones you envision. Wald
makes the smallest for adult bikes that Ive seen, the
at least one dealer doesnt consider these wheels quite
strong enough for a full-sized bike.
Which describes exactly the problem
with the size of training wheels you want. This doesnt
mean, however, that you couldnt get someone to make
them for you. More on that in a minute.
Lets go back to the option you
rejected: Using a regular bike without training wheels. I
know clipless pedals seem scary (I wont use em)but
many above-knee amputees swear by them. These folks have the
same problem as non-amputees: When getting use to clipless,
they fall a lot. You can minimize your chances of injury by
getting on the bike, leaning against a wall, and practicing
clipping in and out quickly. Then work up to slow rides along
a wallputting your foot on the pedal, clipping in, starting,
stopping, clipping out, then putting your foot down, all while
having the wall to support you.
A stopping method on which to concentrate:
Come to a gradual, rolling stop so youve got enough
time to unclip, let your foot dangle, lean the bike over just
a little, stop, and put your foot down.
You didnt ask for all this clipless
advice. But from what Ive seen of others in your position
it seems very viable, and perhaps I can help make it so for
you. So humor me while I wax more on keeping stable when riding
Had enough of that? OK, lemme talk
about hand-cranked cycles. The wide array of available brands
have become very popular among amputees, but I suspect they
wont appeal to you: Most have low-rider, three-wheel
configurations. You can find a list of these at the site of
- Clipless or not, get your bike fitted to you properly.
With only one leg your butt and other limbs have to take
on more weight, and if youve got a bike with an
overextended handlebar or improperly positioned seat youll
- Speaking of which: Most adults who have their bikes
seat at the right height cant put both their feet
flat on the ground while seated on the bike. For you this
would make clipless starting and stopping even trickierso
consider having your bikes seat lower than normal.
If this creates undue strain on your knee you could try
equipping your bike with a shorter (125 mm) crank arm.
- Consider equipping your bike with a granny gear (a really
large rear gear or really small front gear). Novice riders
often start in too high a gear, and the difficult pedaling
makes them start slowly and wobble. You might find it
easiest to start and stop in your granny gear, tho with
time you might not need it. (Mr Bike recommends that everyone
start and stop in their lowest gear.)
- Having your foot clipped in lets you pull up as well
as push down. But some clipless mavens say youll
pedal more easily if you concentrate not on pushing and
pulling, but applying a smooth, even force to the pedal
during its entire 360 degrees of movement.
- Some above-knee amputees report more comfort and flexibility
sitting with the residual leg over the center of the seat,
rather than with their pelvis centered on the seat. According
Wolfe, a long-distance endurance racer and above-knee
amputee, it takes a while to get used to but makes a difference.
Mind you, Brett races mountain bikes (clipped in!), so
you might not find the benefit he does.
You can, however, find some hand-powered
two-wheelers. Check out a brand that intrigues me, the Rowbike.
Further, Richard Reis, a contributor to my book, Urban
Bikers Tricks & Tips, has described a student-designed,
retrofit initiated at at Stanford University. Which gives
me an idea: What if you found a professor to create this sort
of student engineering project for the training wheels you
Finally: Get a tandem! Once you do,
you and your husband will bike together in no time. But before
you ride, learn starting
and stopping protocols, the ignorance of which gets many
beginner couples into trouble.