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Get Out There

(page 6 of 8)

A Different Type of Pedal Power

Bellevue resident Jet Turner enjoys a ride out Democrat Gulch in Hailey.Ever seen a mountain bike with three fat tires?

Poised face-first over a six-inch-deep creek, Jet Turner has to drop in or go home. There’s a bridge that other bikes—typical two-wheeled mountain bikes—zip across, but it’s out of the question for Turner’s adaptive bike, which is simply too wide. He plunges forward into the chilly water before coming to an abrupt stop in the middle of the creek.

So he summons his arm-generated strength—right, left, right, left, arms pedaling, not legs—and he makes his way up and out of the water to the rocky Adams Gulch trail and continues through the warm August day. The great dirt and Wood River Valley scenery that mountain bikers live for abounds. Soon the single track widens, then narrows so much he’s plowing brush on the right side. But his trek continues.

“I think it took six hours,” Turner later said of his ride. “It was only six miles, but it was pretty rocky and tough.” Pausing, he added, “It’s not very fast, but it’s nice to be out there.”

The “One-Off Handcycle” is property of Sun Valley Adaptive Sports (SVAS). It has 24 gears with the standard eight-speed cassette in the rear and two mountain drives up front. “Each mountain drive reduces the drive ratio by two-and-a-half times by simply pushing a button. In the lowest gear it’s very low and a person can spin the three-inch-wide knobby tire,” said Turner, who has partial strength in his arms due to an incomplete quadriplegic c-5 injury. He compares the mountain bike to his other ride, a hand-pedaled recumbent road bike, explaining:,“The mountain bike works more with gravity. You can use your physical strength better, because it gets your body over the cranks. But it takes a lot of strength. A lot more.”

Adaptive mountain bikes are expensive and rare (hence the name “One-Off”), so it’s a great advantage to the local community and visitors that SVAS has a fleet of bikes to lend at a moment’s notice so that riders of all abilities can enjoy the world-class mountain biking around Sun Valley.

“We keep several adaptive bikes at the office for anyone in town who wants to use one for a day or a week at a time,” said Kate Weihe, operations manager at SVAS. “It’s a great way to get out and about.”

Other bikes in their cache include road bikes, a double-seater, a motorized bike and several cruisers. Turner got so much mileage on the office’s recumbent road bike that he bought his own four years ago. Now he does eight miles a day, which includes the roundtrip from his home in Bellevue to his job as a geothermal power plant structural designer in Hailey and a lunch trip in between. He’s clocked 1,200 miles annually since 2010.

“The bicycle provides a lot of freedom of movement and ability to get outside,” said Turner. “There’s not all that many riders here, but I sure enjoy it.”

It looks like this summer he may have more companions on the trails than ever before, as SVAS continues to expand its bike programs, and prominence about the sport of hand cycling continues to keep rolling along. -Dana Nichols


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