Beyond Comfort

It is almost thirty years since I was paralysed. In the beginning, unique experiences came daily. Even hourly. Recently they came less, in part due to the rut I channelled myself into, racing handbikes and focusing on Paralympic competition and medals. Today I found the elation of novelty once more. I found the excited kid in me again.

“Woohoooooo! I called into the dusk sky, joining chorus with the wailing Jackals and throwing my arms into the air in elation. The cushioned roll of the fat tyres absorbed the bounces as we rolled back on the Ztrikes ICE trikes along a dusty dirt trail. The orange hues of the golden hour had faded, the sun deeply sunk behind the distant hills. The shadows of Mount Hermon and the hills towards Syria were blackening in the distance as we navigated tomato fields and almond plantations back towards the lights of the kibbutz.

Leaving behind the familiar and going into the unknown, I have often felt uncertainty and fear. However, without new and novel experiences, our brain can become stale. In the last few years I felt a little ‘mouldy’ in my thinking and zest for life. I even grew my own rock in my bladder. The geologist in my knows that rocks form with a combination of old sediment, pressure and time. It was time to flush things through, get some flow going again.

The experiences I am having this year and the Pole of Possibility project are purging out the old and opening up my mind and energy again to the new.  Fresh experiences are flowing in. Life is flow, and without it, we stagnate.

I write this blog on my birthday from the kibbutz in northern Israel, where I am in the safe and kind hands of Yos and Ran Ziskind and their families.

Why? To test ride and discover their fat-trike handbike design, with the idea of riding it to the South Pole.

Yos Ziskind is a visionary Israeli mechanical engineer. passionate about enabling technology. His principle work is in robotics automation, but he dedicates his other time to designing a hand-pedalled attachment that can be added to existing off-road tricycle designs.

His design began with desire to cycle with his children into nature. The original concept was a bicycle sidecar which led him to discover the world of off-road recumbent trikes. His next logical step was a trike that engages the whole body, not just the legs, and so he began work on a hand-pedalled design that could be attached. In the research process he encountered paralysed athletes using handbikes and realised his design could help those without use of their lower limbs to access nature better than before.

Yos has teamed up with his brother Ran as the co-brains behind the designs. Also a mechanical engineer but specialising in diamond inspection machiney, Ran’s skills complement Yos and the pair have born ZTrikes.

I have ridden a lot of handbikes. I have tried off-road. But I have never ridden a fatbike with 10cm wide tyres before. Nor have I found a hand-pedalled trike that has so much function that it has been quickly and easily adaptable to my shape, size and pedalling-position preferences.

Will it work to pedal to the South Pole? Well, if any trike could every work, this is it. The mainframe is by ICE (Inspired Cycle Engineering), based in Falmouth, UK. They have loaned a frame similar to that used by Maria Leijerstam who raced over 400 miles to claim the world record of first cycle to the South Pole in 2013.

Maria followed an ice-road into the Pole, whereas we will be crossing virgin plateau ice, so it as yet unclear as to whether the ICE Ztrikes hand-trike will be able to navigate such challenging rough and varied terrain.

We have to step into the unknown to explore what is possible. Excited for this!

Thanks Yos, Ran, your families and the team at ICE Trikes – for taking me beyond comfort!