Mobility is one thing. Being able to get everywhere you need to go and have fun on the way is another. This is what differentiates HASE BIKES HANDBIKEs from wheelchairs with attachable handcycles. And our HANDBIKEs offer practically all the same qualities as their sister models KETTWIESEL, LEPUS and PINO: comfort, maneuverability, and safety, along with mobility at reasonable speeds. After all, being there is what counts.
But trike genes give the HANDBIKE a whole lot more: for example, an ingenious geometry and countless sophisticated details, like the handcrank assembly, which can be folded forward for especially easy mounting and dismounting.
Or the Schlumpf internally geared crankset, which transforms the nine-speed Shimano gear system into a transmission with 18 gears, making the mountains “barrier-free”. Or choose the 14-speed universal shifting whiz Rohloff Speedhub. For braking, the powerful hydraulic Tektro disc brakes get the job done. And of course, even when changing gears, both hands stay where they belong: firmly on the handles.
Jean-Philippe Maffioletti sits on a HANDBIKE, grinning from ear to ear. The peloton of Trophy participants is shooting past. More than a dozen tandem trikes blaze around the curve. “They’re strong!” says the Frenchman in awe. And he should know: for the inaugural race last year, he was a competitor.
The teams are passing through the commune of Grez-sur-Loing on their 500-mile (800-km) journey to the French capital. Although the Tour de France is sometimes described as the “tour of suffering,” a more appropriate nickname for the Free Handi’se Trophy would be “tour of teamwork” – and not because it’s any less challenging: anyone who’s seen the daredevil men and women on their tandems knows how strenuous the course can be and how the competitors push themselves to their limits – on both land and water.
Each group of four competitors splits into two double teams consisting of one racer with a disability and one without. The teams compete on tandem trikes for the road portion of the race, and in canoes for the water portion. All of the teams come from companies that support the event. HASE BIKES supplies the special tandem trikes: each consists of either two KETTWIESEL or a KETTWIESEL-HANDBIKE combo. The essence of the race: team spirit!
This essence is also what inspired Jean-Philippe to return in 2013. This time as one of the many volunteers, who not only help guarantee safety along the route when the Trophy passes through a commune but also race to the racers’ aid in the case of accidents or technical problems.
“Unfortunately, I never finished the race,” he laughs. “We went into a tight curve with too much speed and lost control.” But this incident gave him even more motivation to return for a second year.
“Here, we experience a unique form of cooperation – everyone works together as a team. This requires a lot of communication, with words and eye contact,” explains the 47-year-old. And this is the spirit of the whole race. “The concept of competing with two teams of two is the strength of the Trophy. And able-bodied racers are just as dependent on their disabled team members as vice versa!”
If you saw him standing on the roadside with his cane, you’d never suspect: Jean-Philippe Maffioletti has a rare illness that sporadically causes him to lose movement in his legs. But this doesn’t dampen his enthusiasm for the sport. Which is why he is using his free time to tell this year’s competitors all about the KETTWIESEL HANDBIKE.
They only know the trike as part of the race’s special vehicles, known as “V.R.A.I.s”: an abbreviation for their French name meaning “specially adapted and essential adventure bikes.”
At the event, the spirit of teamwork is omnipresent. It’s this spirit that makes it possible for people with and without disabilities to push themselves beyond their limits. And the vehicles from HASE BIKES are the perfect tools for showing what can be accomplished by working together.