My name is Richard, and I use a Cougar S24 Add On Hybrid HandBike with an RGK Maxlite. I have EDS III with Marfanoid Habitus and POTS. I have full trunk control but unreliable use of my legs, and regular spontaneous dislocation of all major joints.
This year, I took my handcycle to Download, with some 25″ rear wheels with 52-559 tyres – as big as I could go before they started to eat my bag.
On the way to the festival, it allowed me to carry my tent, backpack and equipment myself, without assistance, up ramps and down slopes safely, easily and in a controlled manner. This in and of itself is remarkable, due to the sheer weight and how far back I was loaded, but once the rain started (and it never really stopped), the bike really shone.
When it was a little damp and the loosepack started to move – I didn’t care. The bike dug in, gripped and pulled me around the festival with ease.
Once the rain started and the ground turned to grippy, sticky clay like mud, the kind that gums up castors and grabs your back wheels – I didn’t care. The bike continued to pull me along easily and without struggle.
The rain had really been going for three days straight, and the mud had turned to a liquid sludge – I still didn’t care. My Cougar still bit down, grabbed the mud, and pulled me uphill, where other wheelchairs where stuck and even bipeds were seriously struggling, slipping and falling over – it didn’t care, it just gripped and kept me going, even when my pushrims were fully submerged and my heels were scraping mud; It just kept working.
I don’t know how I would have gotten around the festival without my Cougar S24 – People started to leave on Saturday and Sunday because they simply couldn’t get around the festival any more. Google “Nightwish Download 2016 Man Dancing”, and you’ll see that the mud was easily over the ankles. Towards the end, my castors were actually dipping in the mud even with the cycle on, and still I didn’t get stuck, didn’t stop, and didn’t have any problems. It just kept going. Sure, I was -caked- in mud, and the frame of the bike and the chair seemed to be an inch thicker with mud, but that’s half the fun!
There were other people there with similar systems – a very old Viper that was similarly having no problems getting around. I saw somebody with an Attitude Power who was really struggling badly, with a lot of wheel spinning, and the back stand was dragging through the mud. There was a Mountain Trike that was also having absolutely no issues with the mud, but obviously that was a lot slower, and the girl had to work a lot harder on the hills. I must say that without the Cougar the festival would have been an extremely tough experience.
A word on service; the cougar I took was not my own. Mine had a mechanical fault, the day before I was leaving for the festival- not Team Hybrid’s error, just One Of Those Things. However, I contacted Team Hybrid, and within hours I had their Demo Cougar on my doorstep, and my own repaired Cougar was returned to me the same day I got back from Download. I was seriously impressed by the speed and quality of service provided, and the fact that I didn’t have to clean my own bike of all that mud was very much appreciated!
Outside of Festivals, my Cougar has really opened up the city I live in for me. I don’t have to worry about whether or not tube stations have lifts – I don’t have to fight for space on buses. I get to stay in bed 45 minutes longer in the morning, my general upper body strength is much improved and it’s been great for my cardiovascular fitness.
It is also worth mentioning that the handcycling has hugely helped with developing muscle in my upper body, and this has assisted with stabilising my joints and reducing incidents of dislocation.
If I go to another city or town, I don’t have to puzzle out the local transport system; I just put my bike in the tube on the bottom of the chair, it takes less than a minute, and I’m off and away.
It’s not the quickest or easiest system on the market to attach but it is the strongest, it is the most reliable and it’s the only one that doesn’t carry an inherent danger of damaging the down tubes on the front of the chair. In fact because of how the docking tube attaches to my wheelchair, it actually strengthens it.
I am really happy with my Cougar Add On HandBike. I would love to see more of them out there; the level of independence it grants is astounding. The number of times I was stopped and asked for information was truly remarkable. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are people asking for them after having seen it at Download. It really is a fantastic bit of kit.