Do you have a name for your vehicle?
I call it a bike, a quad and sometimes a cart. Or sometimes a BFWU, which stands for Bike For Wheelchair User.
How did you get your bike?
I noticed this possibility for disabled people a long time ago when I was still healthy. A Canadian guy, Stacy Kohut, used a similar machine in the video New World Disorder. When I had a spine injury five years ago, it occurred to me that I could ride a bike like him.
Have you ever contacted him?
I wrote him a letter and he offered me the opportunity to buy the same machine. It was just an austere and simple business offer. I did not have the slightest feeling that he wanted to help me somehow. The price was ten thousand Canadian dollars and I could not afford that.
What did you do?
I sent a letter, to several companies, looking for someone who would like to build something like that here in Europe. People were interested, but no one wanted to dive into a project with any uncertainty whether they would sell any other pieces or not. Nobody wanted to build just one bike because it would be expensive. Luckily, I was contacted by two brothers, Ivo and Peter Santavy. They have experience with building regular bikes and various special bikes in their garage enterprise No Question Bike. They offered to help me as a part of their academic work.
How did the project proceed?
Completion took nearly five years. I gave the boys a scheme of my idea for the bike and then they did all the work on their computer. We built it through trial and error. Some things had to be redone and sometimes parts had to be solidified due to cracking resulting from exertion, but I am absolutely satisfied with the result.
What is the frame built out of?
We used aluminium alloy 7020. We had the welded frame sprayed in Poland, but the Poles probably do not know what the colour “Kawasaki Green” looks like, so I got a frog colour. The bike is built around a monocoque seat made from carbon fibre, which is similar to those used by disabled skiers. I am attached to the seat to prevent from ever dropping out of it.
What was the most difficult part?
Everything was delayed only due to money. Czech hands and heads can handle everything, but sometimes we had to wait for additional resources. Eventually it still cost about half the amount that I would pay elsewhere for the finished product.
It is difficult to ‘drive’ the bike?
The main difference is that I have to watch the width of the road and two tracks. It drives with the same handlebars that are used on mountain bikes. Hydraulic disc brakes are also taken from mountain bikes. The only problem is that while on a regular bike one lever brakes one wheel and I use one lever to brake two wheels. The braking power is then divided in half, which is not optimal for the system. Some people address this issue by using one lever for each wheel so that each wheel has a single separate lever.
Does it a shake a lot?
The bike has an independent four-wheel shock suspension from an Italian company, Marzocchi, that manufactures suspension forks and shock absorbers for mountain bikes. It works well.
What about the wheels?
We could have probably used serial rims, but we used reinforced specials from Remerx, which can carry more weight. The front dimension is 20 inches and the rear is 24 inches. The market is unfortunately running out of sufficiently wide tires for this size, so I guess I’ll have to change to bigger wheels. It is a trend in normal mountain bikes, but I am forced due to the circumstances. The front should have 24 inches and the rear 26 inches.
Do you know what the dimensions and weight of your bike are?
The length is about as much as a normal bike and the width is 108 cm. The weight is about thirty kilograms.
Do you remember your first test drive?
Yes, very vividly because I fell down right away.
Do you fall often?
When I ride the bike in the Bike Park I fall a lot. It may happen that I fall “across the handlebars”, but I’m buckled up in the cart and usually I fall more to the side. Often what happens is that I flip over several times, so I bought a big motocross helmet and Leatt brace collar to protect my spine.
How do you get up in the Bike Park?
I use a cable car like everyone else. I come to the lower station and I sit in the cable car and the operators then load the bike on the next seat. When I get to the top I go along a semi arc and the operators fit the bike beneath me, and that’s it.
How many trips per day can you do?
On a good day I easily use up a pass for ten runs. I’m used to it. I drive everything using my hands. The exhaustion comes in the evening. It’s hard to do it during the whole day, but it’s worth it!