When Gower College lecturer Calvin Williams fell from a cliff 50 feet (15 metres) high in 2004, he feared his love of mountain biking might be over.
With extensive leg injuries that would confine him to a wheelchair for a year, he realised there were other similar people in his position who were unable to ride a standard two-wheeled mountain bike. So he decided to design and build a bike with four wheels that could be ridden by disabled people, and the fruits of his labour are now starting to materialise.
His endeavour is called Project Enduro, an initiative supported by the Welsh Government through European Regional Development Funding. Enduro has the goal of designing and manufacturing a prototype four-wheeled mountain bike.
This is predominantly for use by disabled people – although it seems others aren’t disqualified from enjoying the bike either. The bike, a collaboration with Swansea Metropolitan University, is ‘powered’ by gravity alone. It has no pedals, with the ‘rider’ instead sitting in a seat between all four wheels. A set of handlebars then allows them to steer as they make their way down a course. The bike is built with carbon-fibre seating and top-end suspension.
Its aim is to encourage extreme sports enthusiasts to grasp the concept of ‘gravity biking’ – cycling at top speeds downhill. The first prototype was unveiled back in February, and the team have now been testing a second prototype in Snowdonia, north Wales. The second builds upon the design, comfort and safety issues identified in the first. And Project Enduro is beginning to make an impact on the extreme sports market.
It’s believed that innovations such as these will continue to lead the way for the future development of both bike manufacturing and healthcare products for disabled people. And the goal is now to officially launch the product, which is built entirely in Wales, onto the market by December 2014.
‘The project is developing well beyond our initial aspirations,’ said Williams.
‘As time goes on more trails are becoming available to ride the bikes and we are having enquiries from potential riders from across the world.
‘Hopefully we will see a race series soon, where able bodied and disabled athletes will be competing head to head at Welsh trail centres.’