fes bike race

Cybathlon 2020 FES Bike Race Sept Update

It’s been a long journey and it’s about time for a real update to talk about what’s going on. I’m an FES Cyclist using stick on electrodes to artificially stimulate a nerve response and contract the muscles in my paralysed legs. Electrical stimulation can be also applied to other parts of the body to build muscle (even if voluntarily not possible to move limbs fully). Using this technology, it means it’s possible for a paralysed person to prevent body deterioration as a result of being  immobile. However it has to be a regular thing to make any progress.

I ramped up during 2019 into  a tough training camp for Cybathlon, an international competition since January. That’s along with bike development, research and coping with being a C4- 5 Tetraplegic.

There has been a long process of altering the Berkelbike to be faster in a racing environment, which started in Spring 2018! Learning on the job and not being able to get hands on myself with engineering has been challenging. I’ve had to rely on a lot of other people, and I’m grateful for all their support so far, small or large.

In Dec 2019 Prodrive agreed to assist in the creation of a carbon fibre seat and it’s now very close to completion. The race bike itself has numerous companies lending their assistance to the challenge; they’ll be revealed in the upcoming months. It’s probably the longest time I’ve ever trained at maximum for an FES Bike Race. The reason for that is because Coronavirus came along and wiped out the Cybathlon main event dates twice. The first time was in May 2020, the second in September. Additionally, Lyon Cyberbike 2020 came up and I wanted the opportunity to   finish the race bike, and ride it on a real track with actual FES cyclists. The year before I couldn’t attend Lyon Cyberbike because I was developing the racebike and working on a bike seat prototype suitable for disabled FES cyclists. So I really wanted to do this and make something happen because the last event was Lyon Cyberbike 2018, apart from the Tour De Vale 25km  fun ride in 2019 during which I almost died….. but that’s another story.

So Lyon Cyberbike 2020 was all organised, bike transport from UK to France, flights, hotels, PA shifts, everything.

And then, just a few weeks before, the UK government set quarantine measures and Lyon was suddenly not an option as all flights to France were cancelled.  Fortunately this turned out to be  a good thing because technically the bike developments weren’t quite finished so it kind of feels like the delays were meant to be. That extra duration has allowed more time to think and not be in a constant state of rush. I’ve noticed how much this has benefited the whole of humanity to actually take a step back, stop working for a moment, and take in the surroundings. Let’s not say it hasn’t been hard – it’s been really hard on the psyche. But I think it’s easy to get stuck in a repetitive loop without time to reflect. Coronavirus has been like a wake up call; people got bored in isolation and became more intelligent when entertainment  came to a standstill. Progress accelerated for me in research too because there were less social or society related distractions.

My legs then got very strong from a 9 month straight bootcamp and allowed me to cycle at very high resistance. However the end result of this was that during performance testing, this caused what I believe is a small hairline fracture in my foot. The reason is because the ankle is fixed and so there is a lot of pressure going through at the beginning of an FES Cycling session, which had gradually increased over a long period of heavy training.  Because I can’t feel my feet the only way to find out was from my physios, Taylor and J-Dog at Neurokinex prodding my foot, which spasmed aggressively upon touch. However, I’m in a wheelchair, off my feet the majority of the time, which is handy – or should I say leggy? Being very fit has helped too with blood circulation so recovery has been very quick and I’ve been easing slowly to the level of training I was at a couple weeks ago.

Photo of me just before I hurt my foot.

I did try my best to get the Cybathlon postponed so it could be held in Zurich next year. Partly so I could taper down training and allow a more relaxed development schedule, avoid possible injuries and come out of training camp. Obviously I am disappointed about not being on a track because that was my vision. As you may have guessed, the Cybathlon has been rescheduled for this year. Nov 13 – 14th and will be a virtual event.

I will be cycling indoors and that’s a decision that means cycling using a Wahoo V4 roller, (Like Yahoo but with a W) that looks like this. As to how this will work with a Berkelbike is the main concern; being front wheel drive, the gearing could pose an issue.

Wahoo KICKR Roller

I’m still focused on beating the implanted electrodes used by my Cyborg nemesis. As to where my future leads will be very interesting indeed but there’s still a lot of work to do in  a short space of time. I’m on Twitter and Mastodon (Better version of Twitter, but I haven’t opened up invites yet because no time to mod; follow me for updates!

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