General Motors, through Chevrolet, and students from Michigan Technological University revealed a new hand cycle designed to make it easier for disabled veterans to compete in races, and even in marathons. And perhaps as a case study, 10 prototypes of these bikes will be used next year by the Achilles Freedom Team of Wounded Veterans in marathons across the United States. The bikes were unveiled during yesterday’s Army-Navy football game.
GM CEO Dan Akerson, a Navy veteran himself, was at hand to present the bikes with retired Marine Cpl. Joseph Woodke of Port Hope, Mich., a member of the Achilles Freedom Team, who rode the new cycle onto the field during the first quarter of Saturday’s game.
The prototypes were developed by Michigan Tech mechanical engineering students as part of a senior project named Huskies Helping Heroes, and provide several improvements to the design of conventional hand-powered cycles. They are claimed to be stronger, more comfortable, durable and portable than current commercially-available cycles. Their development was sponsored by GM and mentored by the company’s engineers along with Michigan Tech faculty, while the students spent time with the wounded veterans to observe their competitions and design a cycle that meets their needs.
The three-wheel hand cycles work by allowing athletes to lean forward while pumping the wheels with their hands. For veterans who are leg amputees or who have sustained other serious injuries (we can also imagine any other demographic with such disability), this is often a better solution for racing than a traditional wheelchair. GM’s Military Discount Program underwrites several Achilles Freedom Team competitions, and has supplied cycles and a Chevrolet Silverado HD for transporting them.