Product Review: Abike

By Michael Roberts



After my stroke in December of 1999, bicycling was one thing that I missed greatly. It was an integral part of my everyday life to a greater extent than it might be for many others. My wife, Linda and I bicycled across the United States for our honeymoon. We still enjoyed weekend rides along the local bike trails. I prefer bicycle commuting to driving or riding the bus. Not being able to ride my bike was as great a loss for me as any of the other post-stroke deficits that Iíve experienced. My balance is still so tenuous that I havenít been on my old bike yet but Iím moving in stages toward riding it again. While still in rehabilitation, I tried out mounding a stationary bike. With careful spotting by the therapists, I was able to pedal for brief periods. On my 50th birthday, the summer after the stroke, we rented a tandem bike with upright seats and took a ride along the lakefront.


Other things started to come together at one of our stroke support group meetings some time later. We had joined this particular group at the suggestion of a friend from the adaptive aquatics class that I was enrolled in. Itís a midlife stroke support group. Most of the members are closer to my age than the predominately older people who Iíd played bocce ball and yahtze with in therapy. At one meeting of the support group Elke, the group facilitator, complimented a group member named Tom on his suntan wondering if heíd been vacationing in a warmer clime. Tom explained that heíd been riding his bike around town. He went on to say that he owned several 3- and 4-wheel recumbents.


bikeLinda began to shop around for a bike that I could use. The neighborhood bicycle store made a couple suggestions about specifications and I visited manufacturerís websites. Tina, a friend in Madison, reported that sheíd seen someone riding a bike of the sort that I was looking for on a Madison bike path. She even had the presence of mind to ask where the rider had purchased it. We made a trip to Bargain Bikes in Madison and asked a few questions. What kind of modifications could be made to simplify steering and braking and gear shifting, for example. Getting on and off the beast was another concern. This store had worked with other disabled riders and was willing to make whatever kinds of mechanical adjustments might be needed. The manufacturer could do many of these too. My new bike is a Penninger Traveler from Penninger Recumbents of St. Charles, Illinois. They have a web site, The bike has its controls wired to a single joystick control on the right side. At my request, the bike shop welded a grab bar to the front of the frame to make getting on and off easier for me.


The bikeís been great fun. Itís enabled me to go a few miles under my own steam. I can get some sunshine and fresh air and keep pace with my wife and our dog when theyíre out for a jog. Iím the envy of all the little kids in the neighborhood. I hope to build up to longer solo treks. The fall and winter months have been mild this year. My legs are getting stronger. When I can pedal over to the library or the University, I know Iíll feel terrific. I might even pick up a nice tan.



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