Nearly five years ago, a motorcycle accident left Jeff Hider with no movement from about his hips down. He thought he would never be able to ride a bike or a motorcycle again.
Following the accident, he was visited in his room at Northridge Hospital Medical Center by a representative from the Triumph Foundation — a nonprofit organization based in Santa Clarita that provides exercising opportunities to individuals who have spinal cord injuries and disorders. During the visit, Anthony Orefice showed Hider a photo album of all the physical activities that are possible in a wheelchair, including scuba diving, water skiing and skydiving.
For Hider, who’d once dreamed of riding down the West Coast on a touring bicycle, the obvious place to start was on hand cycles — three-wheeled bikes propelled by arm movement.
“Wind in my face was something I really liked,” Hider said. “On the hand cycle, I can get that. It feels like you’re going really fast because you’re inches off the ground. It’s fun.”
Now Hider, who served as a Marine line mechanic for the helicopter squadron at Camp Pendleton, hopes to share the hand cycling experience with injured veterans and other San Fernando Valley residents who could benefit from the experience. He will serve as a coach in a series of free hand cycling clinics and riding sessions as part of new program called Valley GO! that was developed by California State University, Northridge and the Triumph Foundation.
The hand cycling clinics will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Feb. 2, March 2, April 6 and May 11 at Balboa Park.
The clinics will be beneficial to both new riders and experienced riders, said Bordin Endinjok, a kinesiology student who will coordinate the clinics.
“It can be as challenging as they want it to be,” Endinjok said. “You’re not going to be injured. This is something you can ease into and develop.”
Valley GO! is targeted to veterans with spinal injuries or other disabilities that affect balance, but it is open to anyone in the community. The idea is to provide hand cycling equipment and the expertise of knowledgable trainers.
The Valley GO! program is a collaboration between CSUN’s Center of Achievement through Adapted Physical Activity and the Institute for Community Health and Wellbeing, as well as the Triumph Foundation. To facilitate the clinics, CSUN will hire six students to assist.
The program is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The grant covered the cost of two hand cycles, payment for student trainers, as well as the costs of Triumph Foundation trainers and transportation of about a dozen cycles to the clinics.
“I think it’s important because sometimes there’s a lack of opportunity for hand cycles compared to regular bicycles,” said Teri Todd, a director of the Center of Achievement through Adapted Physical Activity at CSUN, who is co-principal investigator with sociology professor David Boyns. “It’s going to benefit our community, our veterans, and our students.”
Andrew Skinner, co-founder of the Triumph Foundation, emphasized that the clinics are open to all community members, including those who are not veterans and those without disabilities.
“A lot of people come out and fall in love with the hand cycles even if they don’t have a quote-unquote disability,” Skinner said. “They find it preferable for their lifestyle. You might find [you like] it better than riding a regular bike.”
To participate in the workshops or for more information, contact Teri Todd at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about the Triumph Foundation, visit https://triumph-foundation.org.