Choosing to Cycle with a Handicap

Doing part of each day with a one wheel handicap is turning into and interesting personal area of reflection. Let me explain.

Initially I chose to unicycle 10 percent to create awareness for those who experience poverty due to hidden handicaps. All fine and good.

No sooner did I begin the tour and realize that my choosing this handicap is resulting in putting expectations on others.

Because I took some knowledgeable person’s advice I ended up with a unicycle that I can not get onto without a physical assist. The physical assist can be anything, a pole, a wall, or a mailbox. No problem so far.

However, if I end up with a UPD (UnPlanned Dismount) in an area that has no pole, mailbox then I’m as helpless as a turtle that has been flipped on his back. At that point I’m at the mercy of another cyclist that happens along.

That makes me beholden to them as they need To break their momentum, get off their bike, have the rest of their peleton stop as well.

The other cyclists can view my type of participation as a nuisance. After all this is a bicycle tour… bi means 2 … what’s not to get. Uni means 1.

Instead my fellow riders have embraced my choice and are being very encouraging. The encouragement is taking various forms… stopping to help, waiting at the top of several hills to help me mount the uni after walking the Last part of a steep hill, riding along with me or celebrating the distance I might have completed that day.

People who live day in day out with disabilities not by their choice are at the mercy of other members in the community and the attitude they bring to the help they give. How to help people with disabilities maintain their dignity as well as their worth in the community.

The group of cyclists that I am with bring two things into the equation:

1. There is a strong commitment to help every cyclist, whether the person is lost, has mechanical issues. The well being of each rider is fore most.

2. The fellow cyclists are very much taken in by the unicycle challenge… after all it is unicycling and it has the novelty of being ‘extreme’.

There is a respect and appreciation for each member of the team, cyclists and volunteers alike. Each bring essential skills to the team.. bike repai skills, preparing food, driving the 2 semis or the SAG vehicles.

Making this choice to unicycle is both an experience of humility and one of being embraced and appreciated.


Author: Jasper Hoogendam

After 36 years as an educator my career ended due to a TBI. Renewable energy as part of 'walking lightly on this earth' has been and continues to be my interest since my teen years. Since early 2015 I have been learning to live with ABI (Acquire Brain Injury). I don't want to let my ABI limit the goals I set for myself. I'm living with a different brain, not a lesser brain. In sharing my day to day successes and struggles, I am better able to understand how my life had changed and begin to accept the change. In sharing my experiences I'm hearing from caregivers and fellow ABI's. I'm encouraged when my experiences are helping others understand some of the complexity of living with ABI.

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