By Patrick McCallister
For Hometown News
Dozens of world-class handcyclists will be in the area for the second annual Rims on the Run, Saturday, Sept. 29, and Sunday, Sept. 30 Spring Garden Ranch in DeLeon Springs. Event organizers expect 2012 Paralympics gold medalist Matt Updike to compete, and possibly other Paralympians.
New Smyrna Beach handcyclist Mike Sprouse, executive director of the Central Florida Paralyzed Veterans of America, said handcycling has gone the distance in the last few years and local cycling fans will enjoy watching the competition.
"It's an adaptive cycling sport for someone with spinal-cord injuries, or disease, or an amputee," he said.
Handcycles are recumbent three-wheel cycles propelled by arms and hands, rather than legs and feet. Manufacturers, such as Invacare, produce handcycles with slight variations to accommodate riders' different seating needs. A bilateral amputee, such as handcycling rising star Joe Beimfohr, must sit upright, whereas someone with a spinal-cord injury would usually lie supine.
Rims on the Run is a U.S. Handcycling Federation sanctioned event. Port Orange's Scott Rimmer, 44, is the founder and organizer.
"Last year was the first year, and it was very successful," he said.
It drew 32 competitors from across the nation.
Handcycling has grown in popularity in recent years due, in part, to a large number of service members getting injured in operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. The Department of Veterans Affairs and Paralyzed Veterans of America has promoted the sport through events, such as the National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Tampa next July.
Mr. Sprouse, 52, was paralyzed in a bulldozer accident after serving in the Marine Corps in the 1980s. He started the sport in 2003 as a form of continuing rehabilitation and exercise. His wife, Peggy, also has a spinal-cord injury, and both ride competitively. Mr. Sprouse said back in 2003, conventional cyclists greeted handcyclers with a patronizing attitude. That's changed, he said, as handcyclers purchased respect with the one commodity cyclists trade in - speed.
"Handcycling is growing so fast that we're competing in a lot of conventional cycling events now," he said. "They were astonished at how fast some of these bikes are."
Mr. Rimmer served in the Naval Hospital Corps from 1988 to 1992. He broke his neck in a motorcycle accident in 2003, leaving him quadriplegic. While he's lost some use in his hands, he can still use his arms.
"Life goes on," he said. "You can sit around and feel sorry for yourself or you can take control of the situation. I've never been a sedentary person. Even though I sit in a chair, I'm always on the go doing something."
Mr. Rimmer has competed in events such as the New York Marathon, which has a category for handcyclists. He said a busy work schedule keeps him from training for the Paralympics. He aims, instead, to promote handcycling and other adaptive sports, such as wheelchair rugby, which is also called murderball.
"(Handcycling) is growing immensely," he said. "When I first started riding around the neighborhood, people were very inquisitive. I had people say, 'Hey, I'd like to ride it,' and they come back and say, 'Man, my arms are sore.' It's not as easy as it looks. My legs don't move, and I'm not using the strongest muscles in my body to propel (the handcycle)."
Rims on the Run will launch at Spring Garden Ranch, 900 Spring Garden Ranch Rd., at 9 a.m. Saturday with riders doing time trials. At 6 p.m., they'll be at the DeLand Industrial Park, 1830 Patterson Ave., for a criterium. After the criterium, some riders will head to the Fish House, 310 E. International Speedway Blvd. Mr. Rimmer said they'll meet with fans there, starting around 8 p.m. On Sunday, riders will be back at the Spring Garden Ranch for a road race. That'll start at 8 a.m.
Rims on the Run is co-sponsored by Brooks Rehabilitation Hospital of Jacksonville and Plan B Cycling of Port Orange.