Video: Tommy Wilkinson's Custom Radon Swoop

May 9, 2019
by Ed Spratt  

In 2013 Tommy Wilkinson paralysed his arm after crashing badly on his bike, he severed his complete brachial plexus from his spinal cord, fractured his skull, suffered a spinal cord contusion and had a bleed on his brain. Tommy has now joined Radon Bikes as a team rider and with help from Tom Wheeler and Tom Bannister, they have modified his bike to work around the loss of his arm. Have a look at his bike and the technology that helps him keep riding.


  • + 26
 Tommy, good on ya for keeping ur dreams rolling and staying on the bike. Can’t imagine anyone hating on this, they must have a screw loose. I’m curious- with all the compensation your mid body and core must be doing for the one-sided contact, do u get really bad muscle cramps/spasms on one side of ur back/core?
  • + 4
 Hey Matt.

Great questions, and yes, I do! My g/f is a physiotherpist and pilates instructor so this plays a huge part is trying to stop the cramps and keep the fascia loose. Foam roll, acunpuncture, myofascial release are three must do's

That said, I tore a knee cartilage last year and this was a result of paralyse muscle chains shortening, pulling on my hip, tightening up my leg muscles and putting more pressure on my knee. I've also had a life threatning acture compartment syndrome before I did my arm (10 weeks in hospital, 6 ops, 5 days of blood transfusions, big skin graft...) which doesn't help, haha!

So it is a hugely complex injury - clinically much worse than an amputation (which is bad in itself) but management is key.

My job is as a cinemtographer and photographer, so carrying a huge pack if shooting bikes, using heavy camera's such as the alexa and so on can also be hard work but you just gotta keep going! Smile
  • + 1
 @TommyWilkinson: Thanks so much for responding. I feel fortunate to utilize both arms while riding, but I have major issues with “favoring” the right side of my body and coordination, in all sports. I get terrible spasms that will set my whole spine in an S-curve and leave me in unspeakable pain. Was very curious to hear what helps you rehab, thanks so much. Wifey just bought a new foam roller, gonna work it right now!
  • + 11
 We contacted Tektro and they have someone who can build up a single brake to control front and rear with a 50/50 balance. That balance can be changed by adjusting disk size. Ours was designed for right hand control but i assume they can do both. Including custom brake hose length.
  • + 1
 Hey. Before my crash I rallyed historic cars and always wondered if a bias bake box could be employed on a bike with one lever. However I do like having two brae levers. Tom Wheeler from NotBroken just sent me some great tech yesterday to aid with braking which I'm really hoping will help. Tom Bannister is the best rider I've ever seen with one arm, and he's recommends it so if I can get half as good as him that'll be great!
  • + 1
 @TommyWilkinson: Wife does not have any dexterity left to manage two brake levers(dont get me started at how many times she cant raise her dropper post).

Any links for adaptable equipment would be great.

Steep is the biggest problem now, back wheel skids to easy. Hopefully the dual control will cure when it comes.

Thanks Craig
  • + 7
 When passion for riding so strong you just make it work! Cheers Tommy - hope we keep riding for a long long time.
  • + 2
 I knew a guy who was missing the part arm from about 3 inches below the elbow, and he had this brace with a padded cup sorta thing that came off his handlebar that he could put the nub into for bracing/control. Obviously Tommy still had his arm but has no function. I wonder though if someone could make him a sort of brac that maybe attached around his shoulder/chest area, and then had some tune-able compliance (like mechanical arm with a strut in it) in it, since you wouldn't want a totally rigid attachment. It wouldn't be perfect, but it might give him some extra help so he can ride faster and/or safer, and generally make it easier for him.

I'm sure someone could come up with a cool solution, so I hope that he gets tons of exposure and maybe a person or group with the means to help him take his adaptive needs to the next level can reach out! Super cool to see him doing what he's doing!
  • + 1

Tom Wheeler made me an incredible exo skeleton brace - full carbon, custom tuned Fox shock, rose joints and more. It is quite incredible. I used it for a short period and I was definitely able to do more, but the pain was unbearable.

BPI injuries can vary depending on how many nerves get avulsed. I did all 5 meaning that the only muscle holding my shoulder up is my trap. Some people have a functioning pec, lat or deltoid, but I don't. When I used the brace the shock couldn't go anywhere, so was going through my ribs and eventually pulled my 5th rib off the cartalige. It winded me a bit, ha!

Knowing Tom, he could modify it to make it work really well, I just need to get over the psychological hurdle Smile
  • + 1
 hey Tom! Keep ripping! Anyone that actually wishes you harm for doing what you want can eat a barrel of dorks. I wonder if you could cut off the right side of your handlebar just an 1/8th past the stem? I'm worried you might get gored by the bar you don't use in a crash. I wonder if it would compromise strength of the bar?
  • + 2
 You aren't the first person to suggest that!

I worked on the Polygon UR team for about 9 months and Cous Cous was always keen for this , but we never got round to it!

Might be a question for Funn to see if the bar's integrity will hold up!

Spacial awareness is another consideration as I really have no idea where my arm is (I hate tight gaps in trees now) , and the r/h side bar has saved me a few times by hitting the tree before my shoulder would have whacked it, always brings a dark humour little laugh out when that happens!
  • + 1
 @TommyWilkinson: I didn't even consider the shoulder in relation. Maybe just try it for 1 short ride.....and send video to Cous Cous! Stay Rad Tommy!!!
  • + 1
 Hi Tommy, I'm a physio with an interest in combining engineering with the body. I run a small engineering business part time next to my full time NHS physio role. It's great to see you doing this and those Instagram comments you mentioned are just weird. I have modified an arm amputee patients bike to work for them but it had cable V brakes so the modulation was easier. Would having an adjustable reservoir that was fed by one brake lever to control front and rear bias work better? So the fluid flow into each brake can be adjusted independently? I'm really interested in branching out into this type of precision engineering for upper and lower limb challenged athletes. #RGPwelding is my Instagram account and you will recieve only good things from me.
  • + 1
 Touch wood I never suffer a life changing injury like this but I would like to think I'd carry on riding through the difficulties of that injury. In reality i would probably feel sorry for myself, sulk and give up which makes seeing people that fight through to continue with their passions all the more impressive. Top respect to you for continuing with the hobby, I find this story truly inspirational, keep shredding my dude!
  • + 1
 Inspiring stuff, keep crushing it!

I imagine a tough aspect of riding is not being able to pull back on the bars much, as one would normally do to get over obstacles or bunny hop. Had anyone tried some form of strap to connect the rider's hips to the headset area? Obviously would need to be slack enough to allow normal movement, but could there be a length/amount of stretch that would allow you to effectively pull back on the bars by moving your hips back?
  • + 1
 Fantastic video I have a similar injury sustained 37 years ago and have been riding mountain bikes for decades with one arm , have a similar set up with the hopey damper however I also use a viscoset on another bike and this works well. Currently testing a new arm bracer that has been designed by students at Glasgow Caledonian University where I teach. Will be competing in the Glentress 7 again this year so give a shout out for the Old gits from the Clydesdale Colts if you are around
  • + 1
 Incredible! Tom Wheeler's story was amazing, and it's great to hear his work is helping others. the new breed of wireless droppers and groupsets would surely be able to be adapted to help clean up the controls for a disabled rider...
  • + 1
 On the belgian enduro races, we had our friend Guillaume Lebleu riding on one leg with a Rock Shox based prosthesis:
  • + 3
 When the haters can keep up with you, then they can comment. Properly inspiring, hope to see you out on the trails Tommy.
  • + 2
 The resilience of all of these riders who have overcome such hardship and adversity is truly inspiring! Really puts things into perspective.
  • + 5
 Hell yes.
  • + 4
 this makes me love the world more than i did
  • + 2
 I hope you never fall off your bike ! Would love to ride with this dude. Keep pedaling no matter what . F the Haters !
  • + 2
 Inspiring story and awesome bike.
  • + 2
 I‘m really impressed. Keep on riding!
  • + 1
 Incredible, keep on sending it Tommy!

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