Photo Story: Adaptive Racing from The Malverns Classic

Aug 29, 2023 at 11:32
by Nick Bentley  


There are many events at the Malverns Classic that I enjoy, and I believe Si Paton, who runs the event, deserves thanks for initiatives like kids' balance bike racing. However, none of these events come close, in my opinion, to the significance of adaptive racing. Growing up around disabled individuals, I understand the importance of fostering opportunities for para sports to expand. Si and the team at the Malverns Classic are doing just that and they deserve some recognition for that.

This year, adaptive dual slalom and downhill events were integrated into the main racing program. It's time for organisations like the UCI and national governing bodies to embrace this form of para racing, enabling its growth instead of overlooking it. Anyway, enough of my rant. We had the chance to speak with Michael Dewsnap first, discussing what an adaptive bike is. Following that, we have some racing shots of these amazing athletes and the racing for you to enjoy!

Michael, tell us a little about your bike


It is an Explorer III, made by a company called Sport-On and it's a European, Polish brand, running a 14-speed Rohloff hub in the back wheel with a pedal assist 1000-watt bafang motor. I've also got a throttle that I can use generally when I'm doing downhill runs.

So it will pedal assist when you pedal your hands?


Yes, you can lean on the chest pad and that can give you a little bit of steering on the climb, so you can pedal and steer a little bit. But say for the downhills, I'll get on the handlebars and use the throttle to power me along.

photo

Have you got suspension on all three wheels?


Yeah, it's a four-bar linkage, leading link on the front with two Rock Shox Monarch shocks on the front. Then on the back, you've got a single pivot swingarm with a Rockshox coil shock.

So much like most other mountain bikers do you spend a lot of time messing about with your suspension settings?


I play around with it basically, to get it not so much on the ground, but more to make sure it behaves in the air. Because when I first got it, I found it was pitching me forward a lot and because I can't move my body weight around too much I'm sort of at risk to the elements to which way it goes. So I generally run around 115 psi on the shocks on the front with the rebound as fast as it'll go. Then at the back the compression and the rebound is quite slow to just stop that spring. Like when you normally ride a bike you want that pop and jump but I'm trying to get rid of that so the front end stays high.

photo

What size wheel are we talking?


It's a 26-inch wheel all round running tubeless with Vittoria inserts.

In terms of tire pressure are you running it low here?



Yeah, you definitely get a better grip. Well, I've always run tubes so it's the first time I've ever really run tubeless ever. Well when I raced 4X I was swapping tires with the conditions and you don't want tubeless tires for that. But obviously I'm sticking with the tires I'm running. I'm limited on what choice I've got because I'm running 26.

Can you go up a wheel size?


I could push to 27 all round. I had the option to choose that, but it would have raised the center of gravity and effectively shortened the bike. So it would have been a bit more twitchy, I think.

Any other bits that people need to know about?


Well, like the way I'm sat, sort of prone, kneeling in the carbon fibre troughs. I've got carbon fibre knee troughs, carbon fibre bucket seats, which is adjustable to where I want to be. At the front the stem is adjustable as well so I can add reach. Running on Shimano XT brakes all round.

You got your funky clamp so it's kept braked, right?


Well, I've 3d printed that. That red handbrake, I've 3D printed that myself and come up with that idea because it originally was just a velcro strap and trying to do that two-handed when you're on a trail and on a hill is nearly impossible. So I can just flick that on, it's worked well for when I want to stay still or get out as I can't put my feet out I'd have to stay holding the brake if I wanted to stay still

photo

How much of your set up has transferred from when you rode a normal mountain bike? Have you just completely started from fresh?


Yeah, maybe lever setup is how I remember having it before. Yeah, nice and low so you can get your fingers and your wrists straight. Again, going back to how it was behaving in the air, I've pulled the handlebars back a little bit so I'm a little bit more sat up. When I first had it, it was more forward I felt like it was tipping. As I say you can move the seat around, have a little play around with that and I've got that now dialled in. But other than that, there's not a great deal that you can adjust. The chest pad that you can use for the steering, that's adjustable as well.

So how does the chest pad work with steering?


It's got cables to the stem. It's not that effective. It's a good idea. It's like a Fiat Multipla, it's very good idea but it doesn't work. If you lean it, you push down on it and that should give you a bit of steering, but it doesn't quite have enough leverage.

Like I say it's a good idea. When you look at it, it's a good bit of engineering. There's not much else I've changed really. I say I messed around with the tokens in the front shock to make it more progressive because initially, I had more pressure in and through the trails if I hit a bump it was tipping me over. Well, now because the first part of the stroke is quite soft, it's like a Baja truck, the wheel will come up out of the way and the rest of the bike stays stable. But then it's got the progression at the end of the stroke for the jumping line.

What does it mean to be able to ride again?


I need it. I've got to have it. I'd be lost without it. Especially to be able to race again and listen to the beeps going on the gate like this, that was brilliant yesterday.

photo

Do you think it's definitely going to be an argument for an adaptive race series?


It needs to be recognised by British Cycling, I think. There's got to be a way of changing the rules to get us accepted into it. Like I don't see why, especially in downhill and dual, it can't be accepted when you're not sort of bar to bar but the dual works brilliantly because you're side by side racing, but there's not contact like in 4X. Because we were talking earlier about the feasibility of running 4X, it might work but it could get messy quite quickly I think. Well, it'd be like Formula One, wouldn't it you could end up riding over each other.

It can be tricky when motors involved?


Well again, I mean, it depends how many people have got them, but you might start having to categorise them.

Michael Dewsnap made good use of all the skills he learnt racing 4X all those years whilst racing dual slalom
Michael Dewsnap made good use of all the skills he learnt racing 4X all those years whilst racing dual slalom

Jack Sims working his way round the red track
Jack Sims working his way round the red track

Ki New seemed to get to grips with the dual slalom course quicker than most and took home first place
Ki New seemed to get to grips with the dual slalom course quicker than most and took home first place

Phil Hall s bike is a slightly different lay out to some of the others these adaptive bikes are just a varied as their non-adaptive cousins
Phil Hall's bike is a slightly different layout to some of the others, these adaptive bikes are just a varied as their non-adaptive cousins

I just love how these adaptive bikes corner
I just love how these adaptive bikes corner

Chris Field kept it pinned around the chicanes on his way to fourth place in the Dual Slalom
Chris Field kept it pinned around the chicanes on his way to fourth place in the Dual Slalom

The boys on the adaptive bikes lined up ready for the the dual slalom on Friday
The boys on the adaptive bikes lined up ready for the the dual slalom on Friday

Casey Newton joined the boys for the downhill on Saturday not that any of them gave her any special treatment Casey is as fast as ever
Casey Newton joined the boys for the downhill on Saturday, not that any of them gave her any special treatment, Casey is as fast as ever

Ki New flat out on his way to taking the win
Ki New flat out on his way to taking the win

Chris Field drifting it
Chris Field drifting it

Michael Dewsnap was loving going full gas over the bomb-hole down through the lower section of the track
Michael Dewsnap was loving going full gas over the bomb-hole down through the lower section of the track

Martin Tavendale clearly favoured the red course as he came to join Ki New
Martin Tavendale clearly favoured the red course as he came to join Ki New

Fist bumps on the finishing line
Fist bumps on the finishing line

The amount these bikes lean is unbelievable
The amount these bikes lean is unbelievable

There was some tight racing in the dual slalom
There was some tight racing in the dual slalom

Dewsnap keeping it tight to the gates
Dewsnap keeping it tight to the gates

A slight drift on the slippy grass slid the back end out
A slight drift on the slippy grass slid the back end out

Which on one of these bikes isn t the easiest to correct. Chris Field ended up sticking his bike on it s side but it was all good he was fine and with a little push back upright he was all good and ready to go
Which on one of these bikes isn't the easiest to correct. Chris Field ended up sticking his bike on its side, but it was all good, he was fine and with a little push back upright he was all good and ready to go

The final push to the finish in an unconventional style with both riders coming through the same finish gate Ki New just pipped Martin Tavendale to first place overall
The final push to the finish in an unconventional style with both riders coming through the same finish gate, Ki New just pipped Martin Tavendale to first place overall

On Saturday Martin Tavendale narrowly missed out on first place by less than a second to Ki New
On Saturday, Martin Tavendale narrowly missed out on first place by less than a second to Ki New

Crossing the line in style
Crossing the line in style


Author Info:
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Member since Nov 28, 2019
245 articles

18 Comments
  • 33 0
 12yrs ago I was racing on my own, tagged onto the main (able bodied) DH races. Now we have our own races! I love this sport. And thank you PB for showcasing it!
  • 5 0
 @cjamtb: Thank you, man, for showing up 12 years ago and showcasing it on the DH tracks!
  • 5 0
 @RayDolor: Ah, it was never a case of whether I would, it was just a question of how. Credit has to go to the folk at the Woodland Riders, who went out of their way to make sure that I could take part and compete with everyone else. A couple of years later, even British Cycling got in on the act and allowed me to race. At the time, I was the only adaptive rider at any of those races, but I was NEVER made to feel like I was any different to anyone else. I actually remember being sat on my home-made, full sus, hand-powered trike, in the pissing rain, whilst Keith Bontrager was on his back checking out the linkages for the rear swingarm! Such good times. I'm fortunate that now I can ride 'normal' eMTBs, so am back on two wheels, but so, SO good to see these guys and girls with their own races now Smile
  • 2 0
 @cjamtb: I remember seeing a photo of you in dirt mag I think. Back then I was 2 years post sci, thinking what a knarly dude you were on your home built handbike. My first aMTB race was a Gawton last October. Never been so wet and cold in my life but I absolutely loved it. The woodland riders are such a friendly bunch and made us all feel welcome. I'll hopefully be back for another race this winter, hope the weather is a bit better.
  • 2 0
 @froman82: Sweet! If you do come down for another race, let me know, I'll try to get over to say hello!
  • 14 0
 i have 2 working legs and this still looks extremely fun.
  • 9 0
 Good to put this article out. First of all, it’s fun to see and read about cool bikes and racing.
Second, for the adaptive riders out there in the world, if you can8t see it, you can’t be it, hopefully someone, in a corner of the world sees this and realizes there is a way for them to get into bike riding and racing with an adaptive bike.
  • 5 1
 Man this is so RAD!! All of these guys have the same wheels and need for adrenaline drive we all have. In one way or another, their body is no longer capable of regular bike riding. Fantastic to see the tech has come this far to afford them the that rush and freedom of motion and reacing on wheels we all crave. Get some gents/gals!
  • 2 0
 I might try and get to the Malverns next year - between this and things like the balance bike world champs, feels like they're doing great work bringinging all bikers together...something I'd like to be a part of
  • 2 0
 We complain about the price of our bikes but man these look like they would make a Yeti e-bike look cheap! So rad, these look fun as hell.
  • 1 0
 Very cool, they should include this with other racing disciplines. They look fun, now I want to try one haha. Also kind of assuring to know that if you ever do get hurt on your bike the fun doesn't have to stop.
  • 2 0
 I'm on two wheels but as an industrial designer, these rigs are really interesting and rad to look at. And all in for all inclusive stoke.
  • 4 0
 This is something we’re looking into next year, for sure.
  • 2 0
 This is just awesome! Thanks PB!
  • 2 0
 More of this please PB. Top article.
  • 2 0
 PHIL HALL .... Human Powered Vehicle.... For The Win.
  • 1 0
 Sweet. This looks awesome.
  • 1 0
 Love to see it!







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