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.
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.
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
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.
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.