Many of us use cycling for every day journeys, for transport, leisure, and exercise. Historically cycling networks have been designed around two wheeled bikes, and with able bodied cyclists in mind.
There is however a growing demographic of cyclists with a disability, whom with improved technology and equipment have been introduced to a mind blowing, world expanding opportunity to explore our trails like never before.
For cycle trails to be accessible to the disabled community, it requires a continuous and uninterrupted journey, where riders feel safe and comfortable. Trails need to be step free, barrier free and spacious.
These considerations are also important for kids, novice riders, and older people riding our trails. They foster inclusion and a sense of independence, ensuring more of us can access the physical, emotional, practical and social benefits of cycling.
For Ross Ormsby, cycling isn’t just about improving strength and fitness. It also brings freedom, empowerment and the opportunity for enriching experiences. Ross has ridden parts of an impressive 11 Great Rides, which as a Tetraplegic is no small feat.
We caught up with the inspirational adventurer to hear about his experience on the Hauraki Rail Trail, why cycling is so beneficial to the disabled community, and of course where he’s hoping to adventure next.
My name is Ross Ormsby, I am a tetraplegic who loves Handcycling. I live in Raglan and from farming family of King Country. I’ve been enjoying the Hauraki Rail Trail since the early 2000's. It’s accessible, beautiful, and a great adventure in the wilderness and outdoors for me and others.
I use a clip-on, electric handcycle. The handcycle is attached to my normal wheelchair, and I put on fat wheels for safety and comfort. This handcycle is about the most powerful around. Using parts from an old handcycle, my mate Phil has created this epic bike.
The creation of an upgraded, purpose built, powerful handcycle by mate and fellow tetraplegic, Phil Booth, allows us to do normal things mates might do together. It may require helpers, and friends or family, but it certainly allows group inclusion and the ability for mates to be together having fun. We've even ridden with up to 5 tetraplegic handcycles lately. Others are being inspired to get out by the small core of avid riders in New Zealand.
For me it is so important in many ways. I love being in the outdoors and connected to earth and elements. It expands my world. I also enjoy an adventure and even a chill picnic outside. For me and many others this access to trails gives not only a getting out and amongst it feeling, but also fun exercise and social inclusion with friends, family, local communities, trail users and travel to new places. These trails with sections of picnic areas and short walks are creating easy inclusion. It wouldn’t be far from the truth to say biking trails keeps my body young, and me excited about living. Others are discovering this too.
I’ve ridden Karangahake Gorge often since 2002, and fully recently with the recent track upgrades. I’ve ridden with so many people, and now only have to do Thames - Paeroa. The Gorge is my first and favourite river ride of the Great Rides. Other highlights are riding the shell beach and area of Kaiaua, finishing at Thames Wharf, taking an L&P pic, riding to Mt Te Aroha, and the easy riding path and changing farmland with yummy food from Te Aroha to Matamata.
They are all very different. I’d say the variety of sea, mangroves, farming, gorge, river and Kaimai Ranges make it a real journey.
Having a Grade 1 trail is so important for those of us needing easy rides close to road access. Surface for adaptive, older, young and wobbly riders is so important. I’m pleased that nearly all of the trail is barrier free for me, with little help required, and suitable for my handcycle/wheelchair. Hard packed is best as the bigger new gravel can rattle a bit.
Being front wheel drive there are three parts out of Waihi which require assistance. I’m happy to see the tunnel and bridge entrance ramps and surfacing in Karangahake, as this creates a smooth ride. Similar updates to Paeroa - Te Aroha will remove the need for assistance along this section. It’s wonderful to have had incident free, fun group rides.
Te Aroha - From left, Phil Leslie (support), Ross Ormsby, Phil Booth.
I want to tick off Thames - Paeroa. Closer rides to home include around Lake Taupo and Waikato River Trails, Atiamuri to Whakamaru. When it’s open, Turoa mountain and past Ohakune. Then my Southern Tour will take in new trails for me such as Lake Dunstan, Milford, Around The Mountain, Queenstown Trails and my new excitement trail is Kawatiri Coastal Trail between Westport and Charleston.
A note from Ross…
Who wants to join me and my crew? As a tetraplegic I certainly need help and love getting to know the locals. I’m also currently working with some New Zealand Great Rides to make Accessible Ride Guides.
You can see my adventures and work on:
You Tube: That Guy Ross
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