|When I decided to open my own bicycle shop in 2002, I really wanted to be able to do something special to let people discover or rediscover the joy of cycling. Part of that would be quality equipment and proper fitting, but from my own experience I knew that many people
needed something more than what off-the-shelf items could offer.
I was born with limited use and range of motion of my left hand and arm and began altering my bicycles in high school to allow safer operation with one hand braking and shifting. After earning a Associate of Science in Mechanical Engineering Technology and working for
fourteen years as a mechanical designer in Rochester, I decided to use that experience to make cycling more available and enjoyable, as well as safer, for people with special needs such as my own. I use my design experience, knowledge and love of bicycles and the
SolidWorks 3D modeling software on my home computer. I have also been working on bicycle products and marketing some of the tools I have invented in my shop.
Many times it is simply a case of choosing alternate components or altering the arrangement of those components to achieve the correct result, but sometimes it takes a piece designed for a specific application. A gentleman couldn’t ride his bike anymore because of
limited mobility of one leg. He complained that one leg couldn’t make as big of a circle when he pedaled. The solution was as simple as putting a shorter crankarm on that side. When one wasn't available short enough for his application, I redrilled and tapped new threads
in a crankarm and made him one that would work.
On my road bike I was always having shoulder and neck pain on long rides from overextending my left arm to reach the handlebars. My left arm is shorter than my right from an injury at birth. I cut my handlebars and made a piece to insert into my bars to bring the left side
on the handlebars toward me and inboard to accommodate the difference in reach. While showing this to a customer in the shop, he
remarked that his left arm couldn’t reach as far because of breaking
his collarbone and asked if I could do the same for him. These are the
small things that bring back the joy of cycling.
I have included some photos of the modifications I have done to make my
own bikes work for my situation. The first shows my road bike’s offset
handlebars and the brake cable splitter that ties the front and rear brakes
to the single right brake lever. The aluminum piece parallel to the stem
rejoins the two halves of the bars and gives a 38mm offset rearward as
well as moving the outer left hand edge of the bars inward about 15mm.
I installed in the rear brake cable what Shimano calls a power modulator,
a force limiting device shown in the second photo. This limits the amount
of brake force applied to the rear brakes by placing a spring in the cable
housing. As the brakes are applied, the force is equal front and back
until the force equals that of the spring. Increasing force after that point
biases to the front brakes allowing much harder braking without locking
the rear wheel.
On the tandem my girlfriend and I ride, the brakes again are joined with a
splitter to operate from the right hand lever. This lever also shifts the rear
derailleur (a Shimano 105 STI lever, a standard part). The front derailleur
is shifted using a bar end shifter on the end of the right drop bar. The han-
dlebars are also offset the same as my road bike. The long wheelbase of
the tandem and the weight of two riders made the brake force limiter used on the road bike unnecessary on the tandem.
For a mountain bike it is critical to be able to control the front and rear braking separately. The pictures below show a left side shifter/brake lever combination reverse mounted on the right side operating the front derailleur and front brake. The rear derailleur is operated
with a grip type shifter. The rear brake lever is reversed so the two levers are together allowing two finger operation of each lever. This lets the rider have individual control of front and rear braking required for various types of terrain. The reach and leverage of each brake
lever is individually adjustable to accommodate different hand sizes and strengths. The rear brake lever is a time trial lever and allows the cable to go through the handlebars emerging on the left side of the stem clamp area to minimize potential damage on the trail. The
bar end mounted backward on the left side of the handlebar lets my shorter left arm reach when I get back off the saddle decending hills.
These are a few examples of the things I have done to accommodate my love of cycling, but they are just a few of the possibilities. Each individual situation is different and needs individual attention, but the results can be wonderful!