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Clover Point bike fest showcases adapted gear for those with disabilities

“Your perspective sure changes from sitting on top of a two-wheeled bike to getting down into a handcycle.”
Vince Giesler with a trike owned by former Olympic triathlon athlete Simon Whitfield at Victoria’s Adaptive Bike Fest held at Clover Point on Saturday. TIMES COLONIST

Vince Geisler remembers the first time he ever used an adaptive bike.

In 2017, a driver crossed four lanes of traffic and hit Giesler while he was biking near the intersection of Hillside Avenue and Scott Street. He was left with serious injuries, including a broken collarbone, he said.

Geisler was training for an upcoming triathlon and was a week away from his Team Canada qualification race.

“The most profound thing coming out of surgery, was that I wasn’t allowed to drive for four weeks,” he said. “Having to depend on my wife and others just to get around … that really restricts your movement.”

Geisler borrowed a trike from a fellow triathlete, adapted it so that he could use it with one hand, and began biking to his physiotherapy appointments.

After that experience, Geisler is now passionate about finding ways to adapt existing equipment for other people who have ­mobility issues.

The first Adaptive Bike Fest in Victoria was held at Clover Point on Saturday, with food trucks, vendors, and free bike and wheelchair tune-ups by event partner Oak Bay Bikes.

Geisler was there, demonstrating how to use some of the handcycles and trikes, available for festival participants to ride.

Tanelle Bolt, founder of the RAD Society— short for ­Recreation Adapted Society — said that outdoor adaptive equipment is expensive and hard to find.

Bolt, who broke her back and sustained a spinal injury while vacationing near Port Renfrew in 2014, remembers how she had no idea about the limitations to accessing adaptive equipment before her injury.

“There was nowhere to rent an adaptive bike,” Bolt said. “You had to sign up with a program, be in a specific location at a specific time with their volunteers and their staff doing things their way.”

Bolt, who is now a full-time wheelchair user and continues to live an active lifestyle, founded the society in 2017 to provide more options for those with mobility challenges as well as those wanting to try outdoor activities differently.

“Your perspective sure changes from sitting on top of a two-wheeled bike to getting down into a handcycle,” she said.

The society has adaptive equipment for a number of activities, including golfing, skiing, paddling, waterskiing, and surfing for rent, though bikes were at the forefront of Saturday’s festival.

Recreation Adapted Society has taken charge of the ­handcycle bike inventory formerly owned by Recreation ­Integration Victoria, a non-profit that ceased operations in 2020 after local governments in the capital region pulled their funding.

“Nobody in town knew where it went. It got stored in a basement for a few years and wasn’t accessible to the community,” Bolt said.

The Adaptive Bike Fest is partly a way to advertise that these bikes are back in circulation, she said.

Rentals at Langford and Victoria for a number of adaptive bikes range between $15 and $40 for four hours, with lower costs per hour the longer a bike is rented out.

Some of the bikes — which could cost between $8,000 and $18,000 — have been rented for up to three months, she said.

“If you’ve had it for a while and somebody else needs it, you might get a phone call,” she said. “We just want to try and make sure everybody has the opportunity to play outside.”

In October, RAD Society will partner with the Victoria Tool Library to provide some of their gear at 750 Fairfield Rd.

There are plans for a prototype adaptable equipment “gearbox” rental shop housed in a shipping container to be installed near Langford Lake next spring.

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