Who says QUADS can't ride QUADS!?!

I have been dying to write an article about the life-changing experience of riding a quad bike. You see, I have been a quadriplegic for 22 years and am already on my 4th quad bike!

Not once during my rehabilitation did anyone mention the opportunity to explore riding a quad bike, and I guess it does not seem possible. But it certainly is feasible; it’s stimulating and therapeutic – it even sounds right: a quad on a quad.

I can’t be too specific as to the minimum SCI injury level a quadriplegic quad rider would need to be able to handle a quad bike with some adaptations. But I would estimate that a C5 quadriplegic would be able to ride an adapted quad bike.

It’s important to choose the right quad bike as there are some essential features that will ensure adequate power, stability and safety.

Like adapted cars, a quad bike with automatic transmission and a reverse gear is the best option. On command 4x4 drive would be a bonus, and foot rails instead of foot pegs. An ATV is preferable instead of a sports (racing) quad so that the ATV’s cargo carriers can support some adaptations. Handlebar guards will protect your hands in a dense bush environment, and mirrors can be fitted if not standard features.

Essential features
The engine capacity is critically important. I suggest nothing less than a 300cc.
Independent suspension would be a bonus. A lightweight quad bike is easier to load onto a trailer. Fuel injection is a luxury worth having if you can afford it, and good compression brakes will give you more confidence on the trail. Power steering (only on the Yamaha Grizzly 700) is an utter necessity, especially if you have limited power in your arms and shoulders.

So, you can shell out for the whole shebang, or just ensure you have the basics when choosing a quad. I have always liked the branded quads; Yamaha, Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki etc., but there are cheaper Asian-made (read China) quads out there with the basic features. You make the choice, you take the risk. I have always been a Yammie fan.

As a C5 quadriplegic, I am agile, fast and cautious. And most importantly, thanks to some inspired adaptations, have complete control of this incredible beast, the Yamaha Grizzly 700. Riding my quad bike is always a treat which is never taken for granted, and I respect the power of the machine and the potential danger involved.

The adaptations on my new Yamaha 700 Grizzly were done by two good friends, Mike and Brett, who want to remain anonymous. I can tell you that their workmanship is flawless and their creative thinking sheer genius.

The roll bar that extends above my helmet is made out of stainless steel, and it has various tilt settings machined into the mounting. It can also slide off completely or fold down.

The roll bar supports the belt harness which holds me in place. A padded backrest cushions me away from the ironmongery, yet ensures a firm back support.

With no grip in my fingers, the brake lever has been turned inside out so that I just have to lean on it instead of pulling. On this new quad bike, I have removed the back brake as the front brake is quite sufficient. It is also very sensitive and easy to use.

A curved metal loop covered with protective foam has been welded over each handgrip and this allows me to lift my wrist and “pull” to turn the steering. The thumb activated throttle has been replaced with a normal motorcycle twist grip accelerator. A specially machined plastic platform is bolted to the twist grip and extends backwards so my wrist can depress it to accelerate. The angle is adjustable.

The hand-operated gear lever has been extended and brought more within reach. A few electronic safeguards had to be bypassed to allow gear changes without depressing the footbrake. Even so, changing gears is smooth and easy. My feet are secured to the footplates by means of straps which go over my boots.

Finally, watch your bum. Long hours in the saddle can take their toll. So either sit on your pressure care cushion, or get a seat made with softer foam. Oh, and don’t forget to wear a helmet, protective riding pants, boots, elbow guards and goggles. They all serve a purpose, believe me. I have rolled a quad cycle in the past.

If quad cycling is your dream, then make it real. And who knows? Join me on the Quads 4 Quads 1000 km off-road event from 20 to 30 September 2007. It’s organised by Family Adventures as a fundraiser for QASA. Quads 4 Quads – the Comrades Marathon of quad cycling!

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