A power assist trike that gave me my independence back

Judy Whittle had always been an active person until eight years ago when she went to the doctors for a routine check-up, however, this resulted in a diagnosis of Neurofibromatosis – a tumour within the spinal cord that has left Judy totally reliant on a wheelchair to get about.  Judy felt her ability to keep active was impossible until she and her husband John approached Tomcat for advice.

Making the best of a situation

In an attempt to address Judy’s decreasing mobility John had built a trike which he thought might be suitable for her to ride; unfortunately, the trike was not only uncomfortable for Judy due to bad posture but she simply did not feel safe whilst riding it.

“I knew I wanted to cycle to keep fit and active but I wanted to ride something that also felt safe and comfortable, so I wouldn’t hesitate to go out on a ride with John.”

The benefits of a bespoke built trike

Judy and John did some research online to try and find a solution to their challenges and very quickly found Tomcat and were amazed by the organisation’s ability to bespoke build a trike for adults with mobility issues. (Bespoke building simply means the ability to design a trike specifically for an individual’s needs, be they physical or practical).

The natural next step was to try a Tomcat Bullet trike and see how well it would fit their criteria.

“We booked an assessment with Kevin, our local assessor, who brought a Bullet Apprentice.  It wasn’t the version we needed because the demo electric Bullet was still in the process of being built, however, it certainly gave us an idea of the quality, engineering and suitability of the trike.”

Judy at the fitting

A simply electrifying trike

A second visit was booked with the founder of Tomcat, Bob Griffin, but this time with the electric, power assist model and it was safe to say it exceeded expectations across the board. Judy comments;

“Initially I was blown away by the sheer look of the Bullet; it looked cool and sleek for a power assist version, and the price we knew we would be getting a lot for our money in comparison to other electric trikes.

We spoke for some time about my difficulties and that I have no use or feeling in my left leg, but Bob explained that when I made myself comfortable in my wheelchair he had seen sufficient useful movement of my left hip to enable me to pedal with the electric assist, and to my delight and astonishment, that is exactly what happened when I tried the trike.  To be mobile again after so many years was such a thrill.  It was really smooth and effortless! I was also surprised at how easy it was to get on and off the Bullet.  I was expecting it to be difficult with my problems, but with the swivel seat and my good leg together, I was able to get on safely and with little difficulty or anxiety.  The secret is to do everything in simple stages.

The Future on three wheels

Judy and John both live in a rural area so the plan is to firstly ride around the lanes and cycle paths where they live and then venture further afield.

“I want to get used to cycling by riding around a familiar setting, to increase my confidence before I go further afield. When you have mobility issues it really does knock your confidence and it takes a while to start to believe in yourself and what you’re capable of doing. Of course, having the right ‘vehicle’ to support you helps!”

“I’m hoping to get my fitness back prior to the diagnosis  8 years ago,” continues Judy, “cycling is such a wonderful form of exercise, you get the benefit of fresh air which in turns help with your mental well-being.

I also feel ‘normal’ when I’m on the trike – I’m not in a wheelchair where people speak above you and forget that you have a brain – you feel like you’re on equal terms as an able-bodied person, which is important.”

Bob Griffin, founder and CEO of Tomcat describes how the E-Bullet is sure to change lives of those that have mobility issues, he says:

“The cycle industry has paid little attention to the many adults with access issues that make cycling unnecessarily difficult or impossible. But we know from our years of innovation and experience that with the right tricycle, we could achieve the same with the adult population as we have with the child population, regardless of the degree of difficulty.

Consequently, we developed a design for a lightweight, easily accessible machine that seats the rider at a normal chair height but looks sporty into the bargain, because appearance is every bit as important as functionality.

We also made it very transportable, because that is the key to true independence.  To be able to transport an adult trike in the boot of a family car is about as good as it gets and we are very proud of the Bullets practicality and flexibility.”

Bob continues,

“The e-Bullet joins a stable of five existing Bullet trikes – the Silver Bullet is essentially a multi-geared road bike with three wheels; the single speed Apprentice is for carer-supervised riders; the Cycle Squad is for schools or inclusive cycling centres; the Flash is for personal, customised, sports performance; and the Rotor for those who hand propel.

“Imagine being able to change from hand to foot braking when rheumatism strikes or from pedal power to power assist when heart or muscles weaken. The possibilities are absolutely endless.”