University students aim to help paraplegic ride again

A spinal cord injury can mean an end to your riding, but some University of Calgary students are trying to change that.

An article in yesterday’s Calgary Herald says group of University of Calgary students are trying to put their paraplegic friend back on two wheels, by designing an interface that allows him to ride a motorcycle.

Liam Ferguson is one of six students who worked on the project for the university’s Schulich School of Engineering Design Fair. Ferguson’s friend Darryl Tait, a motocross and snowmobile rider, was injured in a snowmobile competition two years ago. His sled’s engine died when he was jumping it, causing a crash that left his legs paralyzed.

Since the accident, he’s tried to return to off-road action via four-wheeler, but the special seat he bolted on to the quad caused too much back pain for him to ride. The problem was, he needed his legs to absorb the shocks from bumpy terrain.

The University of Calgary students decided to tackle Tait’s problem by designing a special seat that can be retro-fitted to a bike. They call it a paraplegic motorcycle interface; it works with a series of shocks and supports to eat up the off-road bumps while keeping the disabled rider in control.

The team says they’re interested in working with paraplegic groups to integrate their design into motocross bikes or snowmobiles.

The Rick Hansen Institute says there are over 85,000 Canadians with spinal cord injuries; if a design like this turns out to be practical, it could help a lot of those folks ride outdoors again.

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