Calgary-built adaptive 3-wheel bike garners worldwide attention
CALGARY -- A Calgary-made three-wheeled electric mountain bike is giving those with disabilities the chance to challenge themselves on outdoor trails.
A 1996 snowboarding crash put Christian Bagg, the owner of Bowhead Corp. and Bowhead Reach, into a wheelchair. He broke his back and was paralyzed but couldn't find an off-the-shelf chair to fit his 6'4" frame so he made his own. He has spent the last 20 years designing and building adaptive equipment.
"Almost immediately I saw that my life was going to be 100 per cent dependent on technology," said Bagg. "If I wanted my life to be better in some way that wasn't possible, I would be responsible for creating that technology."
He has a huge love of mountain biking and worked for years designing and building a vehicle he could operate on trails. The challenge was stability and building something that wouldn't tip endangering the rider.
He came up with a three-wheeled bike - two at the front and one behind - with a system where the front end could lean side to side and steer but the rider stayed level.
"By articulating, it allows you to traverse a side slope up to 25 degrees," said Bagg. "It allows you to lean into a corner, if you're going down a trail and there's a big stump on one side it allows that one wheel to crawl over without you tipping."
The bike also has an electric motor and it's short wheelbase allows riders on any trail, not just wider, accessible ones.
"We just go on any trial, they're (all) accessible," said Bagg. "I've never been turned back so west Bragg Creek, Moab Utah, Squamish, Whistler, all around the globe people are riding these bikes wherever they want."
The new found freedom is all he needed to market his machines to people who use wheelchairs. There have been upwards of 150 sold to people in countries all over the world.
"We have six bikes in New Zealand and bikes in Australia, Belgium, the U.K., Scotland, Israel, South America, Central America (and) Mexico," said Bagg. "We are a global company, there is nothing like this on the planet and no other adaptive vehicle even comes close to the capabilities."
Chad Jassman is a fan of Bowhead. He broke his back in a 2004 car accident. He's always had a love of sport and that passion lead him to the Canadian National Wheelchair Basketball Team.
But the thing he misses most is dirt biking. A former team mate turned him to the Calgary company and he's hitting the trails.
"Things that I just gave up on when I was 20 years old and got hurt like climbing a mountain and hiking and stuff like that, you can just go do it," said Jassman. "It's not always about sending (the bike) down a hill but it just opens up avenues I never dreamt I'd get to."
He can't wait to get more of his team mates involved in mountain biking on the Bowhead Reach.
"As soon as we're done with Paralympics this summer I want them to come and give it a try," said Jassman. "Sometimes you feel a little bit constricted in a wheelchair especially in the winter time in Canada, a big snow storm comes and you're not doing too much, I'm having bad day I get on this thing and just go bombing around in the snow and it's awesome for me. It's just so freeing."
The business that started in Bagg's basement now has 15 employees and is growing. Three to four bikes are produced here each week and then shipped out to customers.
Bagg says the company is always looking at improving their product and making it more affordable.
"We're the only people on the planet that make a technology like this," said Bagg. "So we do feel a responsibility that it be available to more than just the people who can find funding or the people that have the money."
Learn more about Bowhead online.