It’s sometimes easy to forget how fragile we all are and how easily our lives can be forever changed through injury. Just look at cycling enthusiast and part-time racer Tom Wheeler.
Back in 2011, the young Brit’s life was changed dramatically when he suffered a horrific injury to his right arm while racing down a hill, and was left paralyzed and almost unable carry on with his passion. However, through the help of a custom-made 3D printed brace developed with the help of PDR (the International Centre for Design Research) and product design student Poppy Farrugia, Tom can now once again hold his steering wheel with both hands and cycle to his heart’s content.
Tom also wasn’t the kind of guy who just accepts horrific setbacks. While competing in a downhill mountain biking event in the UK in 2011, he fell badly after hitting a branch and suffered a Brachial Plexus Injury. “On the 26th March 2011 I took part in what seemed to be an average weekends racing. Little did I know that on this day my life would be changed for ever,“ he said of the accident. Having been mountain biking since the age of three and expecting a bright cycling career ahead of him, this was particularly harsh as it attacked his very identity.
Youtube Aug 31, 2015. Get a behind the scenes look of the collaborative project with Poppy Farrugia, PDR (International Centre for Design Research) and Tom Wheeler (Founder of Notbroken) in the design of a mountain bike specific arm orthoses for individuals living upper limb paralysis.
From the first day he was already thinking about solutions. “I remember being in the hospital thinking of ways to make a mechanical system to assist my riding,” he says. Co-Founding NotBroken, a platform that offers advice and inspiration to people living with disabilities, he also quickly took up one-handed cycling – not as adventurous, but better than nothing. It did, however, leave him unbalanced, so he began looking for a solution. Fortunately, he did have a couple of things going for him: a degree in Wearable Technology and a job at Mojo. “Chris Porter (Mojo Director) and I were chatting one day back at the Mojo HQ and I mentioned my ideas. The next thing I knew I was sat in the Ability Clinic in London with Chris waiting to meet Justin Rix. This was the first stage of creating the Mojo arm brace, a carbon fibre sleeve assisted with a custom Fox damper,” he explains.
Tom Wheeler is back on a bike after a crash over a year ago in Ability Matters