Reviews – Multiple Sclerose

Hanny has had Multiple Sclerosis for over 20 years. Despite her MS, she cycled parts with her BerkelBike (a hybrid between a tricycle and a recumbent) along 5 different rivers in the Dordogne in the last week of September. Below, you can find her report (translated from Dutch) with some pictures. You can contact her by e-mail.

My cycling trip in France

For weeks in advance, the seven-day tour in the Dordogne was booked. With my new tricycle, the BerkelBike, we were able to make trips out of three different locations.

From previous bike tours, the landscape was known, but an exercise plan comes with the BerkelBike, and I had the recumbent just for two weeks. The plan pointed out that I was allowed to cycle three times 20 minutes in the third week. Combined with the fourth week, it would be 5 times 20 minutes. It meant that I had to adjust my plans: because of the muscles and joints, I noticed that indeed it is better to gradually build.

Cycling, cycling and more cycling

And so it became five days cycling for 20 minutes along the Dordogne, Célé, Lot, Masses, and Céou. Of course, sometimes a little longer than 20 minutes, because it went very well with this great recumbent! For as it is, in such beautiful surroundings, you lose track of time.

Not just for long distances

So besides cycling, there was plenty of time for sightseeing excursions: visits to Martel (the city with the 7 towers, built by Karel Martel, when he managed to stop the Saracens at Poitiers), Figeac (the birthplace of Jean-François Champollion, who deciphered the stone of Rosettea and subsequently the hieroglyphs) and Cazals near to Les Arques, where Ossip Zadkine lived and worked and where his artworks can be admired in a museum and in a 12th century church.

The BerkelBike is also my little tricycle for in the towns and museums, our luggage and two lawn chairs, it all just fitted in the car. My husband did the loading and unloading job, and his own bike was put on the bicycle carrier at the back of the car. Together, we had a terrific practice week.

A quote from her email (dated June 6th, 2013):

“Nearly every day I cycle with the BerkelBike, and we even took it to France in the summer and fall. I am still very happy with the bike!”

Hanny
Reni de Boer was elected Miss Netherlands in 2007. Reni suffers from multiple sclerosis, and therefore she purchased a BerkelBike. Reni thinks that the alternation of activity is very important. Because in this way, she is less affected by the fatigue that MS brings. In the video, Reni tells about MS and the BerkelBike. She also compares the BerkelBike with normal hand bikes. Reni noticed that her condition improves and she walks better thanks to the BerkelBike.

Reni de Boer
My name is Sabine, I am 49 years old, and have had MS since 1985. As I have been in a wheelchair for a few years and so my leg muscles are extremely reduced, I made the decision to do something about it. I had the idea to go cycling. That was easier said than done, as I very quickly realized.

My first experience

First I purchased a tricycle. The first problem was to get on, and the second was to turn around the feet.

Then I tried a Pedalofit, which is mounted to the wheelchair. Unfortunately, this did not work either. Although I did not have problem 1 anymore, problem 2 was still present.

Then I got the tip to try out the BerkelBike some time. With it, the movement which the legs cannot do alone can be assisted by the arms. After my previous experiences, I was initially skeptical. However, I made a test ride and see – it really works. I was so pleased that I immediately ordered the BerkelBike.

Now I can finally cycle outdoors and with bad weather, transformed to a stationary bike, even indoors.

Many greetings,

Andreas and Sabine Hoecker

Sabine Hoecker
“It changed my life!”

Lisa Green had been an avid athlete for years, until she was diagnosed with MS in 1998. After that diagnosis, exercising and eventually also walking became very difficult.

How I learned about the BerkelBike

Last year, a friend of mine made me aware of the BerkelBike. I went to a local dealer, to ride the bike and see how well it worked for me. The dealer generously allowed me, on a few occasions, to ride the bike.

My first experience

Needless to say, I was thrilled to be moving, and even more so to know that it was my body that was making that movement happen! Sure enough, my legs became tired after a few miles, and my arms kicked in! I was able to ride 14 miles, through the beauty of a Colorado fall and to put it mildly, loved every second of it! I was very impressed by the test drive. It was certainly a highlight of 2012 for me.

How it changed my life

Nowadays, Lisa is a proud owner of a BerkelBike Pro, which made it possible for her to enjoy cycling and nature as well.

I really enjoy cycling with the BerkelBike. I love my bike! It has changed my life. I have never been able to “walk” my dog or go on this trail! I love it, and ride it as much as I possibly can!
Lisa Green
About Emily

Emily is a young woman who suffers from Multiple Scleroses (MS). She was diagnosed with MS in 1996, and she has had multiple relapses since.

What her BerkelBike means to her

Emily tried the BerkelBike quite a while ago. She instantly fell in love with the bike, because it completely took away all the stiffness and pain in her legs. Even though she can’t walk, she loves that she can exercise her legs and not feel the pain, without the need of a lot of pills. Emily bought the BerkelBike, and exercises a few days a week on it to keep away the pain in her legs.

Emily Holt
I have had Multiple Sclerosis since 1993. Because of my MS (secondary progressive) I can only walk a few steps, if I am supported. It is always difficult to get used to losing parts of my physical abilities, but sometimes there is a solution that just feels right. Two years ago was the last time I used my bicycle; I cycled around the head of the Java Island five times. No matter how hard I tried, I could not get on- and off of my bike anymore. I just wanted to move, I wanted to cycle! The cycling motion is a motion you do not easily forget.

My first BerkelBike experience!

We searched the internet and discovered tricycles which were not only driven by legs, but were also hand bikes. A presentation about the BerkelBike was organized in the Revalidation Centre in Amsterdam, and I got to take it for a test ride. It was great! Three wheels, a chair, I felt like a queen on her throne. The bike was driven by my arms and my legs. The Egg of Columbus,  especially because the BerkelBike can also be used as an indoor trainer.

I knew I had have it

Though it affected my savings balance, I wanted this Bike! And as promised, the BerkelBike arrived in time to spend my vacation on Terschelling riding my bike! Since I had already had good experiences taking the train in my wheelchair, we gave it a shot. This time without the wheelchair, with a scoot mobile and my BerkelBike. This undertaking went just as smooth as my previous journeys.

We did not have to bring our own wheelchair; homecare Friesland already had one ready for use  in the hotel. Agis (the insurance company) refunded the expenses. I cycled every day with a lot of fun. If I got too tired, I swapped places with my partner, who was on the scoot mobile. Last winter, I cycled indoors every day.

Marja Machielse

Marja Machielse
Els, from the Netherlands has MS and recently purchased the BerkelBike. She sent us this letter in Dutch, which we have translated:

I just wanted to say that I’ve discussed the schedule given with my physiotherapist. Every other day I cycle with the BerkelBike, allowing my body to recover on the days off. My friend just invented a new verb: Berkeling! So I Berkel and have Berkeled every other day and now am reaching 2,5 kilometer or 1,5 miles after just a few weeks. It has been fantastic and I have gotten so many positive comments.

A lot of people still don’t know about the BerkelBike and think it’s a handbike, but as soon as they see my feet move, they start doubting.

To keep a long story short: I am a satisfied human being. Connecting and disconnecting really is the easiest thing ever!

Lots of greetings from a content “Berkeler” Els.

Els
Getting started with the BerkelBike

I noticed on the DisabledGear website that you’re looking for a user perspective on BerkelBike. Having bought one in December 2013 and have been using it for a month, I thought you might be interested to hear my views.

My life with MS

As an MS sufferer of 15 years with limited mobility (I walk with two crutches), I was looking for a product that would enable me to get out and about with my young family and give my legs some sort of rehabilitation. I suffer from significant spasticity in my back and lower limbs, and lack of exercise over many years had made the muscles weak and really limited their range of movement. I also suffer from tremor in the soles of my feet and ankles, so prior to testing any products I was skeptical as to whether I’d actually be able to use a leg-operated bike or not.

My BerkelBike experience

Somewhere between a handcycle and a recumbent bike, which is both leg and arm operated, the beauty of Berkelbike is that it takes significant pressure off the lower limbs when riding (unlike static bikes in the gym) and I soon found that i was able to ride significant distances without getting any painful spasms/tremor. What’s more, the bike (I have the Pro version) has foot plates with quick release straps and calf supports fixed by velcro, further supporting the feet and relieving the pressure on my sensitive legs while keeping them in good alignment.

Something else I was concerned about prior to purchase was the sort of distances/gradients I’d be able to manage being so out of physical condition. The bike has 8 gears, and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that this helped make relatively light work of small hills and gradients. I can regularly manage distances of up to three miles on the bike after only a month of use, whereas I struggle to walk 100 meters on foot. There is a robust parking brake just beneath the gear changer, which also enables the user to rest without fear of rolling backwards.

 

Steering is very smooth and simple with the handlebars, and the brake is applied by reversing the direction of the handlebars. Handling is also smooth and relatively light, though it does take a while to get used to speed when going downhill. The build quality seems really robust, yet it’s light enough to be moveable by someone with moderate to significant disability like myself.

The bike comes in two parts (a front and back section) and is really easy to disassemble for transport with a multi-head allen key, though I’ve yet to find a way of carrying it in the car that completely suits (we have a daughter and a greyhound so space is at a premium!). I also bought a Tacx Speedbreaker with the bike which enables me to use it indoors – perfect for when the weather is poor or I’m just not up to going outside.

BerkelBike has changed my life, for the better

Though I’ve only had the bike for a month, I’ve used it every other day since it arrived, and I am already noticing my lower limbs are significantly looser and less stiff. It is also helping reduce my fatigue, which can be such a blight on the everyday lives of MS sufferers like myself. My legs and arms are obviously tired and achy after using the bike, but it’s definitely gotten easier to use as the month has gone on. Most importantly of all, it’s allowing me to get out and about in the fresh air with my family.

Indeed, we’ve already got two family cycling holidays planned this year in Derbyshire and Normandy. Cost-wise, the BerkelBike is a sizeable investment, but already the benefits to me and my family are priceless. I can obviously only speak from an MS perspective but I know the product is being used in many different rehabilitation scenarios and I feel that it’s well worth a look for anyone investigating the handcycle market.

James West
My name is Roy. I was born in 1951. In March 2005, when I was 54, I was – to my great surprise – diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. My major MS-related complaint has been that it gradually robbed me of my ability to walk.

By 2012, while I could still stumble around with the help of a walking stick, I found myself largely housebound. I fully expected to soon require wheelchairs and the assorted ramps and lifts they entail. I didn’t want to go that way any sooner than I was forced to, but reality is reality. I have taken early disability retirement and I can no longer drive a car.

Activity and exercise

So, until recently, I had resigned myself to the apparent fact that I would all too soon be facing life in a chair. But then, almost by chance, I was introduced to my BerkelBike in early July 2012. My frustration with my weak left leg and almost worthless right leg led me to rethink the possible benefits of a recumbent trike – I thought that might be my only real option to strengthen my legs. So we revisited the recumbent trike store for one last test ride. I went in skeptical that my legs could pedal the trike effectively, and my wife still feared that even if I could ride the trike, I’d get stranded somewhere when my legs gave out. But when we arrived at the bike shop (which also specializes in adaptive cycling for people with disabilities), I found my luck had changed for the better. It turned out that, just two weeks before our visit, the shop had received and built its first two BerkelBikes. I took a test ride, and I was immediately hooked.

Tricycle

By combining the key features of a recumbent trike and a handcycle, the BerkelBike allows a rider to combine both pedal power and arm power to drive the cycle. Balance challenges are mitigated by the three-wheel stance. I’ve found that when my feet are strapped into the pedals, my stronger left leg, coupled with arm power, is sufficient to propel the bike. Surprisingly, my weak right leg is able to contribute to the process – I am able to produce a reasonably powerful down stroke with what I had written off as a useless appendage. With multiple limbs providing power, fatigue is not much of a challenge. I can rest my legs when necessary, and rely on arm power. My wife’s fear that I would find myself stranded somewhere is no longer an issue – I’ve been liberated! While each ride I take will exhaust me if I push myself, that’s a good thing. Real exercise! And, “reward of all rewards,” the exercise has already helped improve my walking.

Training limbs

By combining the key features of a recumbent trike and a handcycle, the BerkelBike allows a rider to combine both pedal power and arm power to drive the cycle. Balance challenges are mitigated by the three-wheel stance. I’ve found that when my feet are strapped into the pedals, my stronger left leg, coupled with arm power, is sufficient to propel the bike. Surprisingly, my weak right leg is able to contribute to the process – I am able to produce a reasonably powerful down stroke with what I had written off as a useless appendage. With multiple limbs providing power, fatigue is not much of a challenge. I can rest my legs when necessary, and rely on arm power. My wife’s fear that I would find myself stranded somewhere is no longer an issue – I’ve been liberated! While each ride I take will exhaust me if I push myself, that’s a good thing. Real exercise! And, “reward of all rewards,” the exercise has already helped improve my walking.

Freedom

To say I’m a “fan” of my BerkelBike would be a gross understatement – I love the thing! It has given me the freedom to enjoy the outdoors again. While on it, I feel liberated, mobile, and self-sufficient. All important things my MS had taken from me. With great confidence, I happily recommend the BerkelBike to everyone, as does my wife and my neurologist.

Roy K. Ross