Written by Bob Shepard, UAB Media Relations

Quad Rider - courtesy InvotekQuad Rider - courtesy InvoTekThe University of Alabama at Birmingham and the Lakeshore Foundation are partnering with InvoTek, Inc. to create a gear and braking device that helps people with disabilities operate a handcycle safely. InvoTek, a research and development company in Alma, Arkansas, has received a $175,000 Phase I Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Institutes of Health. The grant will fund the development of technology called a Quad Rider to enable thousands of people with high-level spinal cord injury the opportunity to enjoy the health benefits of handcycling.

“Lack of access to fitness and recreation equipment is one of the primary barriers to participating in health-enhancing fitness activities for people with spinal cord injuries,” said James Rimmer, Ph.D. the inaugural UAB School of Health Professions Lakeshore Foundation Endowed Chair in Health Promotion and Rehabilitation Sciences and director of the UAB/Lakeshore Research Collaborative. “The Quad Rider can open up the possibility of promoting a wonderfully engaging form of physical activity for people with high level tetraplegia and help lower their risk of heart disease and diabetes and improve their mental health status.”

The Quad Rider makes it easy to shift gears and brake, enabling people with poor grip-control to safely cycle.

“The mechanism does not require strength to brake quickly, which is a big deal for someone who has limited control of his or her hands,” said InvoTek president Tom Jakobs. “Plus, the rider can change gears by puffing air into a device through a straw attached to their helmet, allowing them to keep their hands in position to steer and brake.”

The Quad Rider will attach onto a standard handcycle. Phase II will focus on enhanced automation for people with even more severe injuries so that they too can exercise.