On the Motorbike again!

But now something completely different: a Harley-Davidson.

Dreaming about riding on a H-D....(photo: Erik Paskamp)When I would ride again on a motorbike, it would be different from before my accident! Those were my secret thoughts in hospitalbeds, fantasies in my wheelchair.
Driving fast? Ehh noohhh, not anymore. My own choice, but for Mieke as well. She felt very uncomfortable to get used to the idea.
Co on a motorcycle again? Rather not! But I felt that too much was taken away from me already by that sucker who drove into me. Now my loved motorcycling too... no f***ing way!
Some other thing was: it's difficult to bent your knee more than 90 degrees with a lower-limb prosthesis. So the foot controls and steps have to move forward on my future bike.

Those two things mean to drive quietly and lazy. Slow driving and easy sitting? Would I eventually have to choose for a chopper model, which I detested so much in the earlier days?
OK, very well, if that is the choise that's left. But then rather a character bike, a real brand, the original.... haven't I started to think about a bike I would never have climbed on earlier: a Harley-Davidson?
Now dreaming about riding a Harley would be fantastic!
However, maybe better not to start with the heaviest of the model range: the Sportster seemed the most appropriate for me to begin with. No so much for riding, that wouldn't be the problem. More thinking about how to keep control while standing still. Or manoeuvering into the barn behind our house. Me on a Harley-Davidson? YES!

After riding a Harley-Davidson myself for more than a year now, I found out that H-D riders are a relaxed kind of people.
Interested and sympathizing, allways helping if they can and they organize some weird and damn nice events.
It's wonderfull to enjoy myself on those Harley days and chat & have fun with other bikers.
To ride a Harley is a different, a more relaxed sort of biking.
You only find out after riding along on the "real V-twin engine" yourself.

De V-Twin beleving
V-Twin heartbeat

The Dutch project "Motorriding for Handicapped" in Assen, The Netherlands.
(Photo: The instructors and technicians of the MMvG team)

The instructors and technicians of the MMvG But first: my driving licences back. In Holland those are considered expired after a limb amputation.
For the car was only a minor problem. Driving around for ten minutes convinced the examinator that I was still able to participate in traffic safely without a leg. With only one alteration: an automatic shift car only. But who cares, stickshift sucks anyway.
Motorbike license was a greater challenge. I had to take lessons and do an official state examination at the MMvG in Assen, Holland: the Motor Mobiliteitsgroep voor Gehandicapten (Motorriding Mobilitygroup for Handicapped)
The initiator of this special project who started in 1995, Rob Janssen is the technical man. He modified an instruction motorbike specially for me with a heel-toe gearshift. Special instructor Theo Koops teached me the basical and advanced riding technics on this bike.
They both gave me excellent instructions and their enthousiasm helped me with the motivation to get through the training course and examination succesfully.
It was far from easy and I fell on my amputated side four times. I had lost a lot of my handling abilities and missed the contact between my left knee and the bike for the feel of control. Specially with slowly manoeuvering and circling around the orange traffic cones.
October 2002 I did my State-examination for one hour and got my license back..... YES! I was so happy at that moment.

Visit the website of the "Motor Mobiliteitsgroep voor Gehandicapten" for more information how in Holland handicapped (again) can drive a motorbike after an upper or lowerlimb amputation, or other physical limitations. Click: www.mmvg.nl

Slowly, step-by-step I managed to get back more and more after all from what I had lost initially.
It made me also very happy that I didn't suffer from fear of riding after the accident. Not to do much about it when you step on a bike after an accident and don't dare to ride anymore.
I know that happens. Means the end of a motorcycling career. But luckily not for Co... I was able and allowed to ride a motorbike again!

Eppie modifies my Sportster.

Modified gearshift and clutch Power-assist My old target-shooting friend and experienced Harley-Davidson biker from Groningen, Andries Sluiter was thinking of solutions for me for a long time already. What bike to choose and how to modify it? He introduced me to his friend Eppie Nijboer of The Old-Timer H-D Shop in Paterswolde, in the north of Holland.
Eppie, a relaxed and sympathetic guy, owns a small but cosy bikeshop specialized in Harleys. He offered to help me spontanously.
I presented him my problems and whishes. He looked around for me and scored a beautyful blue 1996 Sportster XL1200 Custom. He modified the bike for a very special "for friends only" price and I happily rode thousands of kilometers through Holland, Begium and Germany since.

The forward control gearshift on the left was modified with a heel stick and the footstep was lengthened. Nescessary because my artificial leg could blow of the step at higher speeds by the riding wind.
The clutch handle for the left hand was modified with a Power-assist attachment to provide a lighter pull. My left hand wasn't strong enough for the standard clutch.
Some more adjustment was needed for optimum operation. And I have to add, that in the beginning some time and patience is needed learning to understand the character of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
Detail of modified heel- and toe gearshiftIn spite of my decreased thumb movement and strength I do not have great problems operating the switches with my left hand. Left and right turnlight switches are separated; easy to turn on and they automaticly turn off again. Only the still to stiff clutch has to be improved one time in future.

Each time I operate the engine firing switch, it makes me happy and I laugh from ear-to-ear. I made it! I ride my own motorbike again!
Weekly, if the weather permits, I jump on my Sportster and ride away for a shorter or longer ride. Sitting on my Harley, hearing and feeling the V-twin engine under me, gives me the fantastic sensation of freedom and independence. One of the nicest experiences after my accident!

It's fantastic to ride daily tours through the beautyful surroundings of Apeldoorn with my biker mate and friend Rob. To have a traditional bikers day with my brothers in law Henk (from the USA) and Lauw through the center of Holland.
To participate in tour events with 30 other amputees through Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg. Like the 3 day long tour I rode with the disabled MMvG people in May 2003.

Peter + bikes in front of camper
Peter with moto's in front of camper in the Ardennes.
Luxembourg Ardennes
View of the Luxembourg Ardennes.

Or to make trips with my friend Peter for half a week in the Belgium & Luxembourg Ardennes, visiting WW2 Battle-of-the-Bulge museums and enjoying the wonderful Belgium beers.
We'll do this again many times in the future, my friends!

Sportster in front of a Panther in the Ardennes
Sportster in front of a Panther tank in the Ardennes.

Spring 2004: A beautyful motorcycle tour in Germany, Belgium and Luxemburg; for amputees.

From May 14-16 the yearly motorcycle tour for leg- or armamputees and people with other physical limitation was organized again fot the seventh time now.
Most of the participants have (re)gained their motorcycle license after an amputation and are riding a motorbike with a prosthesis.
The ride takes the approx. 30 cyclists through the pitoresque countryside of Ardennes and Eifel. Which is at its most beautiful during the spring.
Weather was dry and sunny and we hade a very nice time those three days.
A great experience to have this close contact with partners-in-misfortune who share their common handicap and hobby together.
At the end of the tour both men, women and machines were bound home safely after 750 kilometers of riding wunderful roads which took them along meadows, rivers, woods and mountains.

Marco Engels with orthesis
Marco Engels demonstrates how an armprosthesis or orthesis can be attached to the handlebars of a motorcycle.
Ready fot departure
Departure in the morning at one of the hotels in the German Eifel.

Summer 2004: Bikers' Lodge "Baton Rouge".

Halfway June I got the creeps again and had to go out a few days ridin' my bike in the beautyful Ardennes.
Weather was cold and wet, but I didn't mind at all. Riding piss-wet on my bike through the rain I just had to remember, half a year ago, laying in a hospital bed, both legs sewed together for a month... then the weather didn't bother me anymore and I had the time of my life on my Sportster...

Staying overnight in the Belgium Ardennes doesn't have to be a problem. If you are looking for a nice place to stay, a basecamp to make roundtrips through beautyful landscapes and explore the Ardennes: check in at Biker's Lodge "Baton Rouge" in Vielsalm, Belgium (see also the Links page).
Last year Ben en Hetty van Reek started their hotel in an old beer-brewery (any doubts now about the atmosphere?) for bikers only. Hetty is a very gastronomic gourmet and together with husband Ben and their tough-looking dog Jessy they created a very hospitable, but low-budget place to stay.
The Lodge is still partly under reconstruction but they're working hard to get things ready. As lone rider or in groups, it's a nice place to eat and sleep and explore the beautyful Belgium and Luxembourg Ardennes and the German Eifel. Keep "Baton Rouge" in mind!

Motorherberg Baton Rouge

The garage of bikers lodge "Baton Rouge" along the road Vielsalm-Trois Ponts: a safe place to park your bike.
Motorherberg Baton Rouge

Doesn't matter at all: at dinner, a beer at night or at breakfast: the "sittingroom" is always very cosy.

Spring 2005: Wearing a prosthesis I can do soooo many more things!

The Dutch Motor Mobiliteit voor Gehandicapten project helps amputees or otherwise handicapped to get their driving licence (again) to get on the road... specialy on 2 or 3 wheels: motorcycle (with sidecar) or Trike.
Check the link (Dutch language): www.mmvg.nl
To help promoting the good work of the Project, a group of handicapped riders who got their licenses through the MMvG attend motorcycle events en meetings all over Holland to tell their stories an show the neccesary modifications on the motorbikes.

H-D dag HOG Limburg
Nice H-D bikes on a HOG-day in southers Holland
H-D dag HOG Limburg
Erik Paskamp, explaining the possibilities of riding a motorcycle with a handicap

Erik Paskamp (check his webpages: www.terugschakelen.nl) is a right-arm amputee and drives a Harley Davidson Heritage Classic, modified for left-handed handling and a special hook-on prosthesis for the hold of his right hand on the handle-bar.

Early on Sunday May 1st Erik, Maurice and myself rode off with our H-D's to a Harley-Davidson event organized by HOG-Chapter Limburg, to demonstrate bikers "The Art of Motorcycle Handling for Handicapped"
It was a three-hours drive, wich is rather long for a small country as Holland, but we got a wonderfull sunshiny day!
Most bikers attended ride-outs and watched the outdoor events (wrestling)... standing inside we didn't get the attention we hoped for. But we showed many passers-by that as a motorcycle enthousiast you don't nessecarilly have to swear-off motorbikes for the rest of your life after a limb-amputation or a partial paralysation... in many cases it's possible te ride a bike again!

H-D dag HOG Limburg
Talking to the HOG-Chapter Limburg officials
H-D dag HOG Limburg
Erik and Maurice: glass of yellow happiness

Spring 2005: The "Prothesis-Knights" hit the road again for the 8th time.

After meeting each other over a stong cup-of-coffee in good tradition on the Pietersberg in the South of Holland, we took off with our motorbikes Friday May 20th with the feeling we just saw each other last week... but it really was a year ago since our last meeting!
The 30 participating bikes were split in 4 groups, regading everyone's personal (mis)use of the gas-handle.
"Nothing special to that", the reader will think, reading this...
Oké... nothing special indeed, if not for the fact that most of these motorists have got their driving-license (or got it back again) through the MMvG project.

Op weg
Road-Pic from a side-car
Leendert fits his next bike: a H-D with side-car

The groups of "Prothesis-Knights" turn their handle-bars direction Belgium Ardennes and gradually the turns are getting sharper and the slopes steeper.
Weather is wunderfull: neither too warm nor too cold and not unimportant: it's dry. Stopping regularly at nice café sidewalks the mood is good, aquaintances are made or renewed.
Hours of curve-pleasure grinds the bit lost techniques to old levels again and the speed gradually increases when ridin'deeper into the woods and mountains.
Around 6 o'clock we arrive at a typical cosy German hotel and the engines aren't quite killed or the first are sitting behind a high glass of Bittburger Lager already!

The quiet group (but not in db's) number four, with Jack in the lead

The second day starts with a shy sun above as we fire up the bikes and ride off again, deeper into the German Eifel mountains.
Beautyful roads small and even smaller meander through fresh spring-green forests, pass steep rocks and gurgling moutain-streams. Along hairpins we ride up and down and the engines are thundering through the green-lit tree-corridors. Wide sceneries on the higher grounds give many kilometers sight over the vast undulating landscapes.

On the second evening every attempt to good behavior suffocates in the plentyfull German food and in too much of the Bittburger beer. Only in the very late hours it becomes quiet again in the German Eifel.

Co1B1 Co among H-D bikes
Sunday morning the motors leave the hotel and the ride rolls along even more beautyful places, but now back again direction Belgium and Holland.

The 8e MMvG motorweekend had one lesser lucky moment when the brandnew Hayabusha-sidecar of Maurice kissed a safety-rail but everone else returned home healthy and without any misgrieve after more then 1000 km's of wunderful country roads.

This was my third MMvG motortrip already and I just can't wait to the next motorcycle weekend for disabled: May 2006... I'll sure be there!

Summer 2005: Roaring protest of a few hundred motorbikes.

Saturday September 10th 2005 a large group of motorbikes rode to the North of The Netherlands for a special purpose.
The MAG (Motorriders Action Group) -click: www.mag-nl.org- organized a protest ride against a "cable-barrier", build by the authorities.
MAG's mission is to watch that roads and roadsides are kept as safely as possible for bikers. Such as slippery paint or oilspots, dammaged spots on the road, dangerous speed-ramps, signs, poles and everything else along the roadside which can endanger motorbikers.
The purpose of this MAG Demo-Run was to attrack attention to the dangerous crash barrier made of steel cables.

The handicapped motorriders of the Foundation MVG (Motorriding for Handicapped) led by Erik "Terugschakelen" Paskamp were gathered together to add force to the cause with visualising the possible results of a crash against the cable-barrier as a motrocyclist: amutation of leg or arm or more serious: decapitation.

From the Dutch forumgroup KorterMaarKrachtig Forum for arm- and leg amputees (klik forum.kortermaarkrachtig.nl) Erik, Appie, myself and Henk en Petra in their GoldWing sidecar were present.

Mike glijdt gracieus
The presence of Appie Rietveld had great impact on both participants and public
Margot boekt die plank vet hard
Co LeDahu is getting interviewd on TV

Highlight of the MAG protest run against this "egg-cutter" was an action to cover the cable-barrier with straw-blocks to make the damned thing more safe to bikers!

I estimate more than 200 motor cyclists were present at this happening which was well-organised and very impressive due to the presence of several amputation victims because of traffic-accidents.
TV recordings and interviews were made and journalists en photographers from various national papers were present.
Erik, Appie (who is actually a road-barrier amputation victim) and myself got a lot of media attention.

Mike glidin'
Motorbikes placed into the "eggcutter barrier"
Margot on the board
The steel cables are being covered with straw

After 4 happy years of riding the Sportster, time for something bigger: a H-D Big Twin Dyna.

After my amputation I was sure to ride a motorbike again, but I didn't know what type I still could handle with a prostheses... but I wanted a Harley-Davidson for sure!
The lightest H-D model, the Sportster made the most sense. As test-driving without an altered shift was not possible I just made the choice for a Sportster XL1200.
Riding the Sportster was big fun but after some time, when the Sportster gave my no handling problems at all, my thoughts went to a bigger model: the "real" thing, a Harley with a Big Twin engine.
After I had been sitting on various models in shops and shows, I liked a Dyna most an especially the new Dyna Street Bob. Matte black finish on tank, fenders and engine, a low solo seat to get my prostheses foot on the ground easy. Again, no test bike with altered shift was available so I just made the decision by gut feeling.
The Dutch H-D Dealer Motor Saloon in Amersfoort had an 2007 as-new occasion bike and they gave me a fair price for my Sportster. With pain in my hart I left my beautiful blue bike behind on which I started biking again with my prostheses and on which I rode 20.000 kilometres without any problems in 4 years... tears in my eyes.

1b1 op de Bob
time for a new bike: H-D Dyna Street Bob
1b1 op de Bob
happy dreams...

Beginning of April 2007 the Street Bob was ready. With forward control to make sitting with a prostheses more comfortable and with open pipes. Henk from H-D store Motor Saloon took care of a specially added shift pedal to make heel/toe shifting possible with my prostheses. No extra costs were charged for this modification, service with the compliments from Motor Saloon... thanks very much for a generous thought to compensate for the extra modification costs this way.
De Dyna Street Bob model FXDBI 2007 has a two cylinder V-twin engine of 96 cubic inches (1584 cc), fuel injection, 6 speed and it weights about 300 kilograms... oeps. For more specifications: click
H-D Dyna Street Bob
There's considerably more power and torque aboard compared with the Sportster, the weight is heavier and wheelbases is larger. I expected a more flexible engine and less need to shift gears; but on the other hand more difficult manoeuvring on the spot with only my one powerful leg. That's why I'm glad the Bob is rather low.

1b1 op de Bob in de Eifel
Co leDahu on the Bob during the a ride in the German Eifel (pic: Press Agency Jacques Cerfontaine)

After one and a half month and 3000 km biking I'm glad with my decision to trade the Sportster for my new Dyna.
It's much heavier as I expected already, so I have to handle the bike carefully and with respect. But when the wheels are spinning, it is so much fun to ride the Bob!
The 2-cylinder symphony from the SE pipes, the vibrations from pumping pistons, the power of the working engine, effortless steering through the curves and stability tracking straight lines... wonderful feeling to grip the ape-hanger steering bar, turn the speed up and loose grip on the clutch... to speed away in a cloud of decibels. Day after day; again and again. As Robert Palmer already sang before: Simply irresistible!

1b1 op de Bob in the newspaper
the Bob in the news, action for a biker friendly road barrier
Street Bob in front of the river Mosel (Germany)
Street Bob in front of the river Mosel (Germany)

new prosthesis with Harley-Davidson logo
new prosthesis with Harley-Davidson logo, bottle opener and Multi-tool