May 25, 2013
Her left arm hangs limp, unbendable, because she has no elbow. Her right leg is artificial from the knee down.
Meredith Edman, 55, was struck with Still's disease, a form of arthritis, when she was 18 months old. Since high school, she has undergone 55 surgeries and has nine artificial joints; most have been replaced twice. She would have 10 artificial joints, but doctors can no longer replace her left elbow because of bone destruction.
The disease, surgeries and bone loss limited Edman's ability to exercise her entire life. Then she found AngleTech, a Colorado Springs recumbent bike company, in 1999 and her world opened up.
On Tuesday, Edman was at the company's shop talking with owner Kelvin Clark while getting her bike tuned.
"I had not been able to ride for 25 years," she said, "This bike has given me freedom again."
On Clark's work bench stands "The Magic Silver Box," a tool chest that Clark said holds the answers to fitting every bike to every person.
Clark started working on recumbent bikes in his father's shop in his hometown of Seattle in 1979. A few years later, Clark began working on adaptive bikes for people with disabilities and special needs. Recumbent bicycles have full-sized, high-backed seats that resemble chairs. That allows the rider to sit upright or reclined, depending on the bike.
Each year, AngleTech assembles between 100 and 200 recumbent and adaptive bikes for riders across the globe. Clark said his father inspired him to become an adaptive bike assembler because "he made his bikes fit everyone."
Recumbent bikes come in two-wheel and tricycle formats. They can be assembled for use by quadriplegics, paraplegics, stroke victims and others with physical problems. The bikes' pedals can be placed nearly anywhere, including in front of a rider's chest, so they can be operated by hand.
Various straps and fasteners can be fitted on the bike to safely secure an unusable limb, hand or a rider's entire body. Many of AngleTech's bikes were used in this year's Warrior Games.
"If someone's arm doesn't work well, we can put all the gears and brakes on one side," Clark said. "And we have gloves that can Velcro a hand to the steering column."
Clark's company does not make bike frames, most of which come from Europe and the U.S.; rather he assembles the bike around those frames to adjust to a person's disabilities. It takes about two days to assemble a custom bike, depending on the intricacies. All the parts can be purchased at a standard bicycle store.
"It's neat to see people who have written off cycling come back to it because of technology," Clark said.
After working at his father's shop in Seattle, Clark moved to Woodland Park in 1993 and opened his first bike shop. The store moved to its current location at 1483 Garden of the Gods Road in 2010. Clark employs five.
Edman's bike is an extension of her belief to "never hang on to the word can't." Its symbol of independence and the solace riding provides her became even more important to her last month when her husband, EJ, died. He had helped her find ways to white water raft, camp and rock climb.
"People always say, 'You can't,'" Edman said. "But I always find a way I can."
Contact Ned Hunter: 636-0275.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Go online to angletechcycles.com
or call 1-800-793-3038.