Ride This Bike to Better Understand Multiple Sclerosis
Bicycle simulates symptoms of a debilitating disease to raise awareness
This Bike Has MS is a specially adapted bicycle that simulates the experience of multiple sclerosis and its symptoms when ridden.
The bike is an example of a larger-scale effort to simulate disabilities and diseases using technology to help people empathize. Another example, which was on show at CES, is the Genworth R70i exoskeleton suit. This suit provides an emulated experience of the effects of aging, including hearing impairments, mobility challenges, vision disorders, muscle loss and arthritis.
The team behind This Bike Has MS was led by Paralympian Gold Medalist Carol Cooke AM and included neurologists, physiotherapists, bike mechanics and people living with MS. Their aim is to aid the treatment, diagnosis and education of the debilitating disease. Cooke said:
“Cycling is a precision sport. We’ve taken everything you’d look for in a good bicycle and done the opposite. We wanted to know how close we could get to recreating the symptoms. I certainly wouldn’t want to ride this bike.”
A number of the bicycle’s features have been adapted so those who try to ride it can get a sense of what it feels like to live with MS. Heavy materials were used in the bike’s wheels to add to the resistance the rider faces, simulating the feeling of fatigue.
Broken teeth cause the bike’s gears to slip unpredictably, so the rider is unable to fully control the speed, direction and momentum. A bend in the steel frame’s structure disrupts the bike’s equilibrium so it sways randomly from side to side, while the saddle has been incorrectly designed for distance riding and adjusted to a level that causes discomfort so it becomes painful over time.
A slight bend in the length of the fork, combined with un-trued wheels, help simulate dizziness by causing the bike to move erratically. Ball bearings hidden under the tape of the handlebars accentuate vibrations through the rider’s upper body, which lead to pins and needles and eventually cause complete numbness.
This Bike Has MS will be ridden in the MS Melbourne Cycle in Australia on March 2, 2016. This charity bike ride raises money to help people affected by multiple sclerosis, giving participants the chance to explore the city while showing their support for people living with the disease.