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South African cyclist Stephen Drew lost his leg above the knee in a shocking motorbike accident.
But even as he was warned about a long, potentially limited recovery, the lifelong cyclist and adventurer wasn’t interested in their worst-case scenarios. Instead, he focused on the essentials. “I needed to stay fit, exercise and reduce stress,” Stephen said. “I was also told that I needed to keep my weight constant and in check as any fluctuation will make it difficult when fitting a prosthesis.”
In the early days of his recovery, Stephen initially sat on a stationary bike in a cycling studio to chat with friends while they pedaled. Then he tried to pedal for just five minutes at a time. Thrilled to have discovered his baseline, Stephen quickly set a new goal. “Something that seemed impossible at one point, like turning the crank, could quickly become the norm and I could move on to the next challenge. This was very encouraging.”
But even his optimism could not compensate for the difficulty of trying to pedal with a traditional prosthetic leg. A standard walking prosthesis did not compensate for changes in volume and the socket would bend when he tried to add power to the pedal stroke. It also irritated his residual limb and caused abrasions.
Building the Cycling Leg
“I found an experienced prosthetist who spent a huge amount of time and effort to help me develop a prosthesis which is specific for cycling. This was a huge benefit.
There are some key elements which make a big difference in this device, the RevoFit kit being one,” Stephen said. Installing the Click Medical’s RevoFit kit with an adjustable panel design to his prosthetic device allowed Stephen to increase or reduce the volume as needed. Tightening the fit with a dial helped Stephen engage his glute muscles, which improved his power on the bike and the perceptive feel of his leg. These adjustments also distributed Stephen’s power more evenly between both legs. With his original prosthesis, Stephen estimated that he achieved a roughly 10 percent power balance between his amputated leg and his intact one. With his new prosthetic device, adjustable with the RevoFit kit, that power balance is now about 25 percent. And when he needs extra power, he has achieved a 40 percent power balance with hard physical effort. “By tightening the dial, I am able to put as much power down as possible and distribute the pressure evenly over my residual limb,” Stephen said. “There is no bending, no pain.”
Stephen has been riding with his cycling prosthetic device for more than three years, and the fit remains perfect. The socket has required minimal maintenance, and he has completed several long-distance cycling races with it.
”The Click Medical RevoFit technology helps with the constant volume changes,” he said. “A good fitting socket is key and I would argue more important than the components attached below it.
When you exercise, your volume changes constantly depending on sweat and other factors. With this, I’ve ridden a 28-hour 360-kilometer race and had no socket problems at the end, not even a red mark.”
Prior to building his cycling leg, Stephen said he could only ride for about 60 kilometers before his back, neck and shoulders would ache too much to continue. “I was using my upper body instead of my core,” he said.
Now his cycling-specific leg allows for volume fluctuations and more space in the groin area of the socket. As a result, there is more free cycling action. The Revofit system has enabled his successful recovery. “It’s like tightening your cleats for a sprint,” Stephen said. “I cannot see myself cycling without this technology.”
This July, Stephen will compete in South Africa’s Around the Pot, a 100-mile mountain gravel bike race. The race will be a testament to both his recovery and his outlook as an athlete.
“Life did not end when I lost my leg,” he said. “I’m no longer racing at the sharp end with the race snakes, and am instead at the back with the real racers listening to the banter and the umpteen legless jokes. There is no pressure. I also feel like I am treated like a normal person; “Sometimes when I ride I forget I actually only have one leg.”
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