GlideCycle: giving back independence and mobility
By Karen Sprey
April 6, 2009
The GlideCycle offers a whole new world of mobility, independence and exercise to people of almost any age with disabilities and injuries. It provides major cardio benefits with virtually zero impact, is easily mastered, comfortable and fun to use, quick to assemble – and it’s affordable. So what’s the catch? There isn’t one.
Since its launch in Ashland, Oregon in early March, the GlideCycle has been attracting attention around the world for its enormous potential. Anyone can benefit from using the GlideCycle, but most exciting is what it offers amputees (including double amputees), accident victims, arthritis sufferers, people with neurological conditions, the obese and folk with sports injuries as well as those simply looking for a new way to exercise or train without impact on joints, bones and muscles.
Such was the buzz created by the launch that the company website crashed every day for four days. They’ve had thousands of hits on the site as well as enquiries from Korea, the UK, Canada and around the US, and the orders are coming in.
What is the GlideCycle?
The GlideCycle looks a little like a bike, but with a frame over the top of the body rather than underneath - and no pedals. Body weight is supported and suspended in a patented ergonomic saddle that holds the pelvis in counterpoise between the buttock bones and pelvic horns. This enables you to walk, run or glide with no pressure on the crotch or perineum like a bicycle, and with almost no impact. Numerous adjustments can be made for different body shapes and preferences to further enhance comfort.
It usually takes less than 20 minutes to master the basics while tight turning and running uphill can be achieved with a little more practice. Balancing is not difficult, as essentially you always have your feet, or a foot, on the ground (unless coasting) however a Tricycle version with a stabilizing third wheel is available.
There are currently four different units in production: the PT GlidePro (Physical Therapy GlidePro) described above; the GlidesDale, a bigger and more robust version for larger folk; the GlideTrack, where the user is supported in a saddle with handlebars over a treadmill, and the GlideTrike.
GlideCycle’s VP Richard Bosenko says the company plans to launch consumer models (lighter versions of the PT GlidePro) later this year for smaller women and children, which will enable families to exercise together.
Regaining independence and freedom
Many of the people using the GlideCycle had been wheelchair-bound for years; after just a little practice they've been able to literally walk and run, sometimes faster than able-bodied people. Imagine the feelings of independence and sheer joy that must bring.
For some, the GlideCycle has become their chief method of getting around. Fitness, weight loss, reduction in medication, especially for pain, improvements in strength and range of motion, balance, posture, better mood… are just some of the benefits experienced by ‘gliders’.
GlideCycle's website features many clips demonstrating the experiences of people who’ve been using and testing the product. There’s Mike, an amputee from the hip who has been able to do a long, sustained climb up a mountain alongside two able-bodied gliders. Confined to a motorized wheelchair for 10 years before the GlideCycle he says one of the things he really likes is that it gives him the sensation of walking and puts him at the same level as people using a bicycle. He can now run with his kids and his dog.
One woman who has suffered for years with arthritis, sciatica and fibromyalgia was using the GlideCycle, practically at a run, on her first trial and said it had made her feel “almost like a regular person”.
There are many heartwarming success stories, but are there any in particular that have stuck in Richard Bosenko’s mind? He mentions Holly, who also features on the site. A 50 year old amputee who is nearing completion of her Masters degree, she trains three days a week, up to six miles at a time and recently did a 10 mile run, completely independently. When she first got involved with GlideCycle she was suffering from severe pain and depression and was looking gaunt, but within just three months she experienced an amazing transformation as she recovered her mobility and independence, and lost 40lbs. She says the feeling the GlideCycle gives her is “beyond words”.
GlideCycle have an AmpuTEAM and outreach coordinators who play a vital role in promoting the GlideCycle to people with major disabilities who might not yet be aware of it.
But there are also stories of young athletes like Kade who have used the GlideCycle to recover from injury.
A long time coming
The GlideCycle is one of those inventions that seem so simple you wonder why nobody invented it sooner. However, its simplicity belies many years of planning, testing, refining and more testing.
Founder David Vidmar, a keen runner, cyclist and sailor, suffered serious knee damage in 1999 and was advised never to run again: in fact, he was unable to walk for six months. After putting on weight through inactivity he decided to invent something that would allow him to run again.
From the start he was thinking of a ‘running machine’ that would hold his body weight almost completely off the ground. Many years earlier while visiting a friend’s banana plantation in Guatemala, he’d watched the fruit being placed in baskets hung on a J hook attached to a cable, then sent to the processing area miles away. The workers would hang on the baskets, letting them take their body weight, and run. Dave says when he tried it it made him feel like Superman.
Now, he wanted to build something that would give him that same feeling. He played around with options and developed the forerunner of what would become the GlideCycle. He was running for miles, without pressure on his knees, but experienced persistent issues with comfort and stability when running uphill that seemed to defy a solution.
It was when he took a break and returned to sailing that the solution came to him. After further iterations (there have been 95 versions of the saddle), each accompanied by miles of testing over different speeds, terrains and timeframes, Dave was finally satisfied they could embark on prototype testing with different body shapes and sizes.
When he realized he could use the GlideCycle with just one leg he saw the enormous potential for amputees, many of who found they could run at unimaginable speeds, even up steep mountains. Dave knew then the GlideCycle truly was an innovation with enormous power to help people.
What does the future hold?There’s a definite sense of excitement for everyone involved with GlideCycle as more people around the world learn about this amazing invention and want to become involved.
They will move into their own facility in the next 30 – 45 days. There are plans to expand the workforce, most of who have been working pro bono simply because they are committed to the product. Currently around 10 people are directly involved and GlideCycle hopes to employ about 25 by the end of 2009 and increase that even further next year.
They have scheduled Individual Investor Program evenings and have embarked on a Venture Capital Series A round which will close later in the year.
In time they would like to offer a motorized version as well as one for off-road running, and even use the system for sailing. In the future, they’d like to see gliding become a recognized sport, to be included at the Special Olympics or even the Olympics.
Richard Bosenko calls it a recession-resistant business: “There are many people out there with real needs for mobility and freedom, and to just feel ‘accepted’”, he said.
The GlideCycle is available to buy and pricing is very reasonable given it is a medical device.
- RRP for the PT GlidePro: USD$1,999
- RRP for GlideTrack: $1,999
- RRP for GlidesDale: $2,499
- RRP for the GlideTrike: $3,499
The consumer model due later this year is expected to retail at about $949.