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The desire to leave the roads and go off the beaten path is probably as old as the hills.  But for the less able bodied, the realisation of such desires is more recent.  The ORWC was born in the wake of mountain bike development in the hills north of San Francisco.  At the end of the 80's, John Castellano, a NASA rocket scientist, had the idea to create a hybrid somewhere between a sports wheelchair and a mountain bike to overcome the limitations of the traditional city wheelchairs.  Two years of development later, the Cobra was born; a light, manoeuvrable marvel. 

The activity remained low key for some years with the exception of one remarkable paraplegic athlete called John Davis (gold medal winner in downhill skiing at Nagano). He courageously launched his Cobra into the regular mountain bike races of the able bodied. His spectacular performances attracted the attention of many sponsors. With the sponsorship came the construction of many new rigs, along with a professional racing team—Team Phoenix—and an annual competition circuit (21 courses in 1998). 

In parallel to this competitive thrust in the states, a more playful activity appeared in France in 1990. Driven by Jean-François Porret and later joined by Gilles Bouchet, they turned more towards the rambling aspect of mountain biking, seeking to ride under their own steam through the hills and valleys of the great outdoors. More than 200 such routes have been identified and recorded including fabulous descents with altitude drops of over 2000m, more family oriented trails, and a dozen voyages through far off mountain ranges. 

Two models of ORWC suited to this naturist activity have appeared: the Dahu, inspired by the Cobra, has been developed by Bernard Laviolette in collaboration with the mechanics of Vaux in Velin; the Concept Tout Terrain, is built and sold by Alain Saint Martin. In addition to these, the Joelette is also worthy of mention. Invented by Joel Claudel in 1988, this mono wheeled chair may not have an engine, but it can be taken almost anywhere!

Last update : 02/13/2002 09:52

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