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Hand cycle business is riding high
IF the electric hand cycle attachment Mark Higgon had bought had worked properly, he would probably never have started running his own business.
But his frustration when it fell apart after a few months turned into determination to make one for himself.
A friend saw it and wanted one, then another friend wanted one too...
Soon Mark had his own little production line going in his living room – not to his wife, Leilah’s delight!
“I drifted into it,” says Mark who now runs Team Hybrid and employs two members of staff at their unit in Fareham.
“I didn’t start with any intention of running a business.”
After 18 months of working in the living room, he moved out into a workshop in the garden, and was there for a further three years.
During that time, making hand cycles went from being a hobby to a business.
It was the first time Mark had worked since a motorcycle accident in his late 20s which broke his back and saw him confined to a wheelchair.
Previously the motorcycle enthusiast had worked as a steeplejack, climbing chimneys at places like Fawley Power Station and working on church roofs. But the accident changed everything.
“The accident was devastating,” says Mark, now 52.
“It was a life-changing, immediate thing. You think your life has ended but it hasn’t – the only thing I can’t do is walk. In fact, I probably do more now than before the accident. I’ve got more motivation now.”
After the accident, Mark found himself claiming benefits and was out of work for 13 years, before he set up the business in 2002.
But now the business dominates his life, leaving him little time to even enjoy going out for a ride himself on one of his own hand cycles.
Mark and his team currently sell around 80 hand cycle attachments a year, and business is growing all the time.
The attachments fit onto almost all wheelchairs except collapsible ones, and turns them into cycles.
Attachments can be entirely manual, electric assisted, giving a helpful boost when going up hills or over difficult terrain – or simply if you need to take a break – or fully electric.
Team Hybrid also distributes recumbent cycles, wheelchairs and electric bike attachments. As well as being a hit with people who are confined to a wheelchair, they are also a good option for those with balance issues or who have a weakness in one side of their body.
The Team Hybrid workshop
Mark says they can transform people’s lives.
“Once you’ve got a hand cycle attachment on, you’re not sitting in a wheelchair anymore – you’re riding a bike,” he says.
“You can go faster and further. They give people independence, fitness, a feeling of wellbeing and a sense of freedom. They can transform your life.
“We get customers of all ages coming in,” he adds.
“They are often a bit nervous about sitting in a strange wheelchair and having the hand cycle attached but then when they go round the car park in it they have huge grins on their faces.
“We never have to give a hard sell because our products sell themselves.
“Once an electric one is attached, you can go across a bumpy field in a couple of minutes, whereas in your wheelchair it can take you half an hour and be really hard work.”
Mark says that lots of people don’t realise that hand cycle attachments even exist and a lot of their custom comes from word of mouth.
“All my customers and me get stopped when we’re out on them – people have often never seen them before and want to ask about them.”
Mark says that running the business is incredibly rewarding.
“We had a little boy in last week.
“He was trying an electric bike and had a great big smile across his face. His dad said: ‘that’s going to change his life.”
- For more information, visit teamhybrid.co.uk.
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