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Losing a hand and learning to MTB – a Cape Town enduro rider’s story

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Road bike handlebars felt too weird. Dennis felt right at home, on a mountain bike. (Photo: R24)
Road bike handlebars felt too weird. Dennis felt right at home, on a mountain bike. (Photo: R24)

An unfortunate work accident steered Dennis du Plessis to mountain biking, becoming an anchor activity in his life. 

"In 2015, a machine at work grabbed my hand and minced it up. I had never really cycled before, but my brother in law was into road cycling and suggested I give it a bash," says Dennis.

"I love adrenaline and the outdoors. But figuring out the controls on a drop bar bike was a tricky affair, so I was soon attracted to mountain biking," adds Dennis.

In terms of prosthetics, mountain biking without a hand is tricky. There aren’t really catalogue prosthetics designed for cycling. Thanks to an engineering background, Dennis soon started experimenting with potential solutions. 

Dennis had a socket made by a local prosthetist and chatted to Jaco van Gass when he came to do the Cape Epic, which gave him a couple of ideas.  

"I started playing around with different attachments and things like ball joints, trying to find a happy medium between a secure fitting and something that is quickly detachable. I believe I have now done that."

The clever bit of his mountain biking configuration is decidedly simple. "A string across the handlebar allows me to release an r-clip in a split second, should I need to quickly detach from the bike, like when I crash," explains Dennis.

Getting the controls sorted also took some trial and error.

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