Australian freeride pioneer Grant Allen has seen the highs and lows of professional riding. His lows would have put many off riding ever again, yet his unbreakable spirit and determination have seen him adapt to a new way of looking at the world, now on three wheels. His ride of choice is one very special rig, read on for inspiration and insights into the Bowhead Adaptive MTB.
Mate great catching up with you for a chat, we can’t wait to learn more about your epic set-up! First up can we get an overview of your fresh rig and how it has rejuvenated your riding?
Cheers, I’m always stoked to do rad things with a mag [R] that I’ve had great connection with for so long now. So, these days I am riding Bowhead Adaptive MTB’s. 12 years ago I had an accident riding and suffered a spinal cord injury resulting in me becoming a paraplegic and needing to use a wheelchair full time. For 11 years I was forced to take a break from doing the thing I loved most, which was riding MTB’s, but now I am back and doing my thing. I’ve always maintained as I sat on the sidelines for 11 years that if I could get back onto a bike, I could do all the stuff I always did as the muscle memory is all there and I can literally feel it all and just want to do it. I just needed the equipment to do it and now with thanks to what Christian and the team at Bowhead have developed, I’m back and doing my thing.
This thing looks wild when you are cornering, how does it all work and maintain traction?
The bikes are wicked! The thing that set’s the Bowhead bikes apart from the rest of the world is the leaning and articulating front end. It is beyond incredible. It can be hard to explain but it makes sense when you start riding it and especially if you have someone to follow. A big thing is kind of pushing your hips one way and your arms the opposite.
It just becomes second nature once you start riding it.
Are you ever worried about it tipping over? Is there some sort of black magic keeping it glued to the ground?
Not at all worried about tipping it over. Sometimes you crash just like you do on a normal bike but it’s not a big deal. I guess every rider is different with the level of impairment they have, everyone is unique. I am pretty fortunate to have full function of my upper body and am quite strong I guess so I can always get myself out of trouble. If someone else is around and can help, that’s cool too.
In addition to the articulating front end there is some suspension involved with the bike as well, right?
Correct. The articulating front end almost adds to the suspension that is present at the front. There are two independent shocks on either front wheel that have just under 100mm of travel but then combined with the articulation, it feels very plush. The rear end of the bike is also suspended and has 7.5 Inches of travel. The front-end articulation is effective to about 7 inches, so it is really balanced.
In classic Grant Allen style you are sending the bowheads harder than Auspost, how has the adaption gone?
A big thing for me that has helped is just being a bike rider already. If you’ve ridden before, it helps. I found it really straightforward to get into and get going right away but by the same token, the more you ride it, the better you get. Just like any bike. It can be surprising and hard to get your head around just how much is possible with it. I find now when I take new people out riding on the bikes, I show them something that for them is daunting and would have been for me early on and when they see me do it, it gives them the confidence. The gift of sharing knowledge is something special and something that I treasure.
[R]: What do you think you are capable of doing on this rig, do you have any limits?
Ask me this 6 months ago and the answer would have been very different. It blows me away with what’s possible with this thing. Like you will be able to see from the photos in this story, I’ve ridden it down the DH track in Cairns completely unaided and successfully. The same track that World Champs and World Cups has been raced on. The track is no joke. I only got literally one practice or sight lap down the track at the recent Crankworx event but I am so excited to get back next year and literally blast out a bunch of practice laps and tidy up a heap of things and hit things even more aggressively to blow some minds. There are a number of other big things we’ve got lined up to tick off on both the RX and the Reach. I do really thrive on doing things that I know others wouldn’t even do on a regular bike or on an adaptive bike.
I guess it’s just like always, riding bikes, trying to have more fun than the next person and pushing boundaries. Good freaking times… Always.
[R]: You are now a dealer of the Bowhead range through Push mobility, tell us about that business and what you legends are doing there?
Correct! With my work through Push Mobility, we are the people to contact and I guess I have a pretty good knowledge of all things about these bikes and how to get one. We do see these successfully funded through many channels including from the NDIS. This is a process but one that I and our team of people can help you get through. People often ask what we do at Push and the simple response is that we help people. We help people to do cool stuff and live active and amazingly fulfilled lives. We of course do the adaptive bikes but we do really cool and useful day to day stuff that makes life better. We also do lots of work advocating for better in the community and helping in any way that we can. It’s not just about selling people “stuff”. If anything, it couldn’t be further removed. All we do is simply show people cool stuff that exists and let them try it and use it. If they like it, we can help them to get it and make their life better.
[R]: Thanks for the chat mate, any final words on how people reading this can get involved with adaptive MTB?
A lot of people reading this might not need to get a bike directly for themselves but they might know someone who would benefit from an Adaptive MTB. A big thing to remember is that these bikes aren’t just for someone in a wheelchair. Someone might have limited use of their legs, an amputee or a million other things that could prevent them from riding a regular bike the way they would like to. An Adaptive MTB is here to help many different types of people. If someone is keen to get involved or has someone in mind they think would benefit, simply hit me up! Instagram messages are a big thing for us and help us to connect with people or contact us through the Push website.
Always happy to help and talk bikes! @grantallenbikerider is my Instagram handle. As for final words?
Just get after it and have fun riding your bike. That’s where you’ll find me!
Front travel: 3″ Independent front suspension – Fox Float EVOL Shocks
Rear Travel: 7.5″ Fox DHX2 Rear shock
Front end: 7″ Effective articulation
Front wheels: 24″ Sun Ringle 30 rims laced to Hope Pro 4 hubs
Rear wheel: 26″ Sun Ringle Fat Bike rim laced to Bowhead Fatbike hub
Tyres: Maxxis Minion 24″ Tubeless EXO 3C front tyres – Maxxis Minion FBR 26×4.8″ rear tyre
Brakes: Magura MT7 with 220mm rotors front and rear. Braking is special with the front lever being connected to a special splitter so the one lever operates the two front brake calipers simultaneously.
Seating: A Ride Engine Kite harness secures your core into place and I sit on a Vicair cushion which uses special little triangular air cells that are not able to be punctured to ensure my skin is protected at all times. Especially when seated for long periods and in harsh environmental conditions.
Carbon fibre seat guards and rear mudguard are also utilised.
Motor: Bowhead specific, 3000 Watt system with a 21.5AH battery in a custom Pelican case. A thumb throttle controls the delivery of power. A mode controller on the left side of the bars flicks between the 5 modes of power available.
Drivetrain: Shadow Conspiracy 1/2 Link 1/2 x1/8″ chain with a Bowhead Sprocket on the rear wheel that attaches with the IS 6 bolt disc interface.