ARLINGTON, VA — The Fort Bragg Soldier Recovery Unit in North Carolina certainly put the “adapt” in adaptive recovery this spring when they suddenly had to make a cycling maintenance class virtual. That was tough to do, especially with everyone not having bikes in front of them to work on during the class.
Now, they’re preparing for round two — and this time, all of the participants will have brand new gear to work with, and a world-class expert to guide them once again.
Lee Whitford, a recreation therapist with the adaptive reconditioning program at Fort Bragg who helps run the class, said they are currently planning on launching another eight-week class in the new year.
“The SRUs are getting new equipment in, so we’re waiting for that,” Whitford said. “This time, when they do the virtual program, they’ll have hands-on physical equipment right in front of them. It’s more practical than talking to people who don’t have [bikes and tools] right there.”
The first virtual session was put together last minute as the pandemic was exploding, which is why participants didn’t have access to the necessary equipment.
Fortunately, Fort Bragg was still open and Army Cycling Team Lead Technician John Koenck, the instructor, was able to conduct virtual classes, Whitford said.
Now, the participants will have their own new bikes, components, tools, and anything else they’ll need to follow along on their own. They’ll learn how to maintain their bikes, make repairs, and pack up their bikes for transportation to travel events.
With Koenck’s help, they were able to start with the basics and gradually develop Soldiers’ understanding of the fundamentals of bicycle maintenance.
“We broke it down from the beginning — ‘hey, this is a bike,’” Whitford said. “We ended it with open-ended questions, such as, ‘what are you looking to find out more about?’”
The program also will be tailored for those with special needs. For example, a Soldier who is paralyzed and doesn’t have use of the left side of their body will be taught how to change controllers — instead of having controllers on both sides of a recumbent bike, it would be adjusted to a right-handed controller.
“It’s small things like that that people don’t think about,” Whitford said. “You’re constantly having to tweak equipment so the Soldier can use it.”
Fort Bragg Adaptive Reconditioning Support Specialist Dean Bissey said they had about 20 people participate in the first sessions, and people were a little hesitant to jump in with questions because of the virtual setting. But they’ve grown more comfortable with the situation as the pandemic drags on.
Bissey says they don’t want to simply repeat what they did the first time — they’re hoping to build off that success.
“We’re going to go look at different things,” he said. “We know we have challenges coming up with moving bikes from point A to point B, from their hometown to Army Trials. If someone is involved in moving their bike, they’re going to want to know this stuff.”
Whitford was happy they were able to land Koenck to help run the program, especially with his pedigree as the Army Cycling Team’s lead mechanic.
“He’s forgotten more about cycling than I’ll ever know,” he said.
They’ll take some lessons learned from the first go-round to make improvements to the next session, which will hopefully take place in January. For example, they’re updating the equipment so they have fewer technical issues.
With hopes rising that the pandemic could be over at some point in 2021, Whitford is thinking about how the program will look going forward. They may do refresher courses as new staff comes on, and share knowledge with Soldiers in transition.
“Hopefully we’ll keep it going, and classes will get more technical as people want more detailed knowledge,” Whitford said.