Quadriplegic Builds, Rides Motorcycles

Posted: Updated:
MOTORCYCLE HERMAN ASSELIN
CBC

People love to ride motorcycles because of the freedom it gives them.

That hasn't changed for a Belle River, Ont., man confined to a wheelchair. Despite his disability, he still enjoys the open road.

When 43-year-old Herman Asselin takes to the road in his homemade, three-wheeled motorbike, he feels the same exhilaration he felt 21 years ago when he used to ride motorcycles.

In 1991 his life changed when a motorcycle accident left him a quadriplegic. He suffered total loss of his legs and partial loss of his arms and hands.

Five years later, he researched wheelchair accessible motorcycles on the internet and didn't like what he saw. So, he decided to build one himself.

"This brings me back to how I was when I was walking," he said. "It gives you that freedom. It makes me feel whole."

Since then he has built three more and sold them to other wheelchair bound friends, such as Harry de Boer.

"The first time I seen him in the orange one, I said, 'you have got to make me one,'" said de Boer, who suffered a broken neck. "Breaking my neck was a life changer. This is another life changer. You're out in the outdoors, you're enjoying it. It's just a great way to spend the summers."

Both riders say the bikes are a whole lot more convenient than trying to get in and out of a van. They just lock the chairs in and away they go.

"You get a lot of people asking, 'What is it?," Asselin said. "It's opened up a lot of doors for meeting people."

The bikes end up costing approximately $30,000. Asselin says he doesn't make any money off them.

Asselin has some help in building them but does most of the work himself. He starts with a Suzuki Bergman scooter, which can already be controlled with the handles. His father welds the frame and he crafts the fibreglass body. His brother helped create the form for them.

Asselin said the latest accessible motorcycle he's working on is going to be his last, though. He said he would rather ride them than build them.