What would you do without your legs?
Any number of medical, biological or accidental scenarios could cause a loss of function in one or both legs. The reality of living with a lower extremity disability or handicap is a complete change in lifestyle, particularly for motorcycle and other powersports enthusiasts. Some brave individuals remount their two-wheeled machines for adaptive racing events. Others utilize ATVs
, and the introduction of UTVs in recent years has brought more opportunities to get back on the throttle. However, stock vehicles simply aren’t designed to work with limited mobility. Traditional hand control conversions are not optimized for off-road vehicles, so former AMA 4-stroke Motocross champion Mike Young co-opted with Vince Fabozzi at The Mobility Specialists
to create a dirt-worthy setup.
Young had a successful motocross racing career that became defined by racing 4-stroke motorcycles. This was before the introduction of Yamaha’s YZ400F and what we consider “modern” thumper technology. His racing exploits carried him to factory rides with Husqvarna, Honda, ATK, Vertemati and Husaberg, riding some of the trickest hand-built 4-strokes the world has ever seen. A crash at Glen Helen Raceway in 1997 left the racer paralyzed. Mike actually had a Yamaha contract lined up to race the YZ400F alongside Doug Henry the following year, but he never got to straddle the bike that changed motocross as we know it.
“I was missing something and that was my passion for the dirt,” Young says of his years following the accident. “Growing up racing since I was 5 years old till my accident in 1997, I spent 23 years in the dirt on a daily basis. I couldn’t handle not being able to go have fun in the dirt!”
Young branched out, starting Big Gun Exhaust
. As they say, you can take a racer out of the dirt, but you can’t take the dirt out of a racer. Young recognized the shortcomings of traditional automobile hand control adaptations, so he started working with Fabozzi to specifically address off-road needs. It’s typical for hand controls to operate brake by pushing away from the driver, and throttle by pulling the lever down toward the legs. Young found that it hits the driver’s lap before applying full throttle. In order to address this, he reached into his motocross training and utilized a twist throttle. Another issue is providing the stopping power needed for heavy, fast UTV machines.
“Over the years we have tweaked and changed them and I have to say I’m very happy with today’s results,” Young says. “It’s easy to work and most importantly you can stop. It’s been a challenge to make these controls have enough leverage to stop at speeds. This time we have done it.”
The Mobility Specialists is located in Brea, California, and manufactures a whole catalog of handicap accessories. Now that the development work is finished, the hand control is built and delivered as a complete unit, preassembled and ready to install (Part # MS2012T). Retail price is $1295 with the control available in Monster Kawasaki Green, Red or Silver powder-coated finish.
“For the past five-to-seven years we have been playing with hand controls in these side-x-sides to get people like myself out to the dirt to have fun,” says Young. “Vince Fabozzi and I have put many hours into making something simple and easy to mount and use so that I could get the freedom back and get into the dirt.”
Drivers with or without the use of their legs can pilot the adaptive Teryx. Our driver preferred the hand controls in some situations by the time he was finished testing.
Equipping a UTV with this setup doesn’t mean it can only be driven by someone with lower extremity disabilities. For this most recent project, Young started with a 2011 Kawasaki
Teryx 750 4x4. We set our utility player/Associate Editor, Frankie Garcia, in the driver’s seat of Young’s Teryx to see what it’s like behind the wheel. He drove the side-by-side around a Southern California test track using his feet and his hands. Over the course of a single day he became so comfortable that he started using the hand controls exclusively. One of the big challenges is getting a handle on the left-side throttle. Motorcyclists are used to twisting their right wrist, but it becomes natural with some practice. The benefits are noticed greatly in rough situations where the driver’s feet get bounced around. What it offers drivers without the use of their legs is magic.
“The Teryx took a little bit of time to get used to,” he admits, “but once I figured it out I was able to rip around as if it wasn't adaptive. I had a couple moments due to the fact I only had one hand to steer with, but with a little more time getting used to I believe I could overcome that issue entirely.”
Powered by a torquey V-Twin, we’ve used the Teryx for everything from desert running to wood hauling and mud-bogging. One of the things we love about the Kawasaki SxS is its exhaust note. Young installed a full-system Big Gun Evo Utility Series Exhaust
($789.99) which gives the Kawi an even better growl. The dual mufflers use aluminum canisters attached to .049 stainless steel tubing. Young claims it sheds 10 pounds while boosting power output by approximately 10 horsepower. The Kawasaki is stout enough, but it’s far from dominating the UTV power wars, so this offers significant performance gains. Plus, the $790 pricetag is less than most full-system, single-can dirt bike exhausts.
The addition of the pipes required some fuel tuning so he also installed the Big Gun TFI Power Box
($269.99). It works with any fuel-injected ATV/UTV or dirt bike and plugs directly into the factory wiring harness. The TFI Power Box monitors fuel use and adjusts accordingly.
This conversion can help get anyone with lower extremity disabilities or handicaps to enjoy the outdoors, not just motorsports enthusiasts.
Throttle junkies aren’t the only ones living with disabilities or handicaps, and they aren’t the only ones looking for new experiences and adventure. The adaptive Teryx is perfect for hunters, explorers, nature lovers, farmers… anyone, really. The Mobility Specialists hand control can be applied to any side-by-side, not just the Kawasaki. As Young explains it, the main components are all the same, but different machines will require slight differences, primarily in the mounting applications. Call Vince Fabozzi directly at The Mobility Specialists to ask about your particular machine (1-877-777-5438).
“I think it's really cool for a paraplegic or disabled person to be able to set up a side-by-side that allows them to rip around as if they had nothing wrong with them,” says Garcia. “It's a great concept for sure.”