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Hand-pedaler joins the race

Kiowa County Signal - 6/20/2018

Robert Hammer may have been diagnosed with cerebral palsy at birth, but he never allowed this to place limits on what he could do.

While he has difficulty walking and relies upon a walker for mobility, Robert maintains an active lifestyle. He works two jobs: one as a full time document specialist for BTCO of Wichita and the other a part-time job of 25 hours a week at Lowe's. In 2007, he completed a mini-triathlon that included a ¼ mile swim, 10 mile bike ride, and a 3 ½ mile run (which he completed in a wheelchair).

Last week, he participated in Biking Across Kansas.

"All I'm trying to do is send a message to people with and without disabilities to get them to understand that we're just like everybody else and have a right to do what everybody else does," he said.

Robert rides a hand cycle, which means he uses his arms instead of his feet to propel himself down the road. Although Robert hoped to complete the entire ride, he didn't quite make it this year; nevertheless, he hand-pedaled 270 miles across Kansas, which is over 2/3 the length of the state from west to east.

Mechanical problems contributed to his difficulties in completing the entire ride, even though he had taken the bike into a bike shop prior to BAK and also put installed new tires. Midway through BAK he lost all of the lower gears on the hand trike, which limited his ability to climb steep hills. He also experienced considerable pain while riding due to a seat that could not be adjusted properly to relieve pressure on his tailbone.

Any cyclist would tell you that what Robert accomplished this year was no easy feat, especially considering the winds and the heat that accompanied cyclists on this year's BAK journey.

Despite this year's obstacles, he plans to return to BAK in 2019 to complete the entire ride.

"I know what to expect now. It should be easier to do next year," he said.

He also intends to be more prepared next year, as he only had about a month to train this year due to an injury, as well as health concerns related to his father.

"I like to bike because it's therapeutic. It helps me to unload a bunch of baggage. You have to understand what it's like to grow up with a disability. People make fun of you. When you have a disability, you're the last one picked," said Robert.

This year, Robert appreciated the help he received this year from his friend, Sheldon Lilak of Salina, who picked Robert up when he couldn't pedal a mile further. Sheldon also served as a volunteer at one of the SAG stops, which provided water, snacks and, often, shade for weary cyclists along the way. Other BAK cyclists also assisted Robert at times along the way.

Robert has been married to his wife, Tess, for 25 years. The couple reside in Wichita.


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