People behind The Parallel Passion: Heiko Eger

We present the people behind The Parallel Passion.

For The Parallel Passion, not only two-wheelers ride. Three-wheeled handbikes are also on the road. Heiko Eger rides a very special one. Paraplegic from birth, he has been with us since the beginning of the bicycle challenge with his wheelchair including a custom-made one. He prefers to ride with his girlfriend Jacqueline, but she doesn’t always have time.

Paraplegic since birth

“I was born in 1980, but unfortunately I was born with spina bifida, a malformation of the spine,” says Heiko. “It comes in different varieties. Mine has caused me to be a paraplegic from birth.” Fortunately, Heiko says, no other diseases or paralyses develop in him, as can certainly occur with other forms of this so-called “open back”.

Anchored in Wurzen

Heiko is the second child of seven siblings. The five boys and two girls all grew up in Wurzen, the birthplace of the poet Joachim Ringelnatz. Today, the brothers and sisters live in the surrounding area, the parents are still at home in Wurzen. Heiko also lives in the “Ringelnatzcity”, but in his own apartment and together with his girlfriend.

Side trip to Munich

In Munich Heiko completed an apprenticeship as an office administrator after finishing school – a beautiful coincidence made this possible. “Unfortunately, I fell ill six months before the exams and was unable to complete the degree,” says Heiko, who is now an EU pensioner. However, EU has nothing to do with Europe, it means “Erwerbsunfähigkeit” (disability). “On paper I’m a person with 100 per cent disability.”

A handbike is needed!

But just sitting in a wheelchair and getting bigger and bigger because of too little movement, that was not what Heiko wanted. That’s why he got involved in converting his wheelchair into a handbike. “When I was at school, I saw a classmate with a bike like this. I liked it”, Heiko remembers. “I liked it because it was such a wonderful way to get around.”

Being able to strengthen yourself in a different way

When driving in a wheelchair only, the shoulder area in particular is put under a lot of strain. Over the years, Heiko developed health problems in this area. Thanks to the so-called pretension bike, which he can easily attach to the front of his wheelchair himself, this changed in 2016, Heiko reports in his calm and thoughtful manner: “Since then, I have been able to strengthen myself in a completely different way with this handbike. The vehicle is beneficial to my locomotion and health.”

Important: Fitter torso

He could not improve his handicap as such with the handbike. But his upper body is fitter, and his shoulders are also better. Unfortunately, he still has quite a belly, but as a wheelchair rider it is difficult to prevent this. “You sit all the time”, Heiko says and shows how quickly the pretension bike can be attached to his wheelchair. With the help of adapters, it takes only a few simple steps. Once the frame is coupled to the large wheel, the smaller wheels lift up at the front of the wheelchair – and from now on the front part takes over the steering function that the small wheels normally have.

Likes to travel as a couple

… …and off we go! Heiko does with his hands what others do with their feet, namely moving the pedals of the handbike. Heiko’s longest tour so far was 50 kilometres. He loves to ride together with others, he says and reduces the speed so that you can keep up as a pedestrian. It’s easier to motivate yourself and work out as a couple. At least when the other one is riding a bike as well and is not on foot as he is right now.

“The Parallel Passion: a really beautiful project!”

He had also driven with his brother. Of course, he would prefer to go with Jacqueline, his girlfriend. Through her Heiko came to the Parallel Passion. Jacqueline works at CHECKSTONE, the initiator of the unusual bicycle charity challenge. “She told me about the Parallel Passion, and I said right away that I like to take part in it. Because I think it’s a really beautiful project! Jacqueline doesn’t have as much time as I do, because she’s working.

Always turn on Strava-App

When asked if he had switched on the Strava app for this little walk, Heiko replies: “No, I don’t do that for such short distances. I don’t know if it makes sense.” On the remark that the app also measures and feeds in smaller distances, Heiko reacts very pleased. He will change that immediately – stop, turn on the app and pick up speed again.

Happy to be on the road and approachable

While we are on the road, Heiko is looked at with interest by numerous people. Yes, Heiko thinks a lot of people are watching. But he knows that as a wheelchair user. He would be happy if people would talk to him. Older people would have done that already. Younger to middle-aged people might be afraid of saying the wrong thing. But this fear is completely unfounded. “We want to be treated like any other person,” says Heiko.

Beat the longest distance

Riding a bike is Heiko’s fun. He likes to be outside and would love it if nice people would like to ride with him. His handbike is just not a racing bike, he points out. But he would definitely be interested in topping the 50 daily kilometres. One kilometre from Heiko has already been uploaded to the Strava app and a second one is added on the way back.

Pedalling together

From far away we can already see Jacqueline with her bicycle standing in front of the house. She waves happily, Heiko waves back. There will probably be a few more kilometres to go today for the Parallel Passion …

The Parallel Passion team wishes both of them always a good ride when pedalling by foot and hand.

Click here for the Strava profile of Heiko.

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