Follow Up Interview with the Toughest Cyclocrosser, Charles Scott McDonald
by JD Kimple
In the short time since our last interview with Charles Scott McDonald, we’ve learned that Charles has now secured funding for a prosthetic arm. We think this is fantastic news and got a few moments to find out more about this.
Cyclocross Magazine: Since the last time we talked, you now have funding for a prosthetic arm, is that correct?
Charles Scott McDonald: Yes, I received a $800.00 Grant from Challenged Athlete Foundation towards the purchase of a prosthetic for riding. When my friends, family and sponsors heard the news, they suggested I try Crowdfunding. I set up a page and two days later I had the $5,200 I needed. It’s been overwhelming.
CXM: Can you tell us a bit more detail about the new arm project? What will it be designed to help with?
CM: The right arm project was an idea of one of my friends. They also came up with the Crowdfunding as well. They thought folks may not have an idea of what the process of getting a prosthetic is like. In my case, I have no limb to attach to, so a total custom solution has to come to life. The first phase of the chest harness and shoulder socket was a trial and error process. Each time we tried something, a new custom piece had to be made regardless if it was a prototype or an end design. We had to try different materials so they could withstand impact from riding. I also had issues with overheating due to my chest being covered in plastic, fiberglass or carbon.
The arm is designed to help me control, lift the front wheel, add support for stopping, and relieve upper body stress to minimize fatigue. The arm will also allow me to move around on the bike. I get into awkward positions and have a hard time getting back into a safe or efficient position with one hand controlling the bike.
Here’s a bit of info from the Advanced Prosthetic Technology page:
The Arm is the result of over ten years of research and development by Dr. William Craig, an amputee himself and doctor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, and Toby’s Cycle Works in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
The Arm has been designed for amputees who require a high performance, durable, multifunctional prosthesis for activities such as mountain biking, ATVing, motocross, snowmobiling, and cycling. Built to mimic the mechanics of the human arm, The Arm offers four unique features: a Fox Racing Shox custom tuned compression dampened elbow, easy connect/disconnect system, adjustable angles, and a multifunctional terminal device (The Hand).
The Arm has been used by Dr. Craig on the most challenging mountain-biking trails that Vancouver has to offer. The unique features of The Arm offer him the control and functional positioning to execute skills such as carving turns, bunny hopping, launching the bike, lifting the front wheel of the bike over logs, climbing hills, and nailing heart-stopping technical descents.
CXM: How long has this process been in the works?
CM: I started working with Dr. Craig and the Morgantown O and P in 1999. The doctors in Morgantown, West Virginia, communicated with Dr. Craig in Canada and designed and developed the chest harness for me.
CXM: How did the crowd-funding portion come about?
CM: It was a suggestion from a friend.
CXM: Will this change the category your ride in for Paralyzed Veterans?
CM: No I will still be a MC4 in Para. I think it will have a larger impact on my classification in the able body disciplines I compete in.
CXM: Do you mind discussing how you lost your arm?
CM: My right arm was amputated and my left hand crushed by a train in 1998.
CXM: So, ultimately, what does the prosthetic arm mean to you?
CM: Flight. When I have dreams about riding, I usually wake up because of a disastrous crash or the disbelief that I landed a big air. I also hope it allows me to carry more speed on the trails. I feel I can be more competitive. I have been racing MTB for more than a decade. I see no evidence of USAC or any other sanctioning body including para in MTB or ’cross. My hope is the arm will give me the ability to match my handling of the bike with my fitness. Then when the late adopters want me to race para, I can tell them that the podium in the able-bodied races is where I am most comfortable.
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