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Cerebral palsy sufferer gets around on a recumbent bike

By: Miriam Moeller

"ISHPEMING, Mich. (AP) Learning to ride and race a recumbent bike has made a world of difference in Ishpeming resident Todd Kauppinen's life.

Kauppinen has cerebral palsy. Walking has always been difficult for him because the lifelong condition caused his feet and legs to deform. And he was never able to ride a two-wheeled bicycle because his condition impairs his balance. As a child he endured many bloody knees and skinned elbows trying out bikes.

"It was frustrating not being able to do things that other kids took for granted," he said.

When he became an adult and started a family, he wondered if he would ever be able to take his 4-year-old son Ty and wife Heidi for a family bike ride.

So, two years ago, Kauppinen bought a recumbent bike a bike with three wheels and a very comfortable, tall seat that supports his back. "I got on the bike and you could tell that it would work better than anything that we tried before," he said.

At first he could barely get around the block because it was difficult to turn corners, and it was strenuous to go uphill because the recumbent bike also known as a trike doesn't easily generate the momentum that regular bikes can produce. In addition, the recumbent bike weighs 50 pounds significantly more than the 20 to 30 pounds of an ordinary road bike.

But Kauppinen, 39, didn't give up.

"With a lot of perseverance and hard work he accomplished his goal," Heidi said.

And part of that goal was to participate in Marquette's Superior Bike Fest road race in June. In 2005, he raced the 25-mile course in 3 hours and 22 minutes.

This year, he participated in the 40-mile road race and finished in a little more than 4 hours. "I have a great fan base," he said. "That helps a lot."

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