A disabled rider's prayers answered

It may look like science-fiction but the Conquest 850 is a real bike that let Andrew Jeffrey hit the road again
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Indy Lifestyle Online

I was living there a lot of the time then, in between commuting from my home in Scotland to working trips off the Angolan coast, where I was employed on an oil rig. Cruising Barcelona's Las Ramblas was severely cool on a motorbike, in all senses. With the throaty grumble of a trad British bike - enter the Norton - you had that all-important cachet that really turned the heads of the girls. But that was not meant to be. My newly acquired Commando didn't even leave home in Scotland. I fell 40ft from the drilling rig and broke my back - landing up in a wheelchair. And my biking was at an end.

Over the intervening years I have often spotted the odd motor-trike on the road, the sort of vehicle I could possibly ride, and wondered what that adrenaline rush would be like again. With three teenage lads around home, all having their requests for bikes or scooters flatly declined, the thoughts of biking again never left the back of my mind. But an e-mail from a friend in the wheelchair business changed my mind, and may even change yours. It said nothing more than: "What do you reckon to this!?" "This" turned out to be a link to something that brought the sounds, smells and sensations of that Norton 850 flooding back again - the Martin Conquest 850.

Some may say that it looks more like something from a Star Wars film set than the bike park at Donington, but I called Alan Martin, the company's founder, to see if he could deliver its prototype for a weekend test. As a paraplegic, you have to re-learn balance after an accident, and with biking, balancing becomes even more acute. But for all the biker-minded wheelchair users salivating at the thought of riding again, worries on balance don't even feature with the Conquest.

Martin and his wife brought the Conquest to the door and it was time to get a burnt nose and the taste of flies again. That feeling of riding off once more really was awesome. Getting used to throttle, gear change and brakes didn't take long, as I disappeared down the steep hill from my house.

And what was the first thing I came across at the junction? A traffic police car. I wasn't sure whether they were eyeing me over because I wasn't wearing a crash helmet (it's a trike remember) or whether they were envious - I reckon the latter. In any case, they didn't give me any trouble.

Based on the BMW R850R, this is the first mass-produced, high-performance trike that can be driven from a wheel-chair, and it's the result of four years of Martin's blood, sweat and tears. It comes with a reverse gear - an essential for a trike of this size, and some of the other extras make it a real cruiser. Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run" was made for the Conquest's CD player, there are interior lights so that you rebels can keep an eye on your shopping, and the Conquest boasts Eagle Eye Panic response and Tracker - just in case you have a blowout. As an optional extra, you can have heated handgrips.

There are two engine options - an 850 and a 1,150, but their performance is very nearly the same. The 850 winds up to 60 in 9.2 seconds, while the 1,150 beats it by only 0.6 seconds. They both have the same top speed of 85mph - although Martin has tested one at 100mph.

It's slightly larger than my wife's Smart car, but it leaves it smarting for the fun factor, and the 17in cast alloys are astride the electronic drop ramp at the rear.

The National Association for Bikers with a Disability has been very much a part of its development with Martin; and the chairman, Rick Hulse, is upbeat about this remarkable product: "The Conquest Trike is the most exciting innovation of the past 10 years for disabled motorcyclists."

In the world of the Conquest, there's one development that I'm now following intently. Martin is currently in discussions with Motability, the government scheme that helps disabled motorists. If that would give the green light for its inclusion on the scheme, just imagine how many disabled people would experience the thrill of a glorious 850 again.

www.martinconquest.com

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