Disableds’ wheels

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A three-wheeled beast grunts into Queenstown on Sunday to give wheelchair-bound bikers a taste of the open road.

The Conquest, an English-made “motortrike” designed to accommodate wheelchairs, is touring New Zealand to fundraise for spinal research.

Paraplegic volunteers will ride the 1200cc beast – the only one in NZ – for each leg of the tour organised by Masterton-based spinal injury charity CatWalk.

The trike left Auckland last Sunday and will be auctioned – phone bids accepted – in Christchurch next Thursday.

Greeting it when it roars into Queenstown for public viewing will be local tetraplegic artist Angus “Gus” Watson, who broke his neck in an accident 27 years ago.

“I wrote to CatWalk and said I’d help with some fundraising by donating a painting for the auction,” says Watson, 60, whose bright watercolours have been exhibited nationally.

He’s been helping pub­licise the event but because he’s only got the use of his left hand, he says he may not be able to try out the three-wheeled contraption.

“I imagine that you probably need all of your wits about you as well as all of your fingers – and I’ve only got one lot that work really well.”

CatWalk’s Kim Holden says the trike – worth about $70,000 – is built for paraplegics but is easy to ride if you have good hand and upper body control.

“There’s an automated ramp so you wheel your wheelchair up onto the bike, lock the chair in place with a locking pin, put the ramp up by remote control and off you go.”

Anyone can take the trike for a spin from Pier 19 Restaurant at 4.15pm Sunday and at Over the Top Helicopter Flights at 9am on Monday.