Race bike: Tom Wheeler’s Orange 29er prototype

Remember the Orange 29er prototype we showed you at Eurobike? The 140mm bike that was supposed to ride like a big-wheeled Orange Five? Well, one of the first riders to try it out is Mojo Suspension’s Tom Wheeler. That’s not the only thing that’s special about this bike though – Tom’s right arm was paralysed in a crash so he needs a lot of custom tweaks to his components, along with a purpose-built, Fox-sprung, carbon fibre arm brace.

What happened?

Tom clipped a branch during practice at a downhill race in Rheola, South Wales in March 2011. Thirteen hours on the operating table and two weeks in hospital later, he emerged with a paralysed right arm – the crash had torn five nerves in his spine. Determined to get back on his bike, he taught himself to ride one-handed.

Why the new bike?

Last time we saw Tom he was on an Orange Five*, so why the switch to 29in wheels?  ”At first I really disliked the idea but after hearing a few people’s opinions I thought it’d be silly not to try it,” he says. “It sounded like it would offer more comfort and allow me to ride faster. Well, what can I say? All of a sudden I went from being the guy at the back of the group to the guy at the front!”

Pros and cons

“When it comes to climbing, it feels awkward but on flat sections it’s fast and then on the downs it just blows me away. The low BB feels rad and the long wheelbase makes it feel more like a downhill bike. After about three rides I felt like I was returning to my old self, flicking about and riding things much quicker. I won’t be returning to 26in wheels unless they’re on an 8in DH bike!”

Turn the page for loads of pictures of Tom’s new bike, plus the full spec and info on his arm brace…

A horrific crash in Rheola, South Wales in March 2011 left Tom with permanent nerve damage. He's determined not to let that stop him riding though, and his new Orange is the perfect tool for the job. Picture by Alex Tyler / Eyesdown Films

A horrific crash in Rheola, South Wales in March 2011 left Tom with permanent nerve damage. He's determined not to let that stop him riding though, and his new Orange is the perfect tool for the job. Picture by Alex Tyler / Eyesdown Films

* Want to see Tom’s old bike? BikeRadar did a good interview with him back in April

Page 1: Intro
Page 2: Photo gallery
Page 3: Bike spec and arm brace info