Helping hand

Bob Guerrero

Photo By David Robert

“My friends would say, ‘Bob’s disability is from the neck up,’” jokes Bob Guerrero. The able-bodied 56-year-old is a recreation therapist with Nevada’s Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation. He specializes in organizing skiing events for the disabled. This weekend, he’ll be on the streets instead of the slopes as organizer and commentator for the Tour de Nez Handcycle Race, scheduled for 5 p.m. June 18. For more information, visit

What exactly is a hand-powered bicycle?

They refer to them as handcycles. … And they’re three-wheeled bicycles—tricycles—that are propelled by the same kind of cranks and sprockets and all that stuff as regular bicycles, just from the hands. There’s various levels of ability that people can employ to use them. Some people have to sit up more, like in a wheelchair position, sit upright, so the crank is angled up. … But your higher performance hand cycles are more low-profile, recumbent, more laid-back for stability.

Do they tend to be custom-made, or are they commercially available?

There are a bunch of them commercially available. There are two major categories. One is the hand steering, where … the sprocket and the front wheel pivot, and you use your hands to turn the front wheel. And then you have—they call them leaners. They have a gizmo that turns the front portion of it by leaning one way or the other. And those tend to be more stable at high speeds. And it’s just a matter of personal preference.

Are there a lot of people in the area riding them?

I used to say, “No, hardly anybody. There’s no place to rent them. You can’t even get them.” But since the FreeWheelin Foundation has come into existence, that’s all changed.

What happened?

Well, you know John Kirsch? He owns Sportif. He was a triathlete, and he had an injury that left him paralyzed—parapalegic. And, to make a long story short, he just kept right on going. He’s jumped into handcycles. … He’s learning how to ski on a monoski. … He and his brother-in-law, Tom Williamson, they did a fundraiser up during the America’s Most Beautiful Ride at Lake Tahoe last year, and they raised so much money—they did it to help defray medical costs—they raised so much money that they decided to start a foundation to make these costly pieces of recreation and sports equipment more accessible to the community. So they started this non-profit. … We have given away 12 handcycles so far, and plans are to give away more. Their goal is to raise enough money, to have enough clinics, to provide anyone who needs one in town with a handcycle.

What do you have planned for this weekend for the Tour de Nez?

Well, John Kirsch, he was talking with Tim Helion from the Tour de Nez, and they know each other, and they said, “It would be kind of nice to have a handcycling event someday with this thing. And John said, “If we do, I’ll put up some prize money from the foundation.” … And that’s about where it stood, until I stepped forward and said, “I know how to get some people.”

Is it a competitive race?

It’s going to be a demonstration race its first year. Tim and the Tour de Nez folks would like to make it one of the premiere handcycling events in the country. For that to happen, they’ve got to get hooked up with the U.S. Handcycling Federation. … They’re going to try and send a representative, one of those elite handcycling athletes to come and do this thing and offer some feedback and who knows where it’s going to go. Right now there are only about four, big-time, national handcycling events in the country. And the U.S. Handcycling Federation would like to piggyback onto bike races like the Tour de Nez.