New wheels for creative Kings

INVENTIVE: Brothers Dan, left, and Ben King are planning a cycling trip together thanks to Ben's work on a recumbent bike that Dan can ride.
INVENTIVE: Brothers Dan, left, and Ben King are planning a cycling trip together thanks to Ben's work on a recumbent bike that Dan can ride.

The creativity of the King family of Golden Bay is becoming known around the globe.

Twenty-seven-year-old Ben King is an inventor whose latest creation – a specially adapted recumbent bicycle for his disabled brother Dan, 32 – will enable the two to go on cycling trips around the country and beyond.

Dan has hemiplegia, which means the whole left side of his body is paralysed, so cycling has been out of the question until now.

Just as creative as his brother, but in a different field, Dan is a member of New Zealand's pioneering professional Auckland dance company Touch Compass, unique for its integration of dancers with and without disabilities and highly regarded for its innovative "flying", which sees wheelchairs and dancers suspended and swinging above the stage.

Dan, who has danced with the company for 10 years, featured in a documentary about it last year.

Ben, who works for a medical innovation company in Sweden, has been inventing and making all manner of things since he was six.

"I love to find new ways of doing things. I built a hovercraft when I was 15," he said.

His recent inventions include a mechanical chest compression device for CPR and a machine used in lung transplant operations.

A keen cyclist, he recently undertook a seven-month, 10,000-kilometre ride from Budapest to Cambodia, raising $10,000 for The Cambodia Trust, which develops prosthetics for the disabled.

When The Nelson Mail caught up with the brothers at their parents' home at Paton's Rock, Dan was trying out his new three-wheeled bike for the first time.

Featuring a special braking system, where the disc brakes for each wheel can be operated independently with the right hand, the bike can also be pedalled with one leg.

It also dismantles easily for transportation by car or plane.

The 14-speed bike is built from a frame to which Dan's own wheelchair seat can be attached.

He was easily able to fit his wheelchair seat to the frame with one hand and pedal the 90-centimetre-wide machine down the driveway.

After designing the prototype on a computer, Ben sourced high-quality materials for the bike from the United States, Japan and Germany, then spent three weeks building it. He reckons he spent 250 hours on the project as a whole.

"If anyone wants to use the design, they'd be more than welcome," he said.

The brothers are delighted with the result and are already planning a cycling trip together next summer – maybe around New Zealand or in the Pacific Islands, Ben said.

"I've been looking forward to this moment for a long time. It's amazing," Dan said.

The Nelson Mail