The 11-year-old speedster cycling with his hands
A streak of blue and orange flashes down the suburban road. Startled moms clutch their prams. Little old grannies grasp on to their hearts. The low-lying speed machine zips around a corner and in a hot second, he’s gone. Eleven-year-old Zach Rauch is paralysed from the waist down, but he’s flying at full throttle. He uses his arms to propel the shiny handcycle. Currently the youngest handcyclist in South Africa, Rauch is already planning his route to further success.
He first wanted to ride a bicycle at the age of six. ”I saw on TV, the racing,” Rauch says. “I thought that must be fun, let’s try it out.” His cycle is custom-made, built in the garage by Rauch’s dexterous hands under his dad’s diligent guidance. The human-powered vehicle is complete with three wheels, as well as gears and a crank. With it, Rauch has already taken home gold three times at the Outeniqua Wheelchair Challenge. He’s also completed the Cape Town Cycle Tour twice, and even participated in the 2017 Para-cycling Road World Championships. “My dad always told me that nothing is impossible,” Rauch says.
It’s safe to say this is a kid speeding towards breaking future world records. But what’s surprising is how effortless he makes it seem. “Going down hills at high speeds is really fun,” Rauch says, “but you’ve got to use your head.” With his mind in the game, Rauch has the world in his hands. In just four hours, he covered 50 kilometres at the Momentum Knysna Cycle Tour in 2017. So when it comes to his capability, there’s no question. Being paralysed doesn’t mean Rauch has had to put the brakes on any part of his life. Though this trailblazer has plans of becoming the world handcycling champion, it’s through his golden attitude to life that Rauch is already a winner.