Kawasaki Teryx Accessible Fun

Kawasaki Teryx Accessible Fun
Recently, ABILITY’s Chet Cooper flew to Iowa to ride through some of its hillier terrain with Dan Kleen on Kawasaki’s new Teryx 750 Side X Side. Kleen is the executive director of the Iowa Off-Highway Vehicle Association and the president of the National Off-highway Vehicle Conservation Council.

Chet Cooper: Dan what do you do as a leader for these two organizations?

Dan Kleen: As president of the National Off-highway Vehicle Conservation Council (NOHVCC), I work with riders, clubs, state associations, manufacturers and others to promote and educate people to ride their All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) and off-road motorcycles responsibly.

Cooper: State associations plural?

Kleen: Yeah. Right now we have NOHVCC partners in 43 states. We try to find someone in each state who knows what’s happening in that region and make them our go-to person. NOHVCC holds an annual conference in a new location each year. This year it was in Albuquerque, NM, and we had approximately 230 attendees.

Cooper: How long have you been with NOHVCC?

Kleen: I started as an Iowa NOHVCC Partner in 1995, and I’m into my fourth (two-year) term as president; I served on the board of directors for three years before being elected president.
I actually helped form our state association in 1988. Our membership is about half ATVs and half Off-Road Motorcycles. The registration is $15 a year for either.

Cooper: How did you get the land on which you ride?

Kleen: In 1990, when we opened our first park, Iowa was still not allowing us to ride on state-owned property. So the first park that we opened was the Bluff Creek OHV Park. Title is held by Iowa Partners of NOHVCC (a non-profit corporation). We would like to turn it over to state ownership, and probably will be soon. The state now allows us to ride on their property, if it’s a designated Iowa OHV Park. We encourage the state to take ownership of our OHV Parks, when possible. It helps us out with liability and, down the road, we know that the park will be there forever. So it’s a good deal for us all.

In Iowa, we’ve got eight OHV Parks. Bluff Creek we own. Four are on city property. Two are on Army Corps of Engineers’ property. And our newest project, the Gypsum City OHV Park located in Fort Dodge, is owned by Webster County Improvement Corporation, which is a non-profit corporation.

The key to the success of the Gypsum City OHV Park is the many partnerships supporting the project. We have had land donations from four gypsum companies. Some of this land was mined over 80 years ago, and has reforested itself. The trees and ponds are like nothing else in this part of the state. And some of the property has been reclaimed. This park will offer trails and riding opportunities that attract riders from all over the country. The local community has really gotten behind this project from day one.

Cooper: “Reclaimed” is an issue of liability? Taxes?

Kleen: These companies are obligated to reclaim any land they have altered through their mining operations. Some of the older areas may have been grandfathered in and do not need to be touched again. These areas are the ones that make the best riding. And what makes this OHV Park project unique is that we were able to introduce and pass two pieces of legislation. One allowed transfer of ownership of this land without reclamation, and the second exempted the companies from any liability down the road if someone were to be injured on the property that they had mined. Both pieces of legislation were introduced and spearheaded by local legislators: state representative Helen Miller and state senator Daryl Beall. Without their leadership and support, this OHV Park would not have happened.

This is a perfect example of how getting to know and educate your legislators on your issues and goals can make a difference. We went to them and asked for their support and, after showing them what an OHV Park could do to benefit their community, they were willing to help.

Cooper: Do riders need to be a member of a club or association to ride in OHV Parks?

Kleen: No, they just need have to have a current Iowa OHV registration.

Cooper: When you fly over and see all this land, you would think it would be easy to find new areas for OHV Parks.

Kleen: You would think so, but Iowa is ranked 49th in the nation for amount of public land. About 98 percent of Iowa land is privately owned. So it is very hard to find an area of any size to open an OHV Park. The Timber Ridge area that we’ll be riding in today is a private, family-owned operation.

Cooper: Really?

Kleen: Yes, it is one of only a few private riding areas in Iowa, and it is also the oldest and the largest. They have around 3000 acres. This area is very diversified with rows of crops, hay fields, apple orchards, vineyards, a winery, hunting, fishing, sporting clays and, of course, some of the best trail riding in the Midwest. They have around 200 members who are allowed to ride these trails and enjoy the great outdoors. Some of the members have cabins or campers and have been out here for many years.

Cooper: How about wildlife?

Kleen: Lots of it! You’ll see a little bit of everything out there. Deer and turkey are plentiful.

Cooper: Will we have to keep an eye out for oncoming traffic when we go out?

Kleen: Yes, all the trails are two-way. We saw a few bikes yesterday. During the week like this though, it’s not so busy. On weekends we see a lot more riders.

Cooper: How long have you been riding?

Kleen: All my life. I grew up on a farm, and we started off on mini bikes and go-carts then worked our way up to motorcycles and ATVs.

Cooper: How were you injured? And did your injury change what you ride?

Kleen: I was hurt in a diving accident 21 years ago. At the time I rode motorcycles, both off-road and street bikes. ATVs were just starting to get popular. After my injury I could not ride two-wheeled motorcycles so I bought a Honda Odyssey, which has hand controls on the steering wheel and is very easy to use. At that time, very few ATVs could be ridden without needing a lot of modifications. Nowadays most ATVs have fully automatic transmissions and engine braking, and need few modifications for people with limited mobility to ride. Even the side-by-sides, like the new Kawasaki Teryx that we’ll be riding today, are great machines for people of all abilities who want to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. If needed, they can be adapted with hand controls, like the one I’ll be riding. These are the same hand controls used in cars and vans for people who need them.

Cooper: You ride street bikes also?

Kleen: Yes, one of my favorite things to do is to hit the road on my street bikes. For awhile, I thought my road riding days were also over. But I started checking into sidecars and found out they would work great for me. I can load my wheelchair into the sidecar and ride the motorcycle with the help of an electric shifter that I operate with my thumb. These bikes also have reverse, so I can back out of a garage or parking spots. Many elderly and people with limited abilities are starting to ride trikes—three-wheeled motorcycles.

Cooper: They come with a reverse feature?

Kleen: Some come with an electric reverse and on some you can have it installed. Another item that can really help those of us with limited upper body strength is a product called EZ-Steer; it’s like adding power steering to your motorcycle, but can only be used if you have a sidecar or trike.

Cooper: How do you get on and off your motorcycle?

Kleen: I wheel up to it, lift my right leg over the seat and then just transfer onto the seat. After I’m on the bike I take the wheels off my wheelchair and set them in the sidecar. It is always fun to watch the looks others give me when they realize it is a wheelchair in the sidecar, or when they see me get on or off the bike.

Cooper: Do sidecars feel strange? I would think if you’re used to a motorcycle’s balance, having that third wheel would feel different.

Kleen: It definitely handles and corners differently. You’ve got to take your time and get used to the handling. Right-hand turns on a sidecar can be challenging if you do not know what you’re doing. Some riders carry sandbags in their sidecars to help balance the rig while cornering. But it is like anything else: You need to practice a bit, and know what your machine can do.

Cooper: How do you haul your motorcycle and ATVs?

Kleen: I have owned several motor homes that I used to haul them in, and that worked well. But a few years ago I bought a Toy Hauler trailer—a camper trailer from which the back end opens to load ATVs or motorcycles. They also make a great camper, so you have all your stuff with you, including an accessible restroom and shower. Camping to me just makes any trip more complete.

Cooper: How do you get into your trailer?

Kleen: I use a Super-Arm lift in my trailer. It is the same one I have used in all my motor homes. I learned after buying many wider doors over the years, that I can use a stock-width door with this lift. Once I’m off the ground, all I need to do is pull one wheel off the wheelchair and set it in inside the door. After I’m through the door, I put the wheel back on.

Cooper: Why can’t you just roll in the trailer using the rear ramp door?

Kleen: If you’re not hauling anything you can. But if you’re camping by yourself, you don’t have anybody with you to shut the door. If you’ve got your bike or ATV in the back, you can’t get around it. I’ve seen people marketing the toy haulers as handicap accessible campers because of the rear ramp doors. The way I have my camper setup, I can travel by myself.

Cooper: Some of them are automatic; you just push a button and the door comes down. I always thought that the inner door—normally there’s a door between the vehicle compartment and a living area—should be wider.

Kleen: Mine doesn’t have the automatic rear door. And I do not have the divider wall. I have just a sliding door. I looked at a lot of them, wondering what it was going to take to modify the bathroom. This one had a floor plan that worked well, because there’s a queen-sized bed crossways up front. That’s another thing I wanted: one that had the bed made up all the time, not one that you needed to unload your ATVs or motorcycles to fold down the bed. I wanted the bed up front, and this one had the bathroom next to the bed. I just removed the divider wall and turned the toilet sideways so I could transfer right from the bed to the toilet, or wheel right up to it in the chair. That works really well.

Cooper: There’s a company called RV Décor that was remodeling RVs to begin with, but now has gone into modifying them so they’re accessible. Apparently there are a lot of people who live in their RVs and travel around. Or maybe they’re just aging in place, and they have their bathroom fixtures and appliances installed at a certain level.

Kleen: I’ve had several motor homes, and I really like them. I can see someday getting another one. I think I could be one of those people who sells their home and just travels. Our winters in Iowa are just killers. I’d love to go South and ride all winter. However, I don’t know how feasible it’ll be at $5 a gallon for fuel.

Cooper: Apparently that’s what some people do. There are even groups of people who rendezvous in the same place each year. They’ve created a community. If gas prices stay this expensive, it will cost them a lot, but it’s still cheaper living overall.

Kleen: I could see traveling for several years. I’ve known several people who have sold their houses and now live in their motor homes full-time. We have a lot of people from Iowa, retirees and farmers, who just load up and get away from the winter and go to Arizona, Texas or Florida, for example.

Cooper: What about your mobile Senator, Tom Harkin, is he here much or is he mostly in DC?

Kleen: He’s in DC most of the time. He’s been a tremendous help for all Americans with any type of disability or limitation. His leadership and unending work with ADA has improved the lives of millions of people. We owe him a big ‘Thank You.’

Cooper: He writes for us on a regular basis… At this point, we’re headed over to one of the hilliest areas in Iowa?

Kleen: That’s right. We have southern Iowa and both the east and the west that have some hills, but where I’m from, it’s flat and all farmed. A friend came up from Georgia one time and said it was so flat here that he could stand in the back of his pickup and watch his dog run away for three days. (laughs)

Cooper: That’s funny. So tell me, how many off-road vehicles do you have now?

Kleen: I’ve got three ATVs, a Kawasaki V-Force 700cc, a Kawasaki 650 Brute Force and a Yamaha 700 Grizzly with power steering.

Cooper: How did you get involved with this ride today? .... continued in ABILITY Magazine


ABILITY Magazine
Other articles in the Lainie Kazan issue include Headlines — Colorful Wheelchairs; Aid For Medical Bills; Senator Harkin — Global Disability Rights; Green Pages — Solar Garden Lighting; Vegan Shoes; Humor — Get Off the Couch and Get a Hobby; Managing Pain — The Latest On Headaches; Mobility Issues? — Try A Trike; Cambodian Sports — Athletes With Disabilities Rule!; Looking For Love? — Try One of These Dating Sites; Spinal Cord Injuries — New Possibilities; Know Your Rights; ABILITY's Crossword Puzzle; DRLC — Got Cancer?; Events and Conferences...subscribe

More excerpts from the Lainie Kazan issue:

Lainie Kazan — Four Decades In the Spotlight

Cambodian — Disability Sport

Martin Klebba — Larger Than Life

Quid Pro Quo — A Film About the “Wannabe” Disabled

Kawasaki Teryx Accessible Fun



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