A bike that mimics multiple sclerosis presents the disease on a new level.
A clever campaign just might help someone you know.
What do you see in this image?
Looks pretty straightforward, right? A classic 10-speed bike, like you might find in your parent's garage. Nothing exceptional.
But things aren't always how they seem at first glance. In fact, a quick ride on this bike would throw a lot of people off, and that's exactly why a group of Australian designers, neurologists, and advocates created it.
This bicycle was designed to mimic the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
You may know someone who has it. (The disease, not the bike.)
Roughly 2.5 million people out there know what it's like to live with multiple sclerosis, a disease that attacks the brain and spinal cord, making it hard for the brain to properly talk to the body.
It's mysterious and often frustrating, especially considering that researchers are still unsure what causes it. That, mixed with its unpredictable nature as a disease, makes it hard for people to grasp what it's like to have ... until now.
Here are five clever ways they did it:
Bike = MS? You better believe it. Here we go.
1. This bike looks great on the outside, but the inside tells a different story.
One of the most frustrating parts of MS is that it's considered a hidden disease. You can look completely normal and healthy on the outside but actually be suffering on the inside.
It's one of the reasons many people can't understand what their loved ones are going through. Diagnosing MS is no cakewalk either; its symptoms can be so hard to see that it's hard to determine whether a person has it or not.
This bike looks sharp and ready to hit the road, just like someone diagnosed with MS. But just wait.
2. Be prepared to feel wobbly.
With MS, the instability is real, and this bike was designed with that in mind. The makers purposely built it with crooked wheels, a misaligned frame, and balky tires to create the effect. It's incredibly hard to find your balance when you're riding, and if you took it for a spin, there would be a good chance you'd end up on the asphalt.
People living with MS could relate since they often have problems with walking and feel dizziness.
3. You never know what's going to happen next.
Symptoms of MS vary widely from person to person, but not knowing what's going to happen or when it's going to happen is a common theme.
On the bike, the designers shifted gears, took out teeth on the rear cassette, and used heavy parts to create a jarring, unpredictable feeling when riding.
4. The brakes, seat, and handlebars recreate numbing.
Ever sit in a position too long and your legs go numb? That's sort of what it's like for someone living with MS. Only it's not just your leg. It's different parts of your body, all the time.
Losing sensation in your feet and hands makes you feel like you have to do everything harder to make it work. To replicate this feeling on the bike, after they used thin handlebar tape with ball bearings wrapped underneath, and made the seat super uncomfortable. Hang on or sit for a while and you'll go numb.
5. It takes so much more effort to go anywhere.
For some of us, it's hard enough to roll out of bed and face the day when we're feeling perfectly fine. Someone living with MS has to constantly fight through the day to make it through.
With all the alterations above, riding this bike is also a strain, to put it lightly.
Our bodies are machines, just like a bike.
When something is off, the body reacts and works to find a fix. With MS, there is no permanent fix, but there are ways to ease symptoms and slow disease progression with medicine and physical therapy.
Most people won't get to ride this bike, and, of course, it's nothing compared to the challenge of actually having the disease.
But this unique approach might make MS easier to understand — both mentally and physically.
By improving awareness and relating it to something most people do understand (bikes!), it hopefully can allow people to see MS on a different level.
Created by cycling Paralympian Carol Cooke, bike mechanics, neurologists, folks living with MS, and Grey Australia, the campaign hopes to raise awareness for the disease in advance of the MS Melbourne Cycle in March 2016.
Watch the full campaign ad here: