By MILA SANINA
PITTSBURGH - Michael Trimble draws quite a few stares when he rides his bicycle around Pittsburgh.
Trimble has no arms.
He was born that way in Soviet-era Ukraine, the birth defect a consequence of the 1986 nuclear disaster in Chernobyl. After living in an orphanage, Trimble was adopted at age 9 by an American couple and raised in Pittsburgh.
The first time Trimble rode a bicycle was in 2000, in St. James, Mo., where he attended a boarding school. His gym teacher took an old bike and, in place of its handlebars, installed a metal pipe stretching out to one of his stumps. He rode that bike for 18 months and fell in love with cycling.
After returning to Pittsburgh, he graduated from Duquesne University with a degree in political science. The dream of riding a bike moved to the back burner. But, like many 20-somethings in Pittsburgh, he yearned to be mobile on two wheels.
About a year ago, Trimble, 27, ordered online from REI a single-speed bicycle with a coaster brake and began to search for someone to customize it - but "no one wanted to touch it. . . . They told me that I am either a liability or that what I asked them to do could not be done."
And then he met Michael Brown, the owner of Maestro Frameworks - maestrofram
eworks.com - on the North Side.
A friend of Trimble's, Tim Rhodes, met Brown in June while he and his wife were shopping at Performance Bikes in East Liberty, where he works part time. When Brown, 56, noted that he owned a bicycle shop and built custom bicycles, Rhodes' wife mentioned Trimble's situation and asked whether Brown could help him.
Three weeks later, Rhodes and Trimble visited Maestro Frameworks. Brown took some measurements and agreed to take the job.
"It never even crossed my mind that it could not be done," Brown said. "Especially after I talked to Mike, he was so gung-ho about riding a bike again."
Trimble knew how he wanted his bicycle to be modified based on the gym teacher's model. But Brown thought it was not quite right - and devised his own plan to make the bicycle easy to ride: "I actually spent a lot of time sitting on the bicycle, visualizing how the handle will work, how upright it has to be, how much weight I need to put on the front wheel to stabilize it."
It took about two months for Brown to find a solution. He removed the original handlebars and designed and fabricated a single-sided bar. He bent and welded it into a U-shaped rest at the end of the bar so Trimble could control the bicycle with his left stump.
When Trimble came to test the bicycle in late August, he had some trouble at first. The handlebar wasn't quite right, his legs were out of shape and he was unstable on the bicycle. But by the end of the test ride, Trimble was able to ride in a straight line and make turns. Once he got the hang of it, he even picked up some speed.