Come along for a ride at Retallack, BC.
If you are a mountain biker, or someone who LOVES being outside in nature, chances are, you and I are probably very similar.
In 2016, I was on top of the world, freshly married, passionate about life with an infectious attitude towards BEING OUTSIDE. August 13, 2016 was very similar to most other days. I was riding my bike with my cousin and two close buddies in New Hampshire. Loving life. OUTSIDE.
It only took a few seconds and one high-speed over-the-handlebars crash, and I had sustained a spinal cord injury resulting in a complete paraplegia diagnosis -- the inability to move anything below my chest. I also sustained fractures to the C1 and C2 vertebrae in my neck, which could have taken my life, if not my hands. That actually put things into perspective, reminding me that things were very close to being much worse.
A high-quality full-face MTB helmet I had just recently purchased ended up being the deciding factor. I was taken to New Hampshire's Dartmouth-Hitchcock for spinal fusion surgery, literally screwed into a halo vest to heal the neck fractures, and spent a total of 10 days in the ICU. The next stop was Spaulding Rehab in Boston to get coached up on how I live my new life. Nothing came easy and everything that I took for granted before the injury--from riding my bike to putting on my shoes--suddenly seemed very far away.
After 11 months of healing and busting my ass in the gym, trying with no shortage of frustration to figure out how to make life tolerable in a wheelchair, I was ready to get back to what I had been craving most: some recreational therapy. What makes me happy is not unique to me; many others enjoy the outdoors as well. But being confined to a wheelchair is quite the limiting factor when trying to get back to doing things you love.
Shortly after my first experience on an adaptive bike after the injury, I was contacted by Christian Bagg from Bowhead Corp., a rider-owned company that manufactures top-of-the-line adaptive mountain bikes and architects a riding experience unlike any other. I jumped at the opportunity to be a team rider/ambassador, and to get my hands on this new tech. My Bowhead was the first production bike out of the shop. The deal was: ride the bike hard, don’t be shy to give it some abuse. They wanted to know what the weak points were and what they needed to strengthen before hitting the market. They picked the perfect crash dummy. I was used to giving bikes a run for their money and was charged with months of pent-up adrenaline and a desire to get back out on trail.
That summer, I geared up for a 2.5-month solo adventure across North America to RIDE, and ride and ride and ride...
With this bike, I was able to experience amazing "bucket list items" that I'd had even able-bodied, like Heli-biking with my buddies at Retallack Lodge in British Columbia. Bowhead is all about breaking down boundaries, and this thing made me feel unstoppable. More than that, it made me feel like I belonged on those trails again. I was the first adaptive athlete to put tracks on these trails in the summertime at Retallack. That felt GOOD.
Northstar Bike Park | Truckee, CA | USA Chasing #19 Doug Henry in Adaptive practice at the US Open Whistler Mountain Bike Park | Whistler, BC | Canada
It should be pretty clear that this piece of equipment enabled me to have the summer of my life. Enough about my story...
Truth is, there are many people currently living with spinal cord injury. I am extremely lucky to have the equipment that allows me to continue pursuing my passion in life. But that is a privilege and not the universal experience of everyone in a wheelchair. Spinal Cord Injury is expensive. From a necessary house remodel to make your living situation wheelchair accessible, to higher than necessary medical expenses for bowel/bladder supplies. Don't forget the 3-month back and fourth with insurance as to why it is necessary for them to approve a wheelchair for your daily use. Everything seems to be a nightmare at the beginning, and that nightmare has a lot of dollar signs in front of it. Even my saving grace is exorbitant--the cost of a Bowhead bike is roughly $20k.
But BowHead Corp. wants to change that, and they're working with organizations across North America (and beyond) to get more people on out of their wheelchairs and onto our bikes. Our recent partnership with BluEarth Renewables, for example, allowed non-profit sports and recreation charity Rocky Mountain Adaptive to own a Bowhead bike for their athletes. Watch this video
to be inspired and see how much these bikes have the ability to impact the lives of the people they're meant to serve.
We don't want this to be the only bike we're able to bestow on deserving athletes. If you, like us, believe in the power of the outdoors and mountain sports to heal, to connect, to improve this world from the inside out, the team at BowHead are happy to speak to you about how you can empower this movement. From partnering with you on charitable giving to sharing inspiring presentations with your employees, we give you the opportunity to help people reach the highest peaks possible. Let's create something amazing together.