For someone in a wheelchair there is nothing more liberating than getting off the pavement and into the woods, fields, or mountains.
About a week ago I got an offroad handcycle, the equivalent of a mountain bike. These machines have become a lot more popular in the last 5 or so years. What was once something that people would just weld themselves in their garage has turned into a pretty hot market. At the KBF we have been getting more and more requests for funding for these bikes because they are both really expensive ($7,500 as a base price) and really fun!
For me, there are 2 reasons that this has been an incredible new experience. First, it allows me to get off the pavement. Sure I’m really active with road handcycling and play tennis sometimes, but these are on solid surfaces. Even golf is on a manicured surface (not exactly nature!). This is a sentiment we get from a lot of applicants to our Adaptive Sports Equipment Grant program (see a new KBF blog here about Anna, a girl about my age in the Pacific Northwest who just took delivery of her new offroad handcycle!). It’s about identity, freedom, nature. Everything we think of when we say we want to “get outside” (more on this below).
Second, getting this bike has allowed me to reflect on and appreciative what my Middlebury Ski Team teammates did for me right after my injury back in 2006. The very first Kelly Brush Ride was planned by my teammates on the Middlebury Ski Team to raise money so I could buy a monoski and get back on the hill with them. With a goal of around $10,000, they ended up raising over $60,000! I’ve continued to be able to use that money over the last 11+ years to buy adaptive sports equipment. We just used the last $8,000 to buy this offroad handcycle. When I read grant applications for the KBF a common sentiment is that people want to get back to doing what they love, exploring the world actively, and being an athlete. I feel like the Middlebury Ski Team made all of this possible for me because I’ve had the ability to participate in so many adaptive activities. I forever feel indebted to the people who raised money for me that year. That’s what we at the KBF try to do for anyone else with a spinal cord injury.
But back to my experiences getting out on the handcycle these last couple of weeks:
For my second ride on the new whip this past weekend I went to Snake Mountain here in Vermont. This is a mountain that we used to hike when I was in college but (obviously) haven’t done in years. Zeke has hiked it a few times over the years and thought it would be a good place for the offroad handcycle. The trail is wide and without any technical rock sections that would be hard to navigate. What we didn’t account for was the mud. Mud, mud, mud. It has rained a TON in Vermont this summer. Which made it harder than we expected. Zeke helped (with Dylan on his back) and we made it to the top! It was so much fun and such an amazing adventure to be out in the woods! I can’t wait to see where we can explore.
The few times that I’ve been out on my bike Zeke has been hiking with Dylan in a backpack. I go about his speed uphill but obviously a lot faster downhill. It has been a great compromise so far though; I love that we are out in the woods with Dylan! Our dog, Lexi, has also been on these adventures, it’s been so fun to have the whole family out in the woods! I know I have a lot to learn (I’ve been told, and now understand, that there is a lot of technique to mountain biking), but I’m so excited about this new activity that I can share with my whole family!