Thursday, December 1, 2016

Explore Adaptive Mountain Biking at "Knobby Tire" Event

Swapping wheels to knobby tires is just the beginning of improving access to rugged trails. Then come the adaptive models that accommodate people with various disabilities. These designs are ever evolving and the Knobby Tire Ride and Roll is a unique event where you can try out a variety of adaptive mountain bikes and get out on the trail! Thanks to DCR's Universal Access Outreach Specialist Laila Soleimani for checking out the following event in Carlisle, Massachusetts and writing this post!
I had the wonderful opportunity to attend an event called the ‘Knobby Tire Ride and Roll’ at Great Brook Farm State Park this fall. Knobby Tire is a fundraiser for Empower SCI, a non-profit organization, co-founded in 2012 by Carrie Callahan, providing therapeutic services to individuals with spinal cord injuries. The fundraiser is an all-ability trail ride event with all proceeds raised going directly towards Empower SCIs residential rehabilitation program.
This program offers an annual two week residential rehab program, now in its fifth year, bringing together professionals in July to help participants with spinal cord injuries learn the tools they need to live more independently. I was amazed to learn that since Empower was established, not a single staff member has been paid and that all of these professionals volunteer their time!
Zoe Norcross from Spaulding Adaptive Sports Center kicked things off by giving the group an equipment fitting demonstration. The raffle prize table was filled with awesome items donated by  Cannondale, Eastern Mountain Sports, The Roots Channel and other businesses.  Food was served by volunteers! Bike-On brought adaptive bikes for participants to use, Northeast Passage brought adaptive hiking chairs, and Cycle Loft was on deck to provide mechanical support. Adaptive equipment demonstrations took place throughout the day as more and more riders showed up. The Ice Trike Full Fat cycle Bike-On brought was popular amongst fundraiser attendees. This recumbent cycle has fat tires adapted for riding over rugged trails and whatever elements one might encounter.
The Knobby Tire fundraiser was inspired by Ryan DeRoche. I first had the pleasure of meeting Ryan at one of our adaptive skating programs in Brockton last winter. Ryan told me that he fell in love with mountain biking at very young age, where his passion for the sport eventually led him to mountain bike racing. After sustaining a spinal cord injury in 2011, he was hesitant to get back on the trails. His friends at Empower took him out at Middlesex Fells Reservation in his manual chair in 2014 for the first time since his accident. 
They tied ropes to the front of it and pulled me through the orange trail. It was so liberating and healing to be in the woods. It was always a very comforting place for me. That was the first time I felt that comfort since my injury in 2011,” said DeRoche.
This amazing experience helped Ryan realize that it was still possible to participate in the sport he loved so much. “That day I went home to look for a mountain bike that would allow me to get out on the trails without the need of ropes and 4 other people.” It is Ryan’s hope that others with spinal cord injuries can have similar experiences and he continues to spread this message through events like the Knobby Tire fundraiser, which he said is “designed to get people back to the woods in whatever way they can.”
As the day began winding down, I felt proud to have been part of such an incredible group of people and such an awesome day. Given the great success of the ‘Knobby Tire Ride and Roll’ fundraiser, Empower plans to host the event again next September for the third consecutive year. I had a blast at this fundraiser and cannot wait for next year’s! If you’d like to get involved, please contact Carrie Callahan at ccallahan@empowersci.org.

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