Big Dreams, Fulfilled
Next time you get out of bed and don’t feel like exercising, remember this story.
Way back in 1983, I ran a bike shop called Bikenergy. I was a young punk back then and I was just beginning to build custom frames in the old way–Columbus SL tubing, Nervex investment cast lugs, silver solder…you get the picture. One day, a man in his 20’s walked into the shop; right away I was taken aback. Cyril was born without arms below the elbows and without legs below the knees. He walked on low-tech prosthetics. He came straight up to me and said, “I understand you can help me fulfill my dream. I want to ride a bike.”
As I looked at Cyril’s physical challenges and pondered this incredulous wish, I realized that regardless of the high degree of probability that both he and I would fail–we had to try. So, after spending several sessions interviewing Cyril, taking measurements, testing his range of movement, mobility and ability, we came up with a plan.
I would take a stock Miyata mountain bike and fabricate the necessary modifications to adapt and customize the bike for Cyril’s abilities. Using high-end Columbus tubing, I made a special braking mechanism that would allow him to stop using his prosthetic knees. I then fitted “hi-riser” bars, grab-on foam pads, and special gear shifters so that Cyril could steer and shift. As we tested the fit inside the shop I kept wondering, “Can he actually ride this contraption?”
We took the rig to a local park. Cyril has the most practical and positive attitude of anyone I have ever met. He got on the bike and rode it…then crashed. No harm done; so we tweaked the set-up, tried again and again; and after the third time, Cyril rode around the grass clearing and came back with a huge, beaming smile.
Cyril rode that bike for some years. I left the bike business in 1989 and, after that, I lost touch with Cyril.
Serendipity: I cycled to Port Credit with my wife, Michele, last weekend (30 years after this story started). Who do we see riding? Yup. My buddy Cyril–on the SAME BIKE I made for him 30 years ago! After warm greetings, Cyril told me that other than a tune up once a year, he has happily ridden over 1000km a year–EVERY YEAR–since I set him up. Cyril is now my age (old) yet he remains in great shape and, despite what would seem like obvious limitations, he has continued to enjoy the freedom and thrill of riding a bike.
So, a huge shout out to Cyril and other dreamers, schemers and nerds, who relish the chance to ride and tinker on bikes.
Howard Chang explores life with passion and curiosity. He’s a photographer, avid cyclist, snow boarder, adventure sport enthusiast, and the President & CEO of Top Drawer Creative – the first dedicated full-service ad agency to earn BCorp certification in Canada. Howard helped found the AHAA Living community; he’s a huge advocate of healthy and socially responsible living, living his life and running his business by that mantra. Follow him on Twitter @adcycle.