Nineteen year old Steve Chapman had just washed his dirt bike and was taking it out for one last joy ride before selling it when the front fork broke. It sent him propelling out over the handlebars, flipping him and slamming him into a tree. His lung collapsed and the impact of the blow shattered his spinal cord. He laid there for fourteen hours, through rain, hail, thunder and lightning.
He had passed a neighbor’s farm right before the accident and had waved to the farmer as he performed a wheelie. That farmer’s dog was going ballistic all night long, barking at the injured Steve who lay so close to the house. The dog’s owner just yelled to the dog to hush up. Because of his collapsed lung, Steve could not yell for help, yet he was conscious.
It was very hard that first year for paralyzed Steve for he spent four months in the hospital recovering, but he soon began to play wheelchair basketball and won the national championship with the Grand Rapids Pacers. He could hold the ball high above his head for his torso and arms were so long- his frame measured 6 feet 4 inches. After the Vietnam War, high tech equipment was developed and wheelchair basketball began. Now they are using high tech gear for bicycles and wheelchairs.
“Getting into shape helped me. The wheel chair just became an extension of my body.” Steve’s mom took his accident the hardest although she said, “God knew what he was doing when he made your arms so long.”
Steve and his bike are incredibly long and when I first saw him in Brick Wheels Cycle Shop in Traverse City, Michigan, he seemed to take up the whole store! His bike cost $10,000 and was manufactured by Top End, which makes tennis wheelchairs (which turn on a dime) hand crank bicycles, etc. Once they receive their bikes/chairs from the Florida based company, they get no support. They have to seek out bike shops like Travese City’s Brick Wheels to help them.
Steve’s bicycle is aerodynamic. His field of vision is obstructed by his crank and he has to look around it. Still Steve sits very low to the ground and his butt often hits when he has to go over a crack or a bump on the trail or road. His bike has only a very few inches of clearance. His hands get sweaty turning the crank and the aluminum hand pedals get slippery so he must wear gloves. But he can easily put fifty-two miles on his bike in one day and accumulated 1500 last year. Traverse City is a bike-friendly community (thanks largely to Tim Brick, owner of Brick Wheels Cycles). They LOOK for cyclists on the road.
Steve has been riding with his son Dylan, who is now 14 years old. Dylan runs a very fast 22 MPH pace and Steve only averages a respectable 15-18! He will have to step up his game!
Steve has great balance. Besides his bike, Steve rides 4-wheeler and snow mobiles, but he can’t use his stomach muscles.
He has ridden the IRide- Independent Ride across Michigan – a 4 day ride with the Disability Network, which helps physically challenged riders like Steve accomplish their goals.
“Everyone takes their accident differently. I go to hospitals and talk to accident victims. It helps both of us for you can always find someone worse than yourself. “
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