BACK ON THE BIKE
Photography and Words by JP Gendron
Brought to you by SR SUNTOUR
At the beginning of 2018, Paul Basagoitia, former professional Slopestyle and Freeride Mountain Bike athlete, found himself less than 3 years out from a life-changing spinal cord injury suffered in competition at Red Bull Rampage, once again standing in front of a bike. Despite the very dim initial odds of ever walking again, Paul had managed to get back on his feet through determination and rigorous physical therapy- now walking with the assistance of a cane. A flurry of excitement and terror filled his emotion at the prospect of riding again. For the majority of his life he would have looked at his bike seeking to be the very best in his field. This time, the thought shifted to, “Can I actually ride this thing?”
If unfamiliar with the details of Paul’s story, the HBO Documentary “Any One of Us” is an in-depth glimpse into Paul’s life immediately after his injury at Rampage, and the many harsh realities of spinal cord injuries.
For Paul, the thought of ever riding a bike again seemed absurd in his post-injury world. If you can hardly feel your feet, how can you ride a bike? How would the pedal stroke work? Will your feet stay on the pedals? What happens if you crash? It is worth it? The inner debate raged, with a clear answer seemingly evident: No. Not safe, not possible, not worth it. Carrying on with life and recovery removed from his greatest passion in life, as well as from the mountain bike community he had been so deeply connected to, seemed inevitable.
The persistent itch to ride only remained, and he found himself finally coasting downhill, feeling again the joy of riding a bike. Pedaling being the real trick, having spotty feeling in his lower legs and feet making him feel unstable and insecure about riding. When a friend presented him with opportunity to try an electric mountain bike he found a greater stability and confidence in his control of the machine, and a wide door of possibilities reopened.
In “Back On The Bike,” Paul shares his journey returning to mountain biking and his new future.
With special thanks to Envelo and Park City Bike Demos.