Why I Ride

Enjoy James Davis’s entry winning story!

I ride my bike because I can.  

 In 2006, on Spring Break as a teacher, I broke my right fibula and tibia (shin and calf bones) in multiple places while skiing for the first time in my life near Boulder, CO.  Swelling was so great that I was losing blood flow and nerve function below my knee.  Surgery was scheduled immediately to try to save my leg and stabilize the bones.  When I went into surgery, the surgeon would not confirm that I would keep my leg at all or what they planned to do to my bones.  She only would promise to do her best.  When I woke up, all I wanted to know was if I still had 2 legs and what surgery procedure they decided to perform.  One metal plate and 9 screws still hold my tibia (shin bone) together.  They were able to manipulate my fibula parts close enough to not justify cutting my calf muscle to reach it.  

 When I got home, I asked my physical therapist to help me learn to walk without a limp, only to be told that I was asking for the wrong outcome.  They would try to help me walk without a cane.  I taught the rest of the school year and through summer school from a wheelchair.  

 Fast forward several months of physical therapy, when I was told by the same physical therapist that I had made enough progress to try a recumbent exercise bicycle to try to increase flexibility in my knee and encourage bone growth.  I was to try a few strokes, but I was not to turn the pedals for a full revolution yet.  My knee would not bend enough for that.  I still walked using crutches and dreamed of healing.  As I slowly progressed, adding time on the bike, I set goals of total 360 degree pedal revolutions, then minutes, then riding outside.  That fall, I graduated from crutches to a cane.  

 When I was cleared by my orthopedist to ride my own bike outside, it was with the freedom that I felt when I was 10 and could ride my bike at will around the neighborhood.  Still using a cane off the bike, I rode as much as I could and somehow became aware of the annual cross-Kansas bike ride, Biking Across Kansas.  I had a new dream in cycling: to ride all the way across Kansas.

 My first BAK trip was 2008.  I felt so good riding that I extended mileage one day to ride a century, something I never dreamed of until I started talking to long-time BAK riders.  Arriving at the Missouri state line, I felt like I was superhuman.  On the last night of the ride, BAK staff voted me the recipient of their “Spirit of BAK” award.  More importantly to me, I had finished the ride.  The first thing my wife noticed when she saw me at the Missouri line was that I had somehow shed my limp when I walked.  For some reason, riding 600 miles in 8 days had the unexpected outcome of helping my walk in a straight line without limping.  

  I have returned each year since, to visit with my biking friends, challenge myself physically and mentally, and enjoy the outdoor riding.  “Training” for BAK and “buying supplies” for BAK is a year-long event for my family and myself.  My wife and our 4 girls enjoy travelling across Kansas on the route too, driving to see quirky Kansas attractions, seeing the countryside, and visiting friends, and family.  

 In short, riding a bike was an unattainable rehabilitation goal, then exercise, and now part of my life.  I still limp slightly when I walk, but it improves during the spring and summer when I ride more.  As an Emporia resident, I have marveled at the DK200 riders as the superheroes of sport that they are.  It would be a dream to join them, riding from my home, to prove to myself that I can.  I certainly won’t challenge any records and may not even finish, but my personal triumphs and failures biking have taught me that DNF (Did Not Finish) is a personal medal infinitely more important than DNS (Did Not Start).

James Davis


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