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Name: Tom Sayre
Hometown: Warrenton, Oregon (Northern Oregon Coast)
Time Cycling: 50 years
Reason for Cycling: I cycle for the love of cycling, the challenge of every ascent, the excitement of each downhill, and all the discoveries that are made along the flats. The exercise is good, too!
Like most kids in rural towns, I began cycling at an early age for recreation and transportation. We would make obstacle courses, jumps, or find steep hills for fun. Also, where I grew up, you’d need to pedal a few miles to see your friends or go to the store.
I really haven’t stopped riding since I began around the age of 7, except for a period of time after I broke my back. On one sunny day in the mid 1980s when I was in my early 20s, I returned to my hometown of Scholls, Oregon. Some friends and I were riding our bikes in the forest alongside the Tualatin River. We were riding in an old abandoned open-pit clay mine, where some friends had made a large half-pipe.
I was riding a Diamondback BMX when I dropped into the mine. My foot slipped off the pedal and, as I tried to regain my positioning, my center of gravity was up too high and I rotated in the air. Then, I landed on the ground on the back side of my shoulders. I broke my back in three places and sustained spinal cord injuries. I can still remember lying on the ground, with a paramedic over me, telling another medic, “He’s not going to make it, better call life-flight.” Well, I’m still here, and I am still pedaling.
I spent a few months in a hospital, then was transferred to the region’s leading facility, Legacy Rehabilitation Institute of Oregon in Portland, where I stayed another few months as an in-patient. I had to relearn most everything. By the time I left rehab, I was nearly self-sufficient, including going down seven stair steps, by myself, in my wheelchair.
After finishing therapy, I returned back to college and graduated, which is where I found handcycling.
Today, handcycling is very prevalent. There are adaptive mountain biking trails, competitions, group rides, a variety of manufacturers and a cycle for each type of riding. Back then, it was rare to see one or even hear about them. Much has changed.
One of the early leaders in handcycling manufacturing, Freedom Ryder, was based in the city where I lived. After one test ride, I knew I had to have one! They set me up with a rock solid handcycle that has stood the test of time.
There have been times in my life when I’ve cycled daily to and from work, cycled for exercise, and I have always cycled for fun. There also have been a few points where my cycle has gathered dust—but it’s been awhile since that happened.
I’ve never competed in any races, but always felt if I did, I’d do very well. I classify myself as a recreational cyclist that enjoys the journey. I’d much rather stop to take a picture or enjoy the moment than to worry about my average speed.
For more than 30 years, I’ve enjoyed being fully engaged in parks and trails. I’m very fortunate to have many amazing multi-use trails in our immediate area! Each one offers scenic views and abundant wildlife encounters. After each ride, I feel recharged both physically and mentally.
I’m not just a user, but also a contributor. Currently, I’m serving on Oregon State’s Accessibility Standards and Design Guidelines Advisory Committee, helping the state draft its first standards for accessible outdoor recreation. I also currently serve on the Oregon Outdoor Recreation Committee and Clatsop County’s Recreational Lands Advisory Committee.
Probably one of the most interesting projects that I’ve been involved with recently was a stint serving on the Salmonberry Trail River and Canyon Plan Review Committee. When completed, this 84-mile multi-use trail will connect the Willamette Valley to the Oregon Coast utilizing a historic railroad line.
I avoid cycling on roads because of the obvious hazards (especially being wide and low to the ground), coupled with peoples’ reactions. I understand the novelty of seeing someone on a handcycle, but sometimes that feeling of being on constant display can be bothersome.
If you see an adaptive cyclist struggling, don’t be afraid to offer a hand or foot, but don’t be offended if that offer isn’t accepted. Everyone’s comfort level for accepting help is different. I know I was sure grateful for the family who helped me for a few months ago after I flipped over.
For 30 years, I’ve been using the same heavy, steel Freedom Ryder Handcycle. There’s not much left that’s original; everything wears out with time and use. This is about to change, as three months ago, I ordered a Maddiline Crosswind Xe. The Italians are legionary cycle builders and I’m patiently awaiting my new handcycle to be delivered in February or March!
Having just purchased a new handcycle, I also quickly learned that the profit margins on the sales of handcycles are hyper-inflated, and you can save thousands of dollars (on the same cycle with the same options) by shopping around.
I cycle every week. Sometimes it’s difficult to get going, especially in bad weather, but I’ve never regretted a single ride! When I get my new handcycle, my goal is to step it up to twice a week.
I go through the same processes as most people do for each ride. Dress for the current weather and anticipate change, fuel up, and hydrate. Although there are a few other considerations due to my injury.
With poor circulation in my lower extremities, I pay special attention to keeping my legs and feet warm. As a diabetic, I also must closely monitor my blood sugar levels before, during, and after riding. Of course, getting on and off the handcycle is another challenge, because I don’t have any mobility below my armpits.
One of my motivators is sharing the cycling experience with my kids and creating the next generation of responsible cyclists. As a full-time dad, and as their homeschool teacher, it’s a rare opportunity to spend quality one-on-one time with just one of my triplets. Each week, I get out on the trails with just one son at a time. That time is priceless!
These three tips have made my cycling journey a success:
1. Don’t give up
I have a special relationship with cycling. Because of cycling, I’m a paraplegic, and because of handcycling, I live a more fulfilled life.
2. Never say you “can’t”
Do what makes you happy; life can be short! I know this better than most and choose to find happiness.
3. Stop the excuses
Don’t let your “excuses” transition into regret. At my age, there’s always an ache, pain, bad weather, or lack of time that could potentially derail your ride.
Tom’s Must-Have Gear
→ Bontrager Ion 200 RT/Flare RT Light Set: It’s nice to be seen when you’re riding low to the ground.
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