Happiness on the Trail for Amputees, Adaptive Athletes
The key to making sports more enjoyable is doing it with a friendly and relatable group. Ampt Biking offers this camaraderie and more to amputees who want to mountain bike.
Ampt Biking was established by Matthew Beall, a mountain biker and congenital amputee. Beall first got into adaptive biking as a kid but let go of the hobby as soon as life became busy. He picked up biking again in 2008 when he needed a fun way to shed some extra pounds.
While Beall didn’t go through the shock and trauma that comes with coping with sudden limb loss, he has had several revision surgeries on his right leg, and he suffers from back surgeries and chronic pain. He understands why most people living with limb loss tend to isolate themselves. Meanwhile, others struggle with depression and other mental health issues.
According to Beall, riding a bike helped him forget about his worries and insecurities. While biking with other like-minded individuals, being overweight or missing a leg ceased to matter to him. They were all just friends enjoying the outdoors.
This realization was the turning point for Beall. He realized that he has the power to share the joy of the outdoors and biking with other amputees. Beall thought that if mountain biking helped him stay motivated and happy, maybe it could do the same for others.
Beall founded Ampt Biking in January as an organization that seeks to encourage and empower amputees through biking. The organization aims to show amputees, especially those who have just undergone amputation surgery, that life is not over, and there are numerous ways to enjoy the great outdoors.
Ampt Biking is currently registered as an LLC and a for-profit organization. Headquartered in Estes Park, Colorado, the organization hosts biking events that offer breathtaking views or rough and rugged trails. During events, Ampt Biking offers shuttle services to trails in and around the Estes Park area.
First biking event
Ampt Biking held its first event, Pedals and Prosthetics, in August. Beall initially scheduled the event in June, but with the COVID-19 pandemic, the event needed to be postponed.
A dozen adaptive riders joined, composed of first-timers and experienced mountain bikers. The participants quickly warmed up to each other as they talked about their riding experience (or lack thereof), medical operations, and challenges with their prosthetic limbs.
One of the participants is a below-the-elbow amputee. He wore a prosthesis with a Boa dial to secure it to his residual limb. The prosthetic arm attaches onto the right side of the bike’s handlebar while the brake levers, twist-shifter, and dropper post were on the left side. A cord is also rigged to the right side of the handlebar so he can quickly disengage his prosthetic arm from the bike in case he crashes. He has been mountain biking for approximately eight years. The Boa dial is an excellent addition to his biking setup, which boosted his confidence on the trail.
Another participant is partially paralyzed and a long-time mountain biker. He rides a three-wheeled bike that runs by spinning a set of cranks by hand. His trike is custom-made, and it features a high and low gear. When he steers uphill, he uses his chest to control the direction of the wheels.
The US Paralympic Team’s coach Mike Durner was also at the event as a volunteer. He was a great help to the first-time mountain bikers.
Adaptive biking tips
Beall recommends a prosthetic leg that absorbs energy, like the BioDapt Versa Foot 2. The mechanical prosthetic foot features a built-in Fox shock. Furthermore, prosthetic users can set the damping and rebound and even attach cleats to the soles.
The founder of BioDapt, Mike Schultz, also attended Ampt Biking’s first event. Schultz is a top-level athlete who went through above-knee (AK) amputation after an accident at a snowmobile race.
After the event, Schultz shared his story with the other participants. He encouraged them to look for anything that makes them happy and see how far they can take it. He said it will make them smile and motivate them physically and mentally—two things that Ampt Biking also aims to do for others.Beall plans to hold another Pedals and Prosthetics event next summer, but nothing is concrete yet. Eventually, Beall dreams of expanding Ampt Biking to other locations.