NEW NORMAL: After losing both his legs, his right arm and three fingers in his remaining hand while serving in Afghanistan, “Flip” Klein found a rewarding challenge in adaptive cycing.   

We all use our bodies differently. On a bike, we adjust seat height or brake levers to establish an individual fit, making our pedal strokes more efficient and our ride more comfortable. For riders with different abilities — like an amputation, spinal cord injury or hemiplegia from a stroke — similar adjustments help them reach their goal, be that summiting a climb or crossing the finish line. The elements of adaptive and able-bodied cycling are the same: gears, brakes, rider, road or trail. The experience is the same. The challenge is the same.

Finding his sport

Meet Edward “Flip” Klein, Army Major (Ret.) who currently lives in Washington and is likely ripping downhill on his mountain bike at this moment. In October 2012, while deployed in Afghanistan, Flip stepped on a dismounted IED and lost both legs above the knee, his right arm above the elbow, and three fingers in his remaining hand.

“Adaptive sport is a cool way to selectively add challenge back into your life.”

Searching for a summer sport that gave a similar thrill as downhill skiing, Flip joined Semper Fi Fund for a four-day adaptive mountain biking trip at the National Ability Center, an industry leader in world-class adaptive recreation and outdoor adventures for individuals of differing abilities in Park City, Utah.

Reclaiming the challenge

“When you are fully able, most people put challenges in their life because they like a challenge,” Flip said. “When you become disabled, often the goal is to remove all the challenges from your life. Adaptive sport is a cool way to selectively add challenge back into your life.”

The landscape whips by, there’s wind in your face and grease on your skin; cycling able-bodied provides the same invigorating sensations as adaptive cycling. A bike is a bike, whether there’s two wheels or three, or you use hands or feet to pedal it.