Tyler Keith – STRAE
I was injured 17 years ago, almost 18, July of 1995. A drunk driver came out of nowhere and knocked me and my friends off the road and I was thrown out of the truck. Turns out, the drunk driver was in a stolen car. They came back, put us in their stolen car, drove us to the Selkirk hospital and just left us out on the steps of the hospital. It was kind of surreal…
Before my accident, I ran track and field like it was my life. I was on the Canadian team, the Junior team, working away at it. I was supposed to go to school in the United States, but I had my accident. I started wheelchair racing right away, but that hurt my back again. I was constantly hurting my back. I wasn’t able to play sports. I mean, I haven’t been able to play any sports… Can’t play basketball, can’t play rugby, can’t play anything… for the last four years now I guess. I was going crazy thinking “What can I do? I want to do something.” I thought about playing sledge hockey, but it’s just too hard on my back. Everything’s too hard on the back. I found out about STRAE and Freedom Concepts, and more importantly, how they’re coming out with customizable handcycles, which was perfect. They took into account how my back was fragile and built a bike around that fact. That’s comforting to me. Knowing that I would be able to get out and do stuff, I had to jump at the opportunity.
Coming from a competitive background… it sucks not doing it, not being competitive anymore, at least now I’m a little older now but, I can still ride and there’s still other stuff I can do. You don’t see me being world champion, but at least I can get out. It’s better than sitting in the house all day. The biggest thing is just getting outside. I have tons of nieces and nephews and they’re all out riding their bikes and doing all sorts of fun things. So now, I can be right there with them. I can take them out, instead of just sitting there and watching them.
Health-wise, there are so many benefits. Going from sitting at home all the time, not being able to get out and stay active, you know. Embracing this lifestyle, it’s going to help. I’m outside now, every day. The bike really has me back into that athletic mindset. Getting any kid… just one kid out there, instead of bring resigned to a life of sitting at home or sitting in a wheelchair, being able to give that to kids is awesome. Even me, I’m happy every time I think about how I can actually get out and participate. I’ve spent a lot of time sitting around, doing nothing, “Doctor’s orders,” it’s unbelievably boring. Say you’re a father and have kids and then you get in an accident… You can still go hang out with your kids, you can still go biking with your kids, and you can still go do all the things you want to do.
Why Superman? It’s just always been. Luckily, I was old enough to see the first Superman in theatres so it was “like my favorite movie ever”. I even knocked all of my teeth out when I was a kid growing up, trying to be Superman. I’m a huge Superman fan. My wall is covered with Superman. Superman everything! I’ve got a brand-new framed Superman blanket with a batman blanket framed right beside it. When I walked in and saw my bike I was like “WOW”. I’m still in awe every time I see it. It definitely defined me. Everyone knows me by Superman, my old truck had the Superman emblem on it, the dashboard had the big huge Krypto dog, and yeah, it worked out perfectly. That’s the thing, if you guys had the “design your own bike” function on your website, my bike would’ve turned out exactly the way it was.
It’s awesome, it’s comfortable. That’s my main thing, is comfort. If you’re competing, you need to be on a bike for at least two hours. If your bike isn’t comfortable to sit in for that long, then you probably won’t stand the test of time. It’s easy to get in-and-out of, there’s not a lot of strain getting in-and-out, and it’s all around comfortable. When I’m sitting there, it’s how I would sit at home. If I’m having a bad day, I get leg spasms sometimes, and that’s the position I’ll sit in at home. It’s super comfortable.
I love mentioning how they built the bike around me. That’s the coolest thing. I literally sat on the ground on a piece of cardboard, they drew the map of me, made the seat panel, and built the bike around that. Yeah, it worked out amazingly. I mean, if you have Spina Bifida, to be able to buy a bike where you can position your legs where you like, that will be a big help to people.
A lot of the time, the cookie cutter bikes, they’re great, but not everybody is cookie cutter, a lot drip over the edges. That’s what impressed me the most, is how the bike was basically built around me, as opposed to modified for me. A lot of stuff you get, it’s not really built for you, it’s modified for you. And there’s a big difference.