“My father never encouraged me to join the military but hearing my brother’s stories about the marines and Larry’s stories of Vietnam and flying helicopters had a big influence on me,” Way said.“I also admired the discipline and honor I saw in them and the respect that other people gave them. I also saw the bonds that military service created between veterans and thought that I wanted to be like them.”
While serving in Afghanistan Way was exposed to multiple blasts, causing severe brain trauma and hearing loss. He also suffered meniscus tears to both knees and ruptured disc in his back while pulling a fellow soldier out of a vehicle. The last injury was the most debilitating, however, when a grenade exploded near him as shrapnel and dirt got into his leg, which led to infections and Way almost losing his leg.
“I almost died as a result”, the 51-year-old Way said. Twenty-eight surgeries later, Way elected to have his right leg amputated above the knee to stop the infections and get back to get back to the activities he loved.
Cycling in his blood too
Way has been cycling since he was 5 years old when he received an old bike from a cousin. That led him to his first BMX bike and riding at the local track and in the woods. Way bought his first mountain bike in college and never looked back—competing in several regional races in and around his native Savannah, Georgia. He even competed at the NORBA nationals in Helen, Georgia in 1994.
“I got a mountain bike while I was in Afghanistan and would ride it on trails near our firebase and sometimes in the minefields,” Way said.
After his injuries and losing his leg he began hand cycling. But he needed more, so he was fitted with a prosthetic and got back on the mountain bike.
Way attended the 2016 Fall Cyclofest in Charlotte, North Carolina, and brought his hand cycle to help him navigate the terrain a bit easier. He passed by the Haibike booth and stopped to check out their eBikes.
“Ken Miner suggested I try one just for fun,” Way said. “Once I started I realized how much the eBike made me feel normal again on a bike.”
After a few minutes getting acquainted with his eMTB, Way was back in the woods riding the technical trails he only had dreamt of riding again. “I ran into my son in the woods and our shop mechanic and I was able to ride with them. That was a feeling I didn’t think I would have again,” Way said.
When Way went back to the Haibike booth he told them how amazing his experience had been. Miner told him to keep it for the day. “With some practice I was beating my son up hills!” Way added. “It honestly brought tears to my eyes to be riding with my son again.”
For anyone with health issues, Way said, the eBike is a tool that lets people get out and cycle without pain and stress on the body. It also acts as a tremendous rehab tool for those recovering from injury. Or for those that just want to ride more trails in less time.
“I have sacrificed a lot of personal freedom in defending our freedom and the eBike gives me some of that back,” Way said.