Feel Good

Paralyzed Sportsman Designed A Bike That Lets Him Explore the Wild Again

In 1996, Christian Bagg’s life changed forever. A lover of sports like biking and snowboarding, he was participating in a boarding competition when he landed hard. The fall partially severed his spinal cord and broke three of his vertebrae. He couldn’t walk, but he also suffered from uncontrollable leg spasms, some so severe, they actually dislocated his hips. For two years, he slept in a fetal position to prevent his legs from spasming and take a huge cocktail of drugs.

Finally, a surgeon suggested they just sever what was left of the spinal cord. It would stop the spasms, but it would mean beyond a doubt that Christian would never be able to walk. However, Christian decided it was the best thing to do. Without the spasms, he was free to learn his favorite sports again, like skiing in a sitting position, skydiving, and rock-climbing. However, he missed bike trips in the mountains, which were too challenging with a normal chair.

Wheelchair design has significantly improved over the years

Using his skills as a professional machinist, Christian started to work on a bike that fit his needs. He built version after version, none which seemed to click, and then the 3D printer arrived. Instead of making everything by hand, which took weeks, he could print out new parts in just hours. Christian made another breakthrough, too: bike flexibility. If the bike was too rigid, it would tip once he hit rocks or stumps, but if it wasn’t sturdy enough, going over rough mountain terrain was dangerous. He solved the problem by building a bike with front wheels that basically perform like knee joints. This allows the bike to keep its balance on uneven ground and not tip over with tree stumps or rocks.

The final design was released in 2017. The bike’s name: The Icon Explore. On its website, the description’s first line reads, “This thing rips!” The Icon Wheelchairs company (founded in 2010) is managed by Christian, Jeff Adams, and Rick Hayden, all of whom survived severe spinal injuries, but refused to let that hold them back.