During the infant stages of Achilles Pikes Peak, our organization thrived within a decentralized structure. Now, four years later, the benefits of this environment still ring true to this day. Rather than a concrete hierarchy of decision making, the varied ideas and talents of our many of our members, mixed with just the right amount of chaos, has allowed us to grow in ways we couldn’t have anticipated in the beginning.  In The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations, Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom refer to this model as a starfish organization. Whereas a spider organization has a head with a clear hierarchy of neural control, a starfish model contains neural pathways that are distributed throughout it’s limbs. Within groups, this unconventional model allows for diversified contributions, dispersed responsibilities, and a shared ownership in growth. If we follow this metaphor and consider Achilles Pikes Peak as a starfish, Rodger Reddish constitutes one of our arms. He is the arm, or leg, that is, of course, pedaling a trike.

Rodger initially joined Achilles Pikes Peak to walk, but it didn’t take long before he began sharing his passion for cycling. He now serves on our board, heads the recumbent trike program, and remains a tremendous advocate in helping others find accessible ways to experience the joys of pedaling.

One final analogy: Achilles Pikes Peak is a tire wheel whose structure and strength come from the many spokes that reach out in different directions. One of those spokes happens to go by the name, “Rodger.” You can’t miss it. It’s the one adorned with the glowing monkey lights. We hope you enjoy Rodger’s story, in his words.

Rodger instructs Achilles Pikes Peak athlete, Jim, on the basics of handcycles.

How It Feels To Ride A Recumbent Trike

“I don’t know what it feels like, to put it in words. But when I am on the trike, I AM Rodger. It’s something that everybody should experience.”

 

Earliest Memory of Riding a Bicycle

“3rd grade. Because I rode it to school. From my house it was a 3 mile trip, but for an elementary kid to do that when they’re supposed to be riding the bus, it kind of equaled, shall we say, parental punishment. I took it on my own. I’m going to ride [a bicycle] to school and I was supposed to ride the bus, like everybody else.”

“When I was in the 8th grade, we moved to a location in the San Joaquin Valley, north of Bakersfield but south of Fresno. The moving van unloaded our bicycles. We went for a ride and pushed them home. Goatheads, thorns. And when the guy came to install the telephone, Homer Wilson, he said, “No problem, I own the only bicycle shop in the area.” We took the bikes in and got to his place on a Saturday and there was a line of people from his doorknob to the street waiting for service. And my mom turned to me and said, ‘You know what, if you can take apart your bicycle, you can take apart theirs and get paid for it.’ So starting in the beginning of 8th grade, I worked for Homer Wilson. I made $5 a weekend. Not bad for an 8th grader in that era. Mr. Wilson showed me a couple things… how to take things apart or put them back together, stuff like that. I was welding by Christmastime of 8th grade.”

“I don’t know where I got it from. The mechanical sense is part mathematical ’cause you can’t do it if you don’t have math. It’s innate engineering. As you know, not everybody can strum a guitar. Not everybody can true a wheel with spokes and whatnot.”

 

On Surgery to Repair a Congenital Heart Defect.

“I had heart surgery when I was in the 8th grade and never had a PE class until I was in the 9th grade. Patent Ductus Arteriosus is the formal name, PDA. I didn’t know how to do team sports because other children started doing team sports when they were in the 3rd, 4th, 5th grades.”

“It was like a new life. Before [surgery] I couldn’t swim a swimming pool length without being wheezed and out of breath or whatever. I couldn’t run the length of a football field. You have no idea what it’s like to go from the kid that was not permitted to have PE to having the door opened. When you’ve never had PE and then all of the sudden you go, ‘Wow, there’s the world!’ I was unleashed.”

“I wasn’t allowed to play team sports so it was a new world. It was like, ‘I can fly.’ Like a bird out of a nest.”

“No high school sports, period. Correction. I wrestled. I could break your neck. But I couldn’t run. I didn’t have the ability to be on a track team.”

 

On His Military Career

“I was drafted into the Army Air Defense, that means Missile Radar. When you’re Air Defense, that means sometimes you’re only in town 18 months. So in other words, you go to Korea and you run into somebody and you go, ‘Wow, weren’t I stationed with you before?’ or you go to Germany and you go, ‘I know you, where have you been?!’ There’s a camaraderie. Back to the bicycling, people would say, “didn’t you ride the Alps at one time?’ ‘Yea I’ve ridden the Alps.’ ‘What was it like?’ ‘I couldn’t stop wheezing!'”

“I served from 1968-1988 in California, Texas, Germany, Korea, Louisiana. Each one of those places, I purchased a bicycle when I arrived, and most of the time, I gave it away when I left. In Germany, I went through four bicycles. Texas, four bicycles. Louisiana, one bicycle. State of Colorado, three bicycles.”

“In Germany I used to make a point to ride a bicycle three days a week. A Monday, Wednesday and Friday. And each day I would set the trip meter to zero. And if it didn’t go to 80 [miles], I didn’t go far enough. Monday I would start at zero and by Friday at supper, I was up to 240 [miles].”

 

On His First Encounter with Recumbent Trikes in 1977

“I rode my first recumbent in Nijmegan, Holland when I went there to be part of the American Department of Defense entry into the Nijmegan Marches. If you’ve never been to Europe and you know nothing about the Nijmegan Marches, it’s hard to explain.The year that I went there were 26 nations. It is an international event and it opens up very similar like the Summer Olympics with people toting their flags. There’s a lot of people.”

“I was a tourist in the town of Nijmegan at that moment and was walking down the cobblestone streets. And here comes a guy riding a recumbent. I had never seen one in person, I had seen pictures. And I don’t know if he let me ride it because of my enthusiasm or because he was letting an American ride it, or a combination of both.”

 

On His Bike Accident in Germany August of 1986

“A negative experience with a bicycle? That’s called a car running over you.”

“Heinz Gerhard was just a German citizen. I’ll never forget him, or the fact that he drove a blue Toyota. He ran into me and I told him not to do that. I broke his windshield with my head. He ran an intersection on purpose.”

“Nobody knew what a helmet was at that time. When they took me to the hospital, they were like chickens on a porch. They wheel me in and they knew that a bicyclist had been hit. They x-rayed me and did all the things they did. Put a couple of stitches in that scar right there. Gave me a mayonnaise jar full of aspirin and said, ‘Go home.’ For the next 5 months, every day I was in physical therapy. I was in a neck brace. I was in dual wrist braces and things like that. A knee brace. I felt like I wrestled a polar bear and didn’t do too good.”

“I got back on a bike in a month and rode a century in the Alps again with the same club that I mentioned a while ago. I rode it with dual braces, a neck brace, the whole nine yards. And they made fun of me because I rode a Peugeot, which is a French bicycle, in Germany. It’s like the old cowboy story. If you fall off the horse, get back on it. It was hard to do a century in one day in that condition. But I was hard headed.”

 

On His Stroke in 2005

“My stroke, by the way, was caused by that [bicycle accident], fourteen years later.”

“[I was] trying to walk through that door right there. I came in and walked into the door frame. Gabby said, ‘What’s that noise?’ I said, ‘I dunno.’  I had no clue I had walked into it. By 9:00 I went to bed and woke up later in the night. I had to use the bathroom and I couldn’t walk. Like a drunk getting out of bed, I crawled on my hands and knees to the bathroom and I’ll never forget it. I remember looking at my right arm and saying ‘I’ve got arms like Popeye, I can do one arm push ups,’ but I couldn’t get off that wall and I couldn’t walk. Gabby told me to get back in bed. I thought that I was talking pretty good English but in truth it was [gibberish]. I thought I was saying, ‘I think I’m having a stroke.'”

“I wasn’t allowed to drive. A little white bus would come here to pick me up and take me to therapy. The stroke people didn’t say it openly, but they heavily insinuated… ‘You’re talking, you can understand most of what I’m saying, you know where the bathroom is. Go watch TV. Enjoy life.’ In other words, they put me out to pasture. After a while, I said. ‘No, I’m not out to pasture!’ And I’m back pedaling.”

“To have a stroke is like to have lighting strike your house. Fuse box don’t work right. You think all the lights are on, and then you find out some lights don’t work. Or you find out that the telephone line don’t work anymore. Or if you’ve got wired in TV from the satellite and some channels don’t work. To have a stroke is the same thing. You are a brain injury person.”

“I lost my balance, I have aphasia, If I’m on my own, I don’t think about things. If we stop talking about something, I don’t remember it anymore until someone else brings it up. My long term memory is pretty good. My short term memory is poo poo. If I tilt my head back and look off to one side, I have double vision. The aphasia part of it is I mispronounce words or twix words or meanings.”

“If people overtalk themselves, it becomes sensory overload. If somebody asks me a pinpoint question, I can’t always answer it right there. I’m gonna have to go away a little bit and come back tomorrow and be able to answer it.”

“I have whats referred to as no social filters. So if you come near me and you smell offensively, I’m like a three year old. ‘What’s that smell?’ Or if you ask me, ‘How do I look in this?’ I’m gonna tell you you look funky or I’m going to tell you you look OK. So if you have something around me that’s how I react sometimes. And I know it but I can’t control it.”

“I have vertigo, so if I get up, I might fall back down.”

 

Rodger giving Melissa a ride at the 2017 Chasing Santa 5K Walk and Run/Cycling Santa 15K.

 

Rediscovering Recumbents After His Stroke

“Through the Memorial Hospital Stroke people, they brought in Kelvin [from Cycle Different]. I realized, ‘Hey wait a minute, I’ve known about recumbents for several decades! There are recumbents right here in town!’ I went there the next day and said tell me about it.”

 

His Wife, Gabby

“Without her mentoring me and becoming a caregiver, I don’t know which bush I’d be under. It helps to have somebody who’s with you.”

“I think I chose wisely. It’s not her fault though!”

 

On Achilles Pikes Peak

“I got an email from the Therapeutic Recreation Program saying, ‘Hey, check this out, Achilles.’ When I first started doing Achilles, the focus to me was to walk. ‘Come on, walk to right here. No, no no, you did this last week, walk to right there. No no no, walk to over there!’ And somewhere along the line I saw on the Achilles logo spokes and pedals. I can’t walk. It’s an issue where it takes me an hour to go from here to there and back and more if I try to walk and talk at the same time. Out of that came, ‘You ride?’ and I said, ‘You’d be surprised at how good I can ride!'”

“I believe what goes around comes around. Somebody helped me, so why can’t I help somebody else? Another person. It can’t be all me because it took somebody to help me. Why can’t Rodger help somebody else?”

“Within our [cycling] group, there was me and Larry. And we realize, ‘OK, we both have issues.’ But we realize we’re not out to pasture. And then came along David and Skip. Larry and I talked about it and we feel like there’s something in them. They’ve got a will. Through Achilles they’re learning that their life is not finished. They’re continuing on. We’re becoming a stronger team.”

Rodger rides into the sunset beside an Achilles Pikes Peak athlete. He guides her while riding a recumbent trike while she pedals a hand cycle.

On Discovering Yoga For All, Courtesy of UpRise Yoga

“You might say that I grew up ‘old school.’ Of my era, nobody did yoga. Period. Some people didn’t even know what it was. ‘How do you spell that word? Where’d it come from?’ So that’s instilled in me. Though the Achilles group here [and Uprise Yoga] I thought, ‘Well, I can’t lose. And if I don’t try it, I can’t win.’ It took the proverbial 39 seconds to realize that I’m learning something.”

“I think that everybody in Achilles should have some doings of yoga. You don’t realize what you’re missing out on.”

“I’m still in the learning process. I know that I can’t do some things. I fall down. No need to get angry about it. I know that that’s me. It’s like eating water with a fork, you’re gonna spill some. You keep trying. But if you don’t try it, you don’t know.”

Rodger and Brandon get serious before the monthly Yoga For All class. This adaptive yoga class is led by instructors from UpRise Yoga and held at The Colorado Running Company on the 2nd Tuesday of each month.

Favorite Life Lessons

“Be humble. you are not the only one. There’s somebody else that has issues too. They may not be identical to yours, but they’ve got issues.”

“That’s why sometimes I put the trike over the fence and ride those dirt piles. And people go ‘I’ve never seen an old guy on a trike out here before!’ It’s not easy but you can do it. It’s like the bird out of the nest. You’re either gonna fly or hit the ground once or twice. And most of them fly.”

Rodger riding his recumbent trike over dirt jumps in the Goose Gossage Bike Park.