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Article And Photos By: Jimmie Lee Coen
Originally Published In The September 2018 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
Acceptance can be described as a person’s ability to rise against negative circumstances without protest. The key word is rise. It’s how we handle adversity. A character trait that exists in everyone, whether we ever need to use it or not. Acceptance doesn’t make you a hero, and it is not about revealing weakness. It becomes a simple understanding of the conditions presented to us and the way we decide to deal with them. This is Mike King. While on a motorcycle trip with his friends in Banff, Canada, Mike’s life became a moment of acceptance. Mike remembers snapping pictures next to the highway and a car horn. He woke up in a Calgary hospital not expected to live, and definitely not expected to live the life he has. This is not a “turn lemons into lemonade” story. Mike King is not a superhero. He experienced sorrow. King went through depression. He was a 20-year-old kid, who was told he would never walk again. Determined as he was, this was 1978 medicine. Walking was not going to happen, and motorcycle riding was gone. Mike was now a paraplegic and would spend the rest of his life in a chair. This is where reality and acceptance become viciously real. This is also where Mike found strength in his faith and a group of friends that never took “no” for an answer. His friends reminded him that, chair or no chair, he was still Mike King. His motto for life became about, “what I can do, not what I can’t.”
Mike went onto college after the accident and studied social work and church ministries and has focused his life on helping youth and others with disabilities. Working with an organization called, Joni and Friends, he helped run camps for wounded soldiers and their families. These camps utilize outdoor activities and counseling to help the soldiers, along with their families, deal with PTSD, and gain a better understanding of their injuries. Although severely injured on a motorcycle, Mike never lost his love for riding bikes, and being confined to a chair is not a reason to give up riding. Mike found a friend who owned a Goldwing that was set up for a paraplegic rider and borrowed it occasionally to get back on the road. Then, in 2003, after putting more miles on the Goldwing than the owner, Mike bought himself a 1996 Harley Davidson Road King Police Edition. A local bike shop in Pennsylvania set it up with an original Harley Davidson sidecar, including hand brakes and a clutch handle mounted on the shift lever. He rode this bike for 15 years but admitted that sometimes it was a bit of a struggle. Enter, Mike’s friend, Glen Smoker. Glen, through his faith, decided it was time for an upgrade for his incredible friend, and bought Mike a 2014 Harley Street Glide.
A beautiful bike with a small problem. How do you transfer a sidecar from your 1996 Harley to your 2014 Harley when not a single shop in your area will touch it? They say, “The Lord works in mysterious ways.” Mike’s wife, Sharyn, has a friend at church named Claudette, who mentions that she knows my brother, J.C., who just happens to own a bike shop, and Mike found Three Two Choppers. Through some planning and fabricating, we were able to retrofit his sidecar to his new bike. In the process, we added a Rekluse automatic clutch to make his new ride much easier for him to handle. In July, Glen, Mike, and his brother are going to ride to the site of Mike’s accident in Banff, Canada. It will be the first time he has been there in 40 years. The project came out incredible. Mike says my brother and I made his list, and we are beyond proud of that accomplishment. Remember when I said Mike King wasn’t a superhero? I lied. After the project was over, I got a chance to talk to Mike about his accident and his life. I learned about the real Mike King. I learned about the Mike King that rolled his wheelchair from Fairbanks, Alaska to Colorado Springs, Colorado, and then across the country to Washington D.C. as a fundraiser for rehabilitation centers. That’s 5605.8 miles, and he did it in four months. I learned about who Mike King is today. The man who created his organization called Powered To Move, that runs exercise boot camps for people with Autism, Down Syndrome, and Cerebral Palsy. His camps allow people with disabilities to inspire to be the best athletes they can be. Through their Wingman Program, Powered To Move also produces races that link abled-bodied athletes with severely disabled athletes. These races allow the disabled athletes to experience the true competitive and social experiences that only come with competition.
I believe inside of everyone there lies a Clark Kent and a Superman. A calm, collected persona with the ability to perform unbelievable feats of awesomeness that inevitably define our character. When I first met Mike, he came across as just a nice guy in a wheelchair, who loved to ride and needed a shop to help him out. He didn’t tell us his amazing backstory or look for charity. Mike just came to the shop and simply asked if we could help. As I sit here and think about it, that is exactly how he wants to be seen. A humble guy, who happens to be in a chair. Do not be fooled by the fake glasses, Mike King is actually Superman. www.poweredtomove.org