MOAB, Utah — Four adaptive cyclists, Annijke Wade, Josie Fouts, Roger Withers, and Steven Wilke, embarked on a challenge to complete Moab and Canyonlands National Park’s 100-mile White Rim Trail in one day. With the help of the National Ability Center, Outride, and Osseointegration, the diverse team of athletes prepared to cycle through the unique, challenging terrain that was hit with heavy rain just two nights before the ride.
“We arrived in Moab, and we were immediately confronted with a 100-year storm and 100-year flood,” Annijke Wade said. “That flood presented us with some additional challenges. We were unsure if we were going to be able to make it past a few of the features due to landslides. There were a lot of questions about what that would look like for para-athletes to be out there. I’m a full-time wheelchair user, and at the time of filming, I was one year and three months from my spinal cord injury, which made me a full-time wheelchair user. Getting off my bike is not really an option for this ride and these obstacles, so I really had to depend on the people I was riding with to help get me through some of those tricky sections or spot me in areas of increased exposure.”
Wade’s bike for the trip was an all-electric recumbent, adaptive mountain bike with two wheels in the front and one in the back. Its articulating front end allowed her to go off camber through technical climbs. Unfortunately, on mile 37 of the trail, Wade’s bike had mechanical issues, and the backup bike battery failed. She spent the rest of the trip in the support vehicle to back her fellow athletes.
“I will say the 37 miles that I crossed were probably the most difficult 37 miles [I’ve ridden],” Wade said. “We encountered a lot of rubble from the landslides. So it was like a very time-consuming 37 miles of folks manually moving rocks out of the way so that I could pass because there’s no getting off of the bike option for me, right? As an athlete, I’ve been the recipient of help and support. But it was fun to be on the other side for the first time and to be responsible for providing support, especially for para-athletes.”
Wade said she’s open and willing to give the White Rim Trail another shot, just as long as there’s not another 100-year storm beforehand.
For the audiences watching the film, Wade said, “I want people to have exposure to para and adaptive athletes. I think it’s super important to see folks utilizing different types of equipment and how different folks interface with their equipment. It’s really important for folks to know that there are many different ways to be outside and outdoors, and fortunately, organizations like Outride and National Ability Center provide opportunities to individuals.”
Co-Executive Producer (alongside Matt Didisheim) for the film Tasha Tinagero is aligned with Outride, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit that is focused on the mental benefits of cycling, both on a research level as well as programs, an ambassador program, and more. Tinagero’s background in film and involvement in the cycling industry made the project a great fit.
“I can tell you this was by far one of the most challenging, inspiring, and memorable productions I’ve ever been on,” Tinagero said. “We really honed in on the fact that this isn’t just a bike ride, there’s a lot more to [the film] than that.”
“I never thought I would excel at anything athletically because of my disability, but I’ve turned my disability into my ability,” said Steven Wilke, adaptive cyclist featured in “Tread Setters” and longtime volunteer at the National Ability Center. “My disability has opened more doors for me than I ever thought possible. Through this film about my friends and I on the White Rim Trail, I aim to encourage younger people with disabilities to know that they can do anything. Outdoor recreation is a perfect avenue for a complete transformation of mind and body to become the best ‘you’ possible.”
To watch the trailer for “Tread Setters,” visit the NAC’s YouTube channel. The full film will be exclusively debuted at SBT GRVL in August. “Tread Setters” can be seen at various film festivals near the end of 2023 and into 2024, with an official public release on YouTube and Vimeo to follow. Tune into the NAC’s social media channels to stay up to date on where and how to watch.