Former pro motocross racer; AMPUTEE ATHLETE; multi-time winner of The Extremity Games and X Games gold medalist in the Moto X Super X Adaptive event; fund-raising speaker for Limbs for Life. 39 years old.
www.limbsforlife.orgWhen I started riding again after the surgery I had an E-start KTM, and it was easy to rig up an electric shifter. I didn’t want to add weight to the Suzuki and, by accident, I came up with a better solution with a foot design that allows me to shift any bike.For a photo shoot I asked my leg sponsor to send me a leg with a rubber sole glued directly to the carbon fiber instead of the traditional foot shell and shoe. That made their product much more prominent in the photos. What that also did was allow me to get my prosthetic foot under the shifter so I could bang gears again, and I haven’t worn a shoe on that side since!When I raced X Games I was scared to death. The track is huge. I asked Heath Voss to help get me over the two biggest jumps I needed to ensure the win. In the ’90s, when I was racing pro, we weren’t jumping as high or as far as they are now. We must have been 35 feet in the air to clear the finish line jump. Jumps like that are the reason I’m missing my leg!You would think that all of the injuries would deter me from riding bikes, and some of them did. But we all have this passion for riding that seems to affect us more than a temporary setback, like a broken arm or losing a leg. It’s something that can’t be explained to anyone who doesn’t ride (especially ex-wives and family members). After 30 years of riding and racing, I still get real excited about trail riding after a rainstorm or lining up at a starting gate.Believe it or not, the X Games brings with it a lot of stress and pressure. I feel I must win no matter what. I get away from all of that by trail riding with my friends on my super-clean Suzuki RMX250. The two-stroke reminds me of growing up, yet forces me not to be lazy on the bike. Plus, I can get the practice I need to race this year’s Baja 1000! Jim Wazny, Mike Schultz and I will team up for the first-ever all-amputee team. We have all won medals at X Games as well.Yeah, I ride, always have and always will.All I ever wanted was to be a pro motocrosser. Most of the time I didn’t know what I was doing or how I was going to accomplish this goal. My dad never raced. He was into stick and ball sports, which sounded kind of lame to me, but he supported me in what I wanted to do. The only thing I had going for me was crazy speed some of the time, and just plain crazy most of the time. That combination took me pretty far. In fact, I’ve visited hospitals all over the country, and I made it into the pro ranks.I broke both legs really bad in 1995. After a couple years in a wheelchair, I went back to racing. Thanks to the stiffness of motocross boots, I could ride better than I could walk.At a motocross race in 1999, a buddy pointed out this dude carrying a keg of beer and said, “Ridge, that’s what you need.” I thought he was talking about the beer until I noticed the prosthesis, and that guy was walking better than I had in four years. From that day on I knew that amputation was my best option. For the next two years I begged doctors to cut it off until I found one who would do the surgery.As an amputee I became more marketable than ever and landed a job racing cars in the Grand Am Rolex series. I was out of pain but couldn’t afford the sport prosthesis I needed until I heard of a nonprofit organization called Limbs For Life. They hooked me up with the right parts and people, which allowed me to continue racing at the professional level. I now carry the Limbs For Life logo on everything I race, and I recently spoke at their annual fundraiser benefit.It’s kind of odd, but losing my leg restarted my MX racing career. The operation ended years of pain and made riding fun again. Then I got support from Suzuki and won the Extremity Games three years in a row. I also won back-to-back X Games gold medals in the Moto X Super X Adaptive event.