This month the 3rd annual Soaring Eagle Edge of Summer Race kicked off in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. Over 20,000 attendees showed up for the three-day event. The race consisted of amateur classes, an ATV quad National, an Adaptive MX class and a $10,000 purse MX race for the Pros. A few days after the race, we had the chance to sit down with competitor, and SoCal native, Steve Howe, the winner of the Adaptive MX class.
Dirt Rider: How did you get into riding?
Steve Howe: My older brother was 12 years older than me and raced Suzuki's. When I was 3 years old, he would let me ride on the front of the gas tank with him. Just the experience of being able to see that big front fender was something attractive to me. I just loved getting on the bike and riding with him. He would do wheelies with me and it just made me feel so free. I knew that I had to be a part of the action and try it myself. One of our challenges (because I'm missing my right hand) in the beginning was trying to figure out how to put the throttle on the left side and how to hold on. Through a series of different events, we tried putting a leather strap on the right side of the bars and strapping my wrist to it, but when I would wreck it would drag me along with the bike. We quickly learned that was not the most efficient way due to injuries.
DR: Can you explain your condition and how common it is? Were you born this way?
SH: I don't know statistically speaking but I know from a medical standpoint and being in the medical field that there is a medication called Bendectin which was really classified as a Thalidomide. It was a drug that was responsible for child birth defects. At the time my mother was relatively sick with Preeclampsia. Her blood pressure was really high and they were trying to give her stuff for nausea. They gave her this medication that was designed in Europe and brought over to the States. She took it and it helped her symptoms, but unknowing to her, this is what happened to me. To be honest, I think of myself as being lucky. Many kids were born with no legs, no arms, and heart defects. It was just my one hand, I'll take it! (laughs) It was known, and later down the road they actually went against the drug company and did file a class action lawsuit, but nothing ever came out of it.
DR: What inspires you to ride motocross?
SH: It's definitely a hobby and something I enjoy and have a passion to do, but the other piece is having an opportunity to motivate and inspire individuals that have challenges in their life, that maybe they feel that they can't overcome. If someone has a passion for dirt bikes and enjoys watching but feels they can't do it, I encourage them to come out to the motorsport adaptive race and watch. Often times seeing other athletes with physical challenges allows them to relate with us on more of a personal level. I can tell you that being around the guys I race with is truly awesome, we all have the same passion of riding and want to inspire others. I want to be able to allow people to see that there really is no challenges that can stop you from doing things that you want to do in life. I think the only challenge is mental. People tell themselves they can't do it, and that is really what stops them from pursuing whatever they want to accomplish.
SH: I grew up in Las Vegas and had a group of people that sparked interest in my opportunity to be able to ride. One of them being Carey Hart's father, Tom Hart.
He helped with designing the throttle on the left side. At the time we were all on two-strokes and we would actually drill into the throttle housing and reroute the cable itself so that when the throttle was mounted on the left side it would turn the correct way back to accelerate, versus rolling it forward. Later down the road when we started racing four-strokes, it was actually easier to convert the bikes to a left hand throttle. We would just move the throttle tube to the other side and swap the push/pull cables around to make it work. A couple years ago I started running a Rekluse clutch as well. The Rekluse allows me to save some energy from using my clutch when I start getting forearm pump. Besides the clutch and left handed throttle, I do run a little stiffer suspension setting because I like the bike to absorb the harder hits and bigger jumps. Other than that, my bike is very standard.
DR: Any closing words?
SH: I was born without a right hand and had challenges my whole life. Early on I learned that you could either have the personality to sit back and feel sorry for yourself or you can actually get out there and do what you have to do to be successful. Being a registered nurse, how many people have one hand and can start an IV in the ER and do different procedures. A lot of my instructors said," I don't know how you are going to pass or how you're going to do it." But where there is a will, there's a way. You just overcome it and figure it out. I have been a nurse for 16 years and still continue to ride and race motocross. I have done a lot of things that people said I would never be able to do because of my physical challenge. If someone is born without that personality or mentality that they can overcome, hopefully this pushes them over the edge to say wow, I CAN do this.
SH: I would like to thank my wife and 3 kids. RCH racing, Suzuki, Soaring Eagle, Jimmy Johns, Fox, Dunlop, Rekluse, MMR, Works connection, Matrix, Bel-Ray, Moto Sport Adaptive (MSA), Kenny Watson and Justyn From NFC management.