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Ride 2 Recovery works with wounded veterans to restore physical and mental health through cycling.
American troops leave for conflict zones vibrant, strong, and healthy. Too many return wounded and despondent.
One of the real casualties and heartbreaks for these young men and women is the loss of their physical fitness and ability to compete athletically. Ride 2 Recovery (R2R), a California-based, non-profit organization dedicated to wounded veterans, found a solution with a groundbreaking idea and a bike.
Since 2008, they have helped more than 10,000 veterans get back in the saddle – whether on modified two-wheelers or specially designed recumbent and adaptive bikes – to simply cycle together or compete in challenge rides held across the country. R2R even has their own team of mechanics building everything from one-of-a-kind hand cycles to trikes that can accommodate prosthetics.
“Biking is hard, both physically and mentally,” said R2R founder, John Wordin, a former professional cyclist. “When our healing heroes get on a bike and push themselves, they feel like athletes again. They feel equal to other cyclists. This might be the only sport that you can say that about – on a bike, they feel empowered equally.”
The group’s most successful initiative, Project HERO (Healing Exercise Rehabilitation Opportunity) brings the camaraderie of group riding, as well as a powerful form of physical and emotional rehabilitation, to injured service members. Now offered in more than sixty locations around the US, many participants gain enough strength and stamina through the program to participate in R2R’s Challenge Rides – multi-day events that cover 350-400 miles (563-643 kilometers) and push veterans to the limit.
More than bringing the healing power of cycling to recovering veterans themselves, R2R touches family members, too. “There is huge family involvement in our programs,” said Wordin. “Wives, husbands, parents, kids – everyone wants to be part of restoring hope for these wounded heroes.”
This article is part of our week-long coverage of global bike-based organizations changing the world two wheels at a time. Check out 10 Great Cycling Organizations to see more of their inspiring wok.