Motodemption: A second opportunity in life for people riding on two wheels.
September 21, 2023
POTTER - Last week, PNCC Off-race, a hare scramble off-road race in Nebraska that spans over 200 acres in the panhandle, took place in Potter on September 2 and 3.
Among the participants of the race, there's one who caught the attention of the audience for becoming an example of perseverance and fight: Aaron Hill.
Hill was born and raised in Denver, Colorado and motorcycles were part of his life as he grew up racing them. He started riding at the early age of four and quickly became passionate about it. His dad raced since the late 60's. Hill started racing competitively when he turned 13 years old. He won the Colorado State Championship in 2003 but stopped racing for a while. Unfortunately, in September 2008, when he was out at a race, riding a friend's bike, he crashed leaving him paralyzed. But he didn't want to give up on his dreams.
"After I got hurt, I immediately knew that I wanted to continue riding, or figure out a way to do it again. There was a kid in California that had been hurt a couple of years before me and he had built a motorcycle he could ride. I contacted him and they sent me a bunch of pictures on how they set up their motorcycle," said Hill. "In 2010 I built my first adaptive dirt bike. I'm a machinist and a welder by trade so I'm able to build a bike myself with the help of my friends."
According to their website: "MotoDemption makes motocross a reality for those with physical disabilities by providing the bikes, adaptations, instructors, and resources necessary for safe and fun riding." Hill founded the organization with Davey Gonzales and the two of them work together as a team to make this all happen.
Hill was not alone on his journey to Motodemption. Along with Gonzales, he received help from Trevor Kennison, an adaptive athlete who works closely with the High Five Foundation, another non-profit organization focused on skiing, surfing and mountain biking. They reached out to them in 2020 and told them that they wanted to work together.
"We held our first camp with my two dirt bikes and five adaptive athletes. Now we have five adaptive bikes and in our last camp we had 12 adaptive athletes riding with us. In the last three years, we were able to get 40 individuals out on their bikes", said Hill.
Motodemption puts a lot of effort on designing a good quality products that allows riders to be able to go back to the races.
"From start to finish it takes about two weeks and that includes building a protective frame that goes around our legs. This year we started incorporating a roll bar at the back of the motorcycle. In the event of a crash, it protects the rider from injury. We use a Rekluse clutch which is an auto clutch for the motorcycle and it allows you to put the bike in gear and not have to use the clutch. We moved the rear brake onto the handlebars as well on the left side, and then, we used an electronic shifter with a push button that enables you to shift the motorcycle," Hill said, clearly proud of his work. "We also modify the seat for the rider. We have a seat builder there in Greeley that we work with. We upgrade the foam to add more protection for the rider, make it wider so it keeps it more centered on the motorcycle. With the harness system to strap the rider to the motorcycle, so it holds you on and you don't fly off the side."
Hill and Gonzales haven't modified motorcycles for daily transportation, but it's one of their aims for the future. Helping people is their motivation to keep growing.
"It's one of the best feelings in the world to see someone get up there and experience something they never thought they'd be able to do or again. There's a lot of riders that we had out that weren't necessary racers, but they rode motorcycles growing up or kind of played around on motorcycles here and there. After you get injured you feel like you're real limited on what you're able to do have fun and recreational activities, that sort of thing. To do something you thought you were never able to do again and see people get to experience that, it's one of the most awesome feelings in the world," said Hill. "Their joy when they get on the motorcycle for the first time is just amazing. The smiles on their face and excitement they have, and getting the feeling of the adrenaline rush again, and that sort of thing, it's one of the coolest things I've done for sure."
Even though Motodemption is a young organization, it has many plans for the future, such as: raising funds and traveling to different states of the country to be able to hold camps throughout the year.