Calgary

Alberta man who lost leg in freak accident relearns how to mountain bike

Former professional mountain biker Matt Hadley spent the summer riding trails again, after losing his right leg due to a falling rock hitting him while hiking in the Utah desert earlier this year.

'You'll have injury or sickness along the way, and you have to get back up and keep pushing,' says Matt Hadley

Matt Hadley rides his mountain bike in July, just 4 months after losing his right leg in Utah after a falling rock crushed it. (Matt Monod)

A one-legged man from southern Alberta has spent the summer riding mountain bike trails again, after losing his right leg in a freak accident earlier this year.

Matthew Hadley, a former professional athlete from Canmore, Alta., had his right leg crushed while hiking in the Utah desert in March.

basketball-sized rock tumbled from a cliff and tore through his limb, destroying tissue, muscle and shattering bones in multiple places.

The amputation of his right leg was a huge loss for Hadley, who had competed on the Canadian national mountain bike team.

Matthew Hadley doing what he loves, mountain biking near his home in Canmore, Alta., prior to his accident. (Submitted by Adam Hadley)

But nine days after Hadley was released from hospital, he spotted an exercise bike at his physiotherapy appointment.

"I hopped on it for 20 minutes, and I could pedal. And I was like, 'Wow, if I can pedal, then I should try to mountain bike,'" he told the Calgary Eyeopener.

He returned home that same day and, with the help of his wife, Catherine Vipond, and his brother, he began to cautiously ride his brother's bike up and down the street.

"Being outside on the first ride, the feel of the wind in my face, it was the first thing I'd done for almost two months at that stage. That was fast, and it just felt awesome," he said.

Matthew Hadley, right, rides his brother's bike briefly, less than two weeks after being released from hospital. (CaringBridges.org)

Cycling without a prosthesis

Since then, Hadley has kept at it. 

His prosthetic right leg comes up too high on his torso for him to be able to complete a full pedal revolution, so he rides without it now, he said.

But with just one leg, getting onto and off of his seat proved his biggest challenge, he said.

"Normally you'd slide your bum forward off of the seat and then put your foot down, but I can't do that," he explained.

Hadley has discovered how to use the lever on his dropper seat post to quickly lower the saddle about eight inches so that his left foot can touch down safely. 

To mount his bike, he has to kick off the ground, lock his foot into the pedal and clip in, all with a single, fluid motion.

"It was quite a bit of Catherine running beside me in a grassy field to figure out those moves," he said.

Now to tackle winter sports

Some might wonder where Hadley finds the motivation and determination to keep pushing himself physically. He believes it's a combination of his athletic conditioning and the people around him.

"My background of mountain bike racing at the World Cup level certainly enforced that into me. You'll have injury or sickness along the way, and you have to get back up and keep pushing," he said.

"It's been built into me for a long time. I just had to draw on all those resources and a lot of family, friends and community support to push through the harder times and keep going."

Mountain bike season is wrapping up now, but Hadley has no plans to hunker down indoors this winter. 

With the help of the Rocky Mountain Adaptive program, he'll set out to master downhill skiing with one leg, and cross-country skiing with his prosthetic limb.


With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.

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