By Eve Newman
Via Wyoming News Exchange
LARAMIE — David Trujillo has always loved going fast, and dirt bikes are his vehicle of choice.
The Laramie resident grew up riding on tracks and in the open spaces around Rawlins. His senior class photo featured him performing a trick called the superman, where the rider takes both feet off the pedals and extends his body back as if flying.
“I’ve always liked to free ride — go out into the hills and find your own jumps, find your own lines and just be at one,” he said.
Later this month, Trujillo is set to showcase his love for speed at the biggest action sports venue in the world when he competes in the Winter X Games, which are scheduled for Jan. 24-27 in Aspen, Colorado.
Trujillo learned last week that he’s been invited to compete in one of three new events this year, para snow bikecross. The event features riders on motocross-style bikes outfitted with skis and tracks for racing across snow. The event is scheduled for 12:15 p.m. Jan. 26.
In 2009, Trujillo was riding his dirt bike when he overshot a jump, landing flat on his back and leaving him paralyzed. He spent five weeks in a hospital in Craig, Colorado, following surgery in Casper.
Three weeks after he was discharged, he was back on the bike.
“I hit my buddy up and asked him to take me riding,” he said.
Even after the accident, he sought the familiar feeling of freedom the bike had always offered.
“When I get on this bike I don’t care about being in a chair, I don’t care about anything in the past. I don’t care about the future. I just care about the moment that I’m in and living in the moment,” he said.
For the last decade, he’s been adapting bikes and re-learning how to handle them.
“Being an adaptive rider, I’ve learned a lot,” he said. “I’ve learned how to be safe but still take risks.”
After learning about the X Games event a couple months ago, he purchased a 2014 Yamaha dirt bike that he’s since adapted for his needs and modified for snow. He had previously adapted an older bike that was stolen and wrecked a couple years ago.
Last Friday, Trujillo displayed the bike at TNT Motorsports, one of several local companies sponsoring his competition and helping with equipment. Other sponsors include Tucker Rocky, FDC Chassis, Camso, Cycra, Answer, Pingel, Factory Effex and Antigravity Batteries.
Instead of a front wheel, the blue and white bike has a white ski. In the back, Trujillo converted the bike for snow by installing a track similar to those seen on snowmobiles.
Custom foot pegs will secure his boots in place while still allowing for full range of motion. He also fabricated a protective frame that surrounds his lower body.
“This allows me to be secured to the bike but allows me enough range of motion to throw my weight around,” he said.
A battery operates the shifter, which is located near the rider’s foot. Trujillo can shift the bike by pushing a button on the handlebar.
“This is my favorite part of the bike,” he said.
He hasn’t always had so many upgrades on his equipment. He used to secure himself to the bike with tie-down straps, which were a threat to get tangled in the chain. Without a handlebar shifter, he’d either do all his riding in second or third gear, or have a fellow rider try to come alongside and shift for him while the bike was in motion.
“We almost wrecked a few times,” he said. “This thing allows me to be able to shift through the gears and use the full potential of the bike.”
Trujillo made the modifications with the help of Laddie Lentz at FDC Chassis.
“I allowed him a spot. He’s done all the work,” Lentz said.
Trujillo said he had to petition for a slot in the competition, proving he had the right equipment and sending organizers footage of his riding. He’s been putting the finishing touches on his machine this month and making adjustments as he tests it on snow.
“It’s a dream come true, and I have the best support in the world,” he said.
He plans to leave for Aspen on Monday, accompanied by his wife, Evelyn, and daughters Darby, 13, and Ireland, 9.
“I’m proud of him,” Darby said. “He’s come a long way.”
Evelyn said she’s probably more excited than her husband.
“The first time he took me out to watch him ride, I was so nervous,” she said. “Seeing him ride for the first time was amazing.”
Trujillo said he’s not looking past the X Games, fully focused on savoring the moment and embracing the opportunity.
“The most freedom that I have is on this bike,” he said.