Michael Trimble, a 27-year-old from Pittsburgh, was born without arms. And while it might seem appropriate to say that he's disabled, the truth is that physical limitations appear to be no match for his very capable spirit.
Like many children from the regions around Chernobyl, Michael was born with birth defects resulting from the 1986 nuclear disaster there. After eight years in an orphanage, he was adopted by a family in the United States, settling in Pennsylvania. Growing up, Michael developed incredible dexterity with his feet and legs, though a few pleasures in life -- like riding a bike -- must have seemed impossible.
According to The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's wonderful interview with Michael, that all changed when he was a teenager. One day a gym teacher at Michael's school modified a bicycle's handlebars in such a way that allowed him to ride and steer comfortably. His experience cycling was all too brief, but the hook was set.
Soon enough, Michael went off to college, earned a degree, and began his career as a quality assurance specialist -- though ten years after first learning to ride a bike, he yearned for the chance to be on two wheels again. He tried reaching out to several manufacturers to have a custom bike built for him, but was declined out of fear that it would be a liability for them.
Eventually, a friend put Michael in touch with local bike builder Michael Brown, who runs Maestro Frameworks in Pittsburgh and was happy to take on the job. After some testing and welding, Brown was able to fashion a custom handlebar that would allow Michael to get back on a bike.
Michael Brown, writing on his blog:
With a Hockey helmet, his sleeves tied up and a modified bike, Mike was ready to give it a go. After 30 minutes of his friend Tim and I running next to him, he got the hang of it and was riding on his own and even making turns.
If you happen to see Mike riding the trails take time out to say hi, he's a great kid.
Thanks to his new custom built bike, Michael's not only be able to experience a newfound freedom of mobility and the joy of community with other cyclists -- he's also helping to show that some physical limitations are only as limiting as one's willingness to overcome them.