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How Josh Rides On

"Just Don't Give Up."

Backcountry partners with the National Ability Center (NAC) around our shared mission of breaking down barriers to the outdoors. Based in Park City, Utah, the NAC empowers individuals of all abilities from across the globe through outdoor recreation. To support their work, we feature stories about adaptive athletes and serve as an outfitter of NAC athletes and guides.

Beat this father-son journey: 900 miles from Colorado to Arkansas side-by-side in a YUMI recumbent bike. U.S. Navy Veteran Josh Fohner sustained a traumatic brain injury in 2016 when he was hit by a car while riding his bike. Determined to continue his outdoor lifestyle, Josh and his dad Mike have been pursuing challenge after challenge, with Mike by his side (literally).

This 900-mile ride was not the duo’s first race. Josh’s road to recovery changed for the better when in 2019, he participated in the National Ability Center’s Summit Challenge, Utah’s largest adaptive cycling event. From there, he discovered more adaptive sports through the National Ability Center (NAC), and connected with a global community of adaptive athletes.

From a recap of his 900-mile ride to his goals ahead, we connected with Josh to find out what’s next for him on his journey. Since Josh has not yet regained functional use of his arms or hands and can’t yet speak, he took the time to answer our questions by using a device that lets him tap his foot to communicate.

Backcountry: Give us the father-son team recap from the 2021 Summit Challenge! What were the greatest moments from the race?

Josh Fohner: Being in the mountains of Utah riding with so many other adaptive riders is exciting. We also got to ride with two other YUMI recumbent quad bikes. Probably the most exciting moment was crossing the finish line. 

We also heard you completed an “All In Tour,” riding from Buena Vista, CO to Springdale, AR back in June. Tell us about this incredible challenge.

My dad told me he wanted to do it to help raise some money for my therapy. So, a week after he asked, I told him I wanted to ride with him. 

Two years later, I was riding across some beautiful country. The Rocky Mountains were incredible. The sunrises on the plains of Kansas were unbelievable. The most difficult thing I remember about the trip was not the cycling. It was the 106-degree temperatures. Even the wind was hot! But it was the people who rode with me, as well as the people we met along the way, who were most memorable. I could not have done it without their support and encouragement.  

Would you share the details about the side-by-side recumbent bike you ride? Which features make it so awesome?

I ride a side-by-side recumbent quad bike called a YUMI. The seats are 19.5” off the ground, which match the height of the therapy table I work on. It has two Pinion gear boxes, so my pilot and I can each ride in the gear that best suits us. It has a limited slip differential in the rear axle, as well as a 1000-watt motor if I’m having difficulty. I pedal and my pilot pedals and steers. I use touring tires and disc brakes. The YUMI weighs approximately 125lbs.

What challenges are on the calendar for next summer?

My goal is to ride the Katy Trail in Missouri. It is a 240-mile rail-to-trail route and all gravel. I would not have the support of a SAG (support and gear) vehicle on this trip.

What do you like to do in winter?

I love to snow ski. And now I train through the winter on my YUMI. My dad has also built a rack so I can train in my garage if the weather gets too bad.

How often do you come out to Utah to participate in NAC programs?

I have started coming twice a year. Once in the summer for the Veterans cycling camp and the Summit Challenge at NAC. In the winter, I come to ski with NAC.

How did your time in the Navy help prepare you take on the challenge of recovering from a traumatic brain injury?

Never quit. Keep getting up and move forward. Keep problem-solving to reach your goal. AND make goals … big, hairy goals!

What are your goals related to riding or TBI recovery?

My competition is with my own body. It is getting my brain and my body in sync. The more I do, the better I get. I like the competitive environment and I like being part of a team, so it is great to participate with other athletes. The coming year I want to focus more on my arms and hands as well as my voice.

Tell us abour your favorite outdoor gear.

I used to work for Lewis & Clark Outfitters here in Arkansas. I probably spent most of my paycheck on gear. I love it. These days, in my condition, I probably focus on apparel more than anything, but I love it all.

Is there anything else you want to share about adaptive sports or your pursuits or cycling?

It is so important to get outside and be active. You don’t know what you can do ‘til you try. You may have to do something different than everyone else, but that is okay. Just don’t give up.

You can support Josh’s road to recovery and follow along @allinforjosh.