Interview with Adaptive Athlete Annijke Wade

Annijke Wade is a mountain biker, through and through. After a spinal cord injury changed her life in 2021, nothing was going to stop her from getting back onto her bike. Though biking after her injury would look a bit different, the same joy and freedom Annijke gets from being outside remains the same. Meet Annijke and learn more about her journey as a cyclist and adaptive athlete. Plus, follow along with Annijke’s adventures at @geodesicdome.

1. Where are you originally from and where are you residing currently?

I am originally from Sonoma, California - a small town in Northern California. I currently live on the Central Coast of California very close to the beach!

2. When did you start biking and how did you get into the sport?

I started biking as a child for fun. Later, in High School, I would ride my bike from my school to the local skatepark – I was teaching myself to skateboard.

I got a bike as a means of transportation when I was at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. I used the bike to ride from my off campus housing to campus, and from my house to my job at a political campaign in downtown Portland. On the weekends and during the summers, I would ride the bike all over Portland exploring. After college, I kept the bike but didn’t ride it as much.

When I moved to San Francisco in 2016, I decided I wanted to get a road bike. So, I got a road bike with the idea of dipping into the cool hipster bike scene in SF and maybe even bike commuting. I never ended up bike commuting because the hills in the city were intimidating.

In 2019, I moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico to join a geospatial tech start-up. I got an email one day from someone inviting folks at my company to join a mountain bike club. The new club would be meeting on a specific day for a trail ride. I’d never mountain biked or even considered it. After thinking about it for a few hours, I thought, “Why not!” I went online and bought a Diamondback Hardtail bike and started to look into what type of gear I would need.

After my bike arrived, I put it together and set off on my first ride. My first ride was really short and also challenging for me. I immediately was hooked. I started riding more and more and never looked back! It was such a great way for me to explore my new home of New Mexico and get to spend time outdoors.

Annijke Wade Mountain Biking

3. What was your transition like to getting started as an adaptive athlete?

After my mountain biking accident on July 17, 2021, I knew I wanted to get back outdoors and back on trails. I would show anyone that came to my hospital room videos of adaptive mountain bikes and I firmly believed I’d be on a bike soon enough. When I was transferred to Craig Hospital for rehabilitation, all of my recovery goals were tied to being able to learn how to be an adaptive mountain biker and trying adaptive sports. I had the opportunity to try an adaptive mountain bike while I was in the hospital too. I was officially discharged from Craig Hospital in October 2021. I got my bike in November 2021.

The transition has been good practice in patience. So much has changed with my life and my body - but my drive to be outside and be an athlete has not changed. While I am still riding a bike on the trails - it is different. I’m lower to the ground, I have three wheels not two, there’s no hike-a-bike for me, and I had to start all over learning the basics of a new sport.

4. What is one of the biggest challenges you face as an adaptive athlete, and how do/did you overcome it?

Needing and asking for help is one of the biggest challenges I face as an adaptive athlete, especially as a beginner in the sports I try and do. For instance, if I tip my bike over I need help uprighting it. If I encounter a challenging section of trail I may need help or even if I encounter a difficult to pass section of trail like a narrow section of trees or off camber trail that might present a tipping hazard for me.

I’d say I'm still working on this and overcoming it. Part of acquiring my spinal cord injury has forced me to really confront this head on, not just as an athlete but also as a human navigating the world.

Annijke Wade Mountain Biking

5. What message do you have for other individuals who are just starting out on their journey as adaptive athletes?

Try as many sports as you can and take all the opportunities you can. There’s a lot of free and low cost events and camps that can help you try sports, look into those and try them. Be okay with being a beginner and know that your first time trying a sport might be different, you might need a lot of help, it might not be like you remember it, but that’s okay! It’s also okay to take things slow, enjoy the process of being a beginner and learning a new sport.

6. What do you want others to know about adaptive athletes, trail accessibility, representation, and adaptive gear?

There’s so much I want people to know. But the first thing is that persons with disabilities are human and people. Representation of adaptive/para athletes is so important, and representation of athletes at all skill levels, body types, ages, races, gender identities etc.

When designing trails, please keep a wide variety of trail users and equipment in mind. There are some trail guidelines online that you can refer to, one good guideline set is put out by Kootenay Adaptive Sport Association. Think about bridges, gates, exposure and trail width when thinking of how to create more inclusive trails. Work with adaptive/para athletes in the planning process to ensure that there’s a variety of perspectives represented.

Adaptive gear and equipment is so expensive. While there are grands and funds available not everyone has access to those.

7. Last but not least, if you could only bring 3 things with you to a desert island, what would they be?

Bagels, my bike, and ‘Turtle Island’ by Gary Snyder

Annijke Wade Mountain Biking

Photos courtesy of Clayton Shank


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Interview with Adaptive Athlete Annijke Wade

Annijke Wade is a mountain biker, through and through. After a spinal cord injury changed her life in 2021, nothing was going to stop her from gett...