Jeremy McGhee doesn’t consider himself a cyclist. He’s a surfer and a trail runner. When he’s out on his bike, he’s running in his mind. As it may seem a bit confusing, it’s important to know Jeremy’s story. In 2001, Jeremy was paralyzed in a motorcycle accident. When he started riding in 2007, it became his way to keep running and being on the trail. Now an avid rider, he is at the forefront of advocating for increasing trail opportunities for those with disabilities.
Having been a sponsored athlete for most of his adult life before getting on the bike, Jeremy knew the ins and outs of being a professional athlete. Growing up in San Diego, it was quickly evident that Jeremy and his younger brother loved the outdoors. As kids, they were always on bikes and skateboards, exploring places in nature, canyons, and the beach. Soon as they were old enough, they sold their GI Joes and Transformers for surfboards, wetsuits, and bike parts, as being outside was a priority, with Jeremy having a deep-seated desire to cultivate a meaningful relationship with nature.
After becoming paralyzed, his desire to be in nature while pushing the limits didn’t change, although things became much more difficult. Getting up every morning is extremely difficult and painful, but a systematic approach of “one step at a time” is his key to success. That approach carries over to his training too. The years of abuse that a professional athlete endures requires constant body maintenance. A strict regimen of active release therapy, muscle activation, functional work with his trainer, lifting, and cardio, along with a myriad of other activities, keeps things in check.
Jeremy says that he’s always motivated to progress and that it’s in his nature to strive for more. When he doesn’t quite make a jump, taps his brakes in a turn where he shouldn’t, or doesn’t get a line just right, he wants to go back and do it again. Naturally, he also loves to show off. Progressing and getting things done fits well with the advocacy work Jeremy has been spearheading in recent years.
I feel stuck and disconnected from nature because life in a wheelchair is relegated to the pavement, but this bike has expanded my world and enabled me to explore wild spaces.— Jeremy McGhee
The UNPavement movement has manifested itself as a direct result of Jeremy’s experiences. “I feel stuck and disconnected from nature because life in a wheelchair is relegated to the pavement, but this bike has expanded my world and enabled me to explore wild spaces” he says. Through the movement, Jeremy is working to break down barriers by documenting his trail experiences, working with land managers, developing simplified trail ratings that can apply to adaptive riders, and helping to educate users by providing videos and information through TrailForks. This not only keeps riders safe but also provides reliable information for them so they can confidently explore wild places. Jeremy now considers this the whole purpose of his life - having landed in some precarious situations himself, he knows how important reliable and comprehensive information is for being able to disconnect and get outside safely!
I do not feel more myself than when I surf regularly...— Jeremy McGhee
Aside from being on his bike, Jeremy loves to be near the ocean. He says, “I do not feel more myself than when surfing regularly.” Speaking of the ocean, he’s obsessed with Orcas and has always wanted to get close to one. This summer, he’s headed to the San Juan Islands with hopes of seeing one in close proximity.
I don’t have the luxury of being able to walk my bike back to the trailhead if something happens, so vigilant maintenance and preparation for any contingency are essential.— McGhee
Tools play a significant role in the safety aspect, Jeremy says. “I don’t have the luxury of being able to walk my bike back to the trailhead if something happens, so vigilant maintenance and preparation for any contingency are essential. Tools obviously are part of this, and I’m grateful to Blackburn for having my back.”
In the coming months and years, Jeremy is excited to be part of a film project with the Trail Blazers crew in Bentonville, working together to figure out jumps and drops for his bike, “We’ve got a huge ATV kicker setup over a massive moto airbag, and it will send me to the moon!” he says. “We are analyzing slow-motion video and will build a replica of Drop the Hammer, an iconic Bentonville drop at the Coler trail system. The goal of the project is to have a short documentary to enter into film festivals and go on tour with, according to Jeremy.