When a snowboarding accident resulting in a spinal injury sidelined him from his beloved outdoor pursuits, Christian Bagg was determined to climb back up the mountain.
“I just wanted to go outside with my friends and not have them worry or wait for me,” Bagg says. “I just wanted to have fun with them, I just wanted to blend [in].”
Bagg started out by designing wheelchairs that offered greater versatility than traditional models. He then turned his attentions to creating a line of purpose-built bikes for people with physical limitations.
The learning curve eventually brought him to the bike’s current incarnation, the Bowhead Reach. With its main wheel located in the rear, heavy-tread tires, and a powerful electric motor, the souped-up reverse tricycle can go pretty much anywhere.
The all-terrain recumbent bike comes in three models: a recreational model for everyday adventuring; a performance model for true adrenaline junkies, and the explorer mode, a push variation that allows for partnered assistance as needed.
One of Bagg’s first customers was J.P. Middleton, a volunteer firefighter and primary care paramedic who, like Bagg, had suffered a life-altering spinal cord injury while skiing in 2018.
One day, as he was visiting with his dad outside the rehab hospital, someone on an outlandish bike shot by them. “It was this Mad Max looking vehicle,” Middleton said to Global News. “When I saw this bike, I was like, ‘I gotta get myself one of these things…’ It was a ray of hope for me.”
Middleton credits the bike with giving him a big chunk of his life back. He also gets a kick out of the awestruck looks he gets from passersby. “This [bike] will turn more heads than a Lamborghini,” he joked.
Middleton isn’t the only more-than-satisfied customer to make great strides on a Bowhead. In 2019, Janne Kouri, also paralyzed after suffering a spinal cord injury, set out on his bike for a 2,900-mile cross-country trek that took him from Los Angeles to Washington D.C. raising money and awareness for paralyzed U.S. veterans.
Bagg and his team initially built 50 bikes in his basement workshop, but business was so brisk, Bowhead—named for the site at the headwaters of the Bow River where his crash happened—has relocated to a large retail space across from Canada Olympic Park.
With 200 orders in the coming year, he envisions a bright future and continued expansion. Channeling his passion has also let him reap the rewards of making a real difference for others who’ve been where he’s been. “That’s what’s fun to watch the work you do impact people’s lives.”
WATCH the bikes in action, and get to know more of Christian’s story, below on PBS.