Since Aaron Hill’s injury in 2008, he was determined to overcome the difficulties of his spinal cord injury. But even more so, to ride again. With the founding of MotoDemption and help of friends, the first prototype was born. Today MotoDemption continues to bring joy to riders and is always looking to make the experience better. MotoDemption not only makes motocross a reality for those with physical disabilities by providing adaptative bikes, but also provides instructors and resources necessary for safe and fun riding.
As a non-profit organization MotoDemption found sponsors that have just the right focus; Fox with it’s family-oriented biking gear, Spy+ eyewear technology, Leatt safety gear, Bell helmet, Rekluse clutch performance technology, Applied Technology for suspension and High Fives a non-profit that supports injured athletes.
ABILITY Magazine’s Chet Cooper spoke with Hill at The Kurt Caselli Foundation ‘Day Ride’ event at Fox raceway in Pala CA.
Chet Cooper: Tell me about MotoDemption.
Aaron Hill: We’re a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that specializes in getting athletes that have had life altering injuries out on dirt bikes. Whether that be paralysis or amputation or everything and anything in between, we make sure that they get out and enjoy life and have fun again.
Cooper: Typically, people with a motocross background?
Hill: People that we work with have ridden motorcycles before at some level. Definitely lots of past racers that have gotten injured, but we’ve also had five athletes that had never ridden a motorcycle before come out and learn to ride with us. It’s pretty cool.
Cooper: What’s happening today?
Hill: So, today we’re holding the camp with the Kurt Caselli Foundation. We have nine adaptive athletes out here riding. We have four adaptive bikes with us, and they’re out riding. Some of them for the very first time since their injury and just seeing what it’s all about and getting to live the dream again and enjoy that feeling of riding.
Cooper: Tell me what an adaptive bike is like.
Hill: An adaptive bike is modified to be able to function with someone who suffered paralysis or an amputation. We put a Rekluse clutch in there so you don’t have to worry about using the clutch. We have an electric shifter operated by a push button on the handlebars and then a safety cage as well so that it protects the rider in case they’re injured. We also modify the seat to make sure that keeps the rider safe and holds them on the bike a little better. And then we have a strap system that we use that runs across the rider’s lap to hold them on the motorcycle.
We also add a rear handbrake–for the rear brake – up on the handlebars as well.
Cooper: Is each bike custom to the person?
Hill: For us, we work with a ton of different athletes. We try and make our bikes as general as possible so that it can fit a wide variety of riders with different skill levels and different disabilities. We have different parts that we can put on the bike depending on your injury to make it work better for what your needs are, but we have the capability of building specific bikes for an individual rider as well.
Cooper: Nice. I see one out there that used to be called a sissy bar. Is that his bike?
Hill: No, that’s our fifth-generation bike that we just produced this last year. We’re on our fifth edition of motorcycle right now with a different safety cage. It’s just a little added protection for the rider in case they were to go over the bars or have a big crash to help keep the bike off them and keep the rider safe.
Cooper: I mentioned to you earlier, Doug…
Hill: Doug Henry.
Cooper: Right. He had a full cage around the bike. Do you do anything like that?
Hill: We haven’t yet. We could. It adds a lot of extra weight. I know he’s since then gotten rid of that just because of that reason–the extra weight–and it made it tough for him to see a little bit, he said. He’s running more of a standard setup now, but yeah.
Cooper: If somebody goes down, if they slide out, do you have people ready to put them back up?
Hill: Yes. Each rider has three instructors with them and they wear bright safety vests.
Cooper: Okay, I get it. That’s who they are, great!
Hill: They’re there to guide the rider around the track, especially when it’s the rider’s first time getting on the track, so they know any places to avoid–maybe a big mud hole or deep mud or something like that, but they’re also there for when other riders are on the track. The two instructors in the back block for them to let people know that there’s an adaptive rider up in front of them and make sure that people aren’t going to run into them or anything like that. And then, yeah, they’re there in case of a fall. So, tip over in a corner or whatever it might be, they’re right there. They drop their bikes and pick them up and get them.
Cooper: I went riding with Ricky James once. When he fell, his father had to run across the track to lift him up.
Hill: Yeah, for me when I’m out with my buddies just on a practice day or something, they keep a close eye on me, so it’s not too bad. There’s usually someone there willing to lend a hand.
Cooper: That’s a great idea to have the support riding with them. Is this track modified?
Hill: It’s different. Yeah, so we’re on the vet track today. It’s a little tamed down compared to the pro track, so it’s just a little easier for us and we don’t have to worry about it, but it’s a regular motocross track.
Cooper: Where are you from?
Hill: We’re based out of Colorado. Snow is flying there, so this is the perfect time to get down here to Southern California and ride the dirt.
Cooper: Did you drive or fly down?
Hill: We drove down, pulled our trailer with the four adaptive bikes. Then we also, like I said, we provide the instructors for the riders. We provide them with all the safety gear, helmets, boots, gear, knee pads, all that, goggles, everything they need to go ride. And then, of course, with the safety pages and all that stuff.
Cooper: Do they typically come with their own helmets?
Hill: Some riders come with their own gear and are fully prepared, but a lot of riders don’t have the gear anymore, so we make sure to provide that for them so they can stay safe out on the track.
Cooper: How long have you been associated with the Kurt Caselli Foundation?
Hill: This is our second year being out at Kurt Caselli ride day. We have been around for four years now since 2020, we’re just super honored to be partnered up with an organization like the Kurt Caselli Foundation and to be able to partake in this awesome event that they put on.
Cooper: It looks like it’s a great event. A couple of weeks ago Fox Pala raceway hosted the Ryan Dungey Foundation.
Hill: Yes, he has a Foundation. I believe they work with St. Jude Hospital.
Cooper: Right. I think you guys should meet. I talked to him about connecting with other organizations. He said it’s in his plan.
A quick chat with Jimmy Soliz
Cooper: Have you been to this event before?
Soliz: No, this is my first time out here.
Cooper: Have you ridden motocross prior?
Soliz: Yes. I’ve been racing since I’ve been on a bike–since I was three years old. I got injured about 15 years ago racing motocross up north in a racetrack in Palmdale, California.
Cooper: Have you been on an adaptive bike before?
Soliz: This is actually my third time. I met MotoDemption in early June and got a chance to ride with them up in Colorado and I rode for the first time in 15 years. It just felt like hopping on a bike again. They invited me out here since this is a little closer to home, which is an awesome of them for them to put on.
Cooper: Did you come out with them or did you come out separate?
Soliz: We just came out separate. We live about two hours north of here.
Cooper: I thought you were in Colorado.
Soliz: We met them in Colorado.
Cooper: What do you think about riding again, adapting a bike and riding more regularly?
Soliz: As soon as I got back on the bike, we looked into the purchasing and what we can do to make it adaptive. Aaron and Davey, they do all the customization fabric work for the bike. So, they know what we’re going to do to a bike once I get one. It’s nice to have those guys and they already know what to do and how to customize it for my riding needs.
Cooper: What’s your closest track? Where would you go riding?
Soliz: Let’s see…actually, out here would probably be the closest. We’re used to riding out here. Even when we were riding before and racing, we would go to Glenn Helen, and Pala, Lake Elsinore, and Perris, and all the local tracks out here. These are pretty much our local tracks.
Cooper: Probably Milestone back in the day.
Soliz: Oh, yeah, Milestone, too. All those tracks, some of the tracks have closed down. We love coming out here and spending time out here.
Cooper: What do you think of the track today?
Soliz: Oh, it’s awesome. They did an awesome job grooming the track, getting it ready and watering it. The way they build the track, too, it’s real mellow and nice and easy, and there’s something for everybody to ride. It’s easy to get comfortable on.
Cooper: There’s only one double, right?
Soliz: Yeah, I believe there’s only one double. They shaved down the landings to make sure it’s easy for everyone.
Cooper: Why do you think they created doubles? Why didn’t they leave it as a table-top?
Soliz: Actually, back in the old days, when they used to just use natural terrain, a lot of them started as creek crossings or river crossings, and some of the guys just started jumping over them. They started building lips on each side, and they would jump the little lakes or little rivers and they just started incorporating them man-made into tracks later on in the ‘70s and ‘80s. It all started from a natural perspective, just creek crossings and stuff like that. Then they eventually just started to build one lip on each side.
Cooper: You’re anchored on the bike, what do you do about ruts?
Soliz: Actually, that’s something I’m learning right now with this driving process and learning to ride again. You really have to trust the bike and the wheels and make sure it’s in a straight line. You get in a rut before you start to accelerate, so once you do that and you make sure you’re in a straight line, you break in a straight line, the bike will do the work for you.
Cooper: I still make the mistake of looking down. And then I cross rut.
Soliz: (laughs) You always got to look ahead and keep your head up.