Woodys Wheel Works. And Denver.

October 13, 2011

Words by // Photography by Nita Breibish

When we walked back to the hotel that night the temperature had dropped and the rain was falling. We wondered what we’d wake up to, but as it turned out any snow that had fallen had long gone and the streets were wet with a new sheen from the night’s rain. The morning was definitely brisk and we knew it would get colder as the highest pass on the route would take us over 10000ft. Still, the sun was shining and we were happy. The route into Denver was mellow which was perfect for our mood- we could round the corners and spend the time thinking about all that had happened. It was a great way to start the day.

Soon enough we were in Denver and mixing it up with heavier traffic. It was funny to feel a bit overwhelmed but we’d managed to avoid almost any sort of freeways or interstates during the trip so far. We knew that would change heading north – it seemed that north/south interstates we’re always busier than the east/west. But, I also knew that outside of cities, the freeways of Colorado, Wyoming and Montana were generally free of heavy traffic.

It wasn’t long before we pulled up at Woody’s Wheel Works. Nita’s bike, a BMW F650GS Twin, comes standard with cast aluminum wheels – which is great if you don’t plan to leave the tarmac. But with plans for a world trip starting next year we needed to change up to spoked rims which would offer a stronger and more adaptable option. I’d researched spoked wheels for her bike at length and there were far more questions out there than answers. People wanted them but none were readily available for that particular bike. I’d seen some threads about Woody’s on ADVRider that mostly pertained to other bikes. At Michael and Nuri’s garage in NYC (Rising Wolf Garage) I had a great chat with a guy called Carlo who’d just finished a circumnavigation of South America with his wife on an F800GS using a set of Woody’s Wheels. It seemed Woody was the way to go.

I sent a quick note and rather than being met with some cold, corporate, anonymous persona, Woody himself emailed us back. It was super cool. From then on, it was just figuring out the details and putting the order in. I talked with Zach from Woody’s while at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and he said the’d be ready by the time we were in Denver. And there we were! I walked in and Zach immediately introduced himself. Zach is one of those guys that anyone who’s owned a business would hope their employees would be. He was passionate and completely articulate about what Woody’s did. He gave us a tour of the shop, showed us wheels in progress and then finished up some of the work on Nita’s wheels while we stood by and watched. It was fascinating. And, beyond the education we were receiving, his love of the shop was totally infectious. Behind us the front wheel was going on while Zach finished up the cush-drive and sprocket. The wheels are art. Seriously. I have rarely seen wheels that make me swoon, but Nita’s new wheels were gorgeous. And best of all they’re totally functional! Beauty that works. It was a dream come true.

While Zach worked on the rear wheel, Troye came out and talked to us for a bit. He’d moved over to Woody’s from Touratech USA in Seattle and had moved down to 300 days of sun. We talked about what we were up to and where we were going and both Troye and Zach seemed genuinely interested which was so great. Talking to people who understand or share a passion about what you’re doing is partly a relief and mostly invigorating.

A few times during the install, Zach had mentioned ET (Enabling Technologies) – a shop set up next door that was busily producing more of Woody’s designs and innovative solutions for disabled skiers. A fellow road-racer had suffered a spinal injury racing back in ’84 and, after mentioning that he’d like to ski, Woody designed a self-loading mono-ski using motocross technology. Within weeks the ex-road-racer-turned-ski-racer won his first ski race followed by almost winning the national disabled ski championships. That was the beginning of ET. The Unique-1 ushered in a major advance for the newly flourishing adaptive ski programs that were sprouting up across America. Woody’s Superlite flip-skis/out-riggers are now de-rigueur for all skiers whether standing or sitting.

The next innovation was the Bi-Unique, a Bi-Ski  that allowed someone with limited or no lower-body mobility to sit in and ski. In fact, it worked so well that over the years it became the backbone for almost every ski-program on the planet. The design had been refined into an amazing bit of kit that anyone who needed one could buy. During the Olympics in Vancouver we watched them ski using similar sledges and Woody’s out-riggers. Now knowing how they came about and having spent time with Doctorman, the resident bi-ski builder and his brother Jeff, a paraplegic who has been building all the Superlites for some 20+ years, it just felt, well, personal.

Doctorman was kind enough to show us around and let us know how the sledges are manufactured. The detail involved in the manufacturing was astounding but, like Zach, it was Doctormans pride that was so palpable. He and his brother were creating tools for joy – and you could tell that they were inspired. All in all, inspired was really the word for the whole experience. All too soon the wheels were on and it was about time to leave. Zach and Troye loaded us up with shirts, hats and stickers and we were on our way.

We made a quick stop at Performance Cycles and even our sales girl waxed poetic about how great the folks at Woodys were. If you need wheel’s I can’t recommend them enough. In actuality, Nita and I left wondering how we could help in any way shape or form. They’re just fantastic.

We left the shop just in time to hit rush-hour heading north to Boulder where we’d spend the night. Dinner at Baker Street Pub and a few (too many) drinks and we were back at the hotel for a good nights sleep.

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I’m a Canadian writer, adventure motorcyclist and world traveller of British and Libyan descent. I’ve spent the past two and a half years travelling the globe by motorcycle as one-half of We Love Motogeo, following a route that makes little sense to anyone else, while supporting our non-profit organization, the Lost for Good Project. I’ve been chased by all manner of animal, detained as a spy in North Africa and waited out a hurricane in the bowels of a ferry. While I’m no spy (honestly), I am a lover of decent coffee and great yarns sewn around a campfire.

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