There are some people with scars or ailments that might make them feel different from others, who wish to hide from the public. It is understandable.
Niki Rellon, on the other hand, smiled as she recently answered questions about her colorfully-adorned prosthetic leg and her plan for a cross-country bicycle ride.
Rellon will launch her solo bicycle trip from Fairfax on Sunday, June 3, with the goal to be the first woman to ride a bike across the United States unsupported, on a prosthetic leg.
Rellon jokes about the Grateful Dead design on her prosthetic leg: “That’s how I would look now if I had been buried.”
The German-born extreme athlete and former championship boxer and kickboxer nearly lost her life when her harness failed during a canyoneering accident in which she fell 45 feet from the side of a mountain in Utah in 2013. The accident resulted in injuries to her spine, several broken bones and the loss of her left leg. She nearly died while being airlifted from the scene of the accident to the hospital, but found the strength to survive.
“I nearly punched the doctor when he asked me about cutting off my leg,” Rellon said.
Grieving the loss of her leg was a pain she found difficult to bear. She found strength from a group of veterans who had suffered similar injuries and “kidnapped” her from her hospital room to take her to an indoor rock climbing wall.
Fourteen months after her accident, she became the first woman to walk the entire Appalachian Trail, 2200 miles, on a prosthetic leg. Doctors had told her that her sporting days were over but, she said, she would not be content “moving about in a wheelchair, taking opioids for pain.”
Rellon recently released her motivational story “Push On: My walk to recovery on the Appalachian Trail” on Amazon.com. She will host a book signing at Copperfield’s Books in San Rafael on June 1. Rellon wrote the book, she said, to inspire others “to never give in to your circumstances, even when facing impossible odds.” Rellon plans to tell her story along her route, with motivational talks and book signings.
June 3rd is International World Bicycle Day, and Rellon will start her ride from The Marin Museum of Bicycling in Fairfax. Her website www.nikirellon.com includes a detailed map of her coast-to-coast route, and she is inviting people to meet her along the way. She is also inviting anyone, especially a child, who can’t afford a prosthetic limb to contact her in regards to a possible fundraiser.
Rellon had a custom-made titanium bike built by Dean Bikes in Boulder, CO, to suit her needs as a long-distance amputee rider.