By Myles Fish
Red Deer Advocate
Devin Rochon puts on his pants just like everybody else, if a bit slower.
He speaks of his goals and passions as one might expect to.
And he puts on his racing gloves just like everyone else would, if “everyone else” felt the desire to hop onto a supercharged bike and race around a dirt track, flying around corners at high speed and tackling jumps with abandon.
The difference, though, is that when he slides on one of those gloves, there is nothing to fit into the finger holes.
Because it is all he has ever known, Rochon speaks of his disability without lamentation.
“I was born this way, I don’t really know any different. So it’s kind of a blessing in disguise, I guess. I never really had to adapt, it was always first nature to me,” he says.
The 23-year-old Calgarian was born into a rodeo family.
The fact that he has little below the elbow on his right arm did not stop him from getting involved in the family passion, becoming a team roper and bull rider.
But his own love from a very young age was motocross. Growing up around quads and bikes, when he first threw a leg over one, he was hooked.
That is not to say it was easy learning to speed around a track without the benefit of a right hand. Only the clever usage of duct tape and zip ties allowed him to ride at first, before proper adaptations were made.
“It was a lot of guess and test, trying to find the right setups from bars to bikes, to trying to figure out how to run the clutch and front brake all on one side. I actually rode for a long time without a front brake, only having a back brake. It’s only been five years since I’ve had a front brake; it’s been a nice change.
“Technology has come a long way — it’s made my life a lot easier for sure. It’s made a lot of adaptive athletes’ lives a lot easier,” says Rochon.
Today, Rochon’s custom bike has the throttle, clutch and front brake all on the left side. On the right side is a metal add-on where his arm end rests while riding.
The rest of his bike is as standard as any other, and to watch Rochon race around a track is, it seems, to watch just another motocross racer. And maybe Rochon is just that, a normal adrenaline junkie on a slightly different bike.
While he has twice qualified for the apex of extreme sports competition — the X Games — through success at the Extremity Games for disabled athletes, Rochon will ride a full summer schedule in 2013 on the professional circuit, hoping to qualify for nationals at the end of the season, having lost all competition last year due to a shattered kneecap.
Technological advances have helped disabled athletes around the world compete against their able-bodied contemporaries, but Rochon credits the rise of disabled competitors to something more basic.
“I think it’s just the drive and determination of athletes these days. … If you want something bad enough and you believe in the process, success will come to you,” he says.
A shop manager in Calgary by day, Rochon is also hoping to get into motivational speaking. Motivating seems to come naturally.
“Every time I go to the track, whether it’s in California or Alberta, guys are interested. I’ve actually met a lot of marines in California who had no idea they could even be riding.
“There’re also a lot of young athletes I’ve met who have lost a limb or, like me, have been born with a disability who have no idea they can go out and do whatever they want. As long as you can believe in yourself, anyone else can believe in you,” says Rochon.