Most people make it about five miles their first time on a hand cycle. Staff Sgt. Valette Webb, an Air Force veteran, did 30 miles her first day. By Thursday, Day 4 of the Ride 2 Recovery Gulf Coast Challenge, she had already eclipsed that.
It wasn’t her first challenge ride, but it was her first time using a hand cycle, after a debilitating accident she suffered last summer while working with other veterans.
But ride organizers said the Mississippi native’s story exemplifies what is great about the ride.
“My motto is the best way to know if you can do something hard is to do it,” said Webb, who now lives in Colorado.
Ride 2 Recovery aims to use cycling to help wounded veterans work through post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and other physical injuries. There are groups and rides all over the country, including the six-day, 470-mile ride from Atlanta to New Orleans.
“With veterans, a lot of them lose a sense of family. This gets them back in a group with like-minded people,” ride director Joe Coddington said. “They can let down emotional guards and help each other process.”
Cycling is good physical activity for wounded veterans. It helps correct balance issues. It’s low-impact, and bicycles can be adapted for people with permanent injuries such as blindness or the inability to use their legs. For those with traumatic brain injuries, cycling can help rebuild some of the cognitive connections that were built as children when they first learned to ride.
And the groups and rides offer a sense of community for veterans who can be suddenly outside the camaraderie they’d grown used to.
Webb began bicycling when a former boyfriend bought her a single-speed bike. She quickly moved on to a bike with gears and did a challenge ride in 2015.
She began working with and mentoring other veterans.
“I’m just trying my best,” she said, “hoping that helps others do their best.”