hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

March 6, 2014

Loses leg, still rides

Company alters cycles for handicapped riders

By Bruce Amaro

---- — Chris Chretien thought he had done it all in his motorcycle career.

Then he met Joe White of Bradford.

About six months ago, White came into Chris Chretien’s motorcycle shop — Vindicated Cycles, 40 Locust St. — and said needed help. His motorcycle was running fine, but he had lost the lower part of his left leg.

Doctors told White that because of blood flow problems, that part of his leg had to be removed and replaced with a prosthetic leg.

“I had problems with my left leg and the doctors tried one thing and another to get the blood flowing,” White said.

Eventually, White’s doctors told him that they could not do anything more to save the lower part of his leg and that amputation was the only option.

“It was smoking that caused this,” said White, 61, a home builder and remodeling contractor.

Losing a leg under any circumstance is tough for anyone, but for a motorcyclist it can pose bigger problems. There is the problem of holding up the cycle with two legs, and because motorcycles shift gears manually, the rider needs his left foot to move the shift lever that is on the left side of the motorcycle.

White planned to sell his motorcycle until he heard about Chretien’s new cycle shop.

Chretien already had a reputation as an expert motorcycle custom builder and repairman. He has 25 years experience in the motorcycle repair business.

“I did it for almost 12 years from my garage at home,” Chretien said.

During the process of designing White’s special motorcycle, the shop found imaginative ways to allow White to use the cycle.

The crew added a sidecar to give it stability, and installed an electronically activated automatic transmission shifter to the vehicle.

“We built a special leg foot rest so Joe could plant his new prosthetic leg without it getting blown off the bike,” Chretien said.

With his small, experienced crew of Michael Champy in customer service and sales and Michael Mgrdichian, a longtime motorcycle mechanic with 25 years experience, Chretien sees the opportunity to open up motorcycle riding to people who have reduced physical abilities and cannot easily ride a motorcycle.

He especially wants to help disabled veterans who want to ride.

White is the first disabled rider the shop has helped.

Chretien spent time away from motorcycle work before opening his Haverhill shop.

After years with a successful motorcycle business in New Hampshire, he shut it down to pay more attention to his personal life. But Chretien could not stay away from his tools and motorcycles. He took in work at his house, where he worked on cycles in the garage.

“I have the best neighbors in the world,” said the 56-year-old Haverhill resident. “They never bothered me about all the work I did in my garage. They were really good about it.

“But I figured I really should get out of there and find myself a place,’’ he said of opening up the shop, “so I went back into business again.”

Keeping disabled motorcyclists riding

Sidecars bring stability to the cycle.

Gears can be shifted by hand instead of by foot.