Janesville31°

Injury, cold can’t stop stunt rider’s return

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GINA R. HEINE
January 20, 2008
— A TV crew from California may have picked the best—or worst—weekend to visit Wisconsin to film a motorcycle stunt team performing on the north end of Lake Koshkonong.

“Completely insane,” was how Jason Britton, host of Super Bikes! on the Speed channel, described the stunts being performed Saturday afternoon as the wind chill dipped near 20 degrees below zero.


Members of the Vertical Mischief stunt team had been talking with producers of the show for more than two years to set up the filming, said Ryan Suchanek, a team member from Milton.


A segment from their five-day trip will appear on a Super Bikes! show during the second week of March, producer Zach Siglow said. Vertical Mischief is the first stunt team to modify street bike tires for ice and perform stunts, Suchanek said.


“It’s visually stunning,” Siglow said, looking out over the shiny iced track as ice crystals formed around his face. “But it’s cold. Really cold.”


But the cold wasn’t the only challenge facing Suchanek, 26.


After suffering massive injuries Oct 5. when he “totaled out a Chevy Lumina with the left side of my body” while driving his motorcycle on Bowers Lake Road, Suchanek is back on his bike.


Suchanek’s left foot was severed, and doctors amputated his leg just below the knee. He was in the hospital for more than a month with injuries including a broken femur and collar bone, a fractured skull, bleeding in his brain and broken ribs.


Being a stunt rider probably saved his life, Suchanek said, because he knows how to properly crash and was wearing the best protective gear.


“My helmet saved my life. There’s no question in my mind,” he said.


Yet he still fractured his skull—something that is prompting him to set up seminars on helmet safety with his Janesville sponsor, Parts Unlimited, he said.


“I put a lot of thought into when I’m going to start riding again,” he said. “And what better time and place than in front of Speed TV on ice—the most dangerous way.”


He’s still adjusting to a prosthetic leg he got last week, but the new leg allowed him to get back on his bike when the TV crew arrived this week.


He lives by the saying “You’ve got to be in it to win it,” and his goal is to become the first rider in the world with a prosthetic leg to compete and earn a podium finish in a stunt competition.


“If I’m going to ride, I’m going to do this like I used to,” he said.


Teammate Joe Beavers said he wouldn’t expect anything less of Suchanek.


“It’s in your blood,” Beavers said. “You can’t tell him not to do it.”


Suchanek said it felt good to get back to “business as usual,” thought it’s earlier than his doctors would like, he said.


“They definitely don’t think I’m healed enough,” he said. “But I’m also definitely not one of those people that are going to sit in their bed all day.”


While he works to regain full motion in his left knee, he’s enjoying the opportunity to show warm-weather motor sports fans what his team can do on a cold, frozen Wisconsin lake.


“People from California, Florida and Texas don’t understand what goes on in motor sports (here in the winter),” Suchanek said.


“This is kind of like our chance to give them a little taste—and making these Speed TV guys freeze.”



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