CABOOL, Mo. – Ryan Woods has a life-altering story to share while teaching high-schoolers business skills.
The owner of bicycle shop Cabool Bikes in south central Missouri, Woods became paraplegic after a horrific accident in 2001 that severed his spinal cord, with shards of bone blasting through his body as if a bomb went off.
He’d been performing a freestyle motocross practice jump at Hungry Valley Motocross Park in Gorman, California. When he didn’t have enough speed coming off a ramp, he dropped his bike into third gear, gave it more gas and overshot his landing. It was a hard stop, but Woods never lost consciousness. Little did he know, he had also broken several ribs and punctured one of his lungs, which was quickly filling up with fluid.
An EMT was on scene and supplied him with oxygen until an air ambulance arrived and flew him to an emergency room. Medical professionals told Woods’ loved ones to prepare to say their goodbyes, but Woods was not giving up that easily. Days after the crash, medical staff weighed options for surgery, though Woods’ body had endured such massive trauma that doctors feared he would become quadriplegic rather than paraplegic.
The 14-hour procedure fused 14 vertebrae back together with clamps, screws, rods and pins. Intensive care bills reached $100,000 a day to keep him alive; the government stepped in to declare Woods a ward of the state and cover his medical expenses.
But the incident did not break his spirit. The 43-year-old says he kept going and has never slowed down.
Once in recovery, Woods wanted to attend school. California sent him to Palomar College where he would receive five associate degrees after much indecisiveness.
Woods told The Heartlander he reached out to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), a maker of technology for the public and national security. Woods began building autonomous wheelchairs for people who have suffered traumatic bodily injuries, later becoming a military contractor for Northrop Grumman for 17 years before retiring in 2017.
How did Woods find his way to Cabool, Missouri?
Several of his co-workers were military recruits who had previously lived in Missouri and told Woods of the state’s beauty and natural resources. Woods purchased a 25-acre farm and moved to Cabool after visiting the area and noticing a community in need.
The cycling guru says before motocross he was into BMX and anything else having to do with bicycles, and it was his dream to one day open a shop of his own. Cabool was the perfect fit in his eyes.
“When I saw Cabool, its small population and lots of kids around, I thought a bike shop would be great for our community,” Woods said. “The main focus for kids is BMX and for the older crowd, mountain bikes.”
The shop is full-service, selling mountain bikes and BMX stunt bicycles, but Woods says a majority of the shop’s income is from service and repair.
Today, the biking enthusiast gives back to the community in various ways, including internships for local youth. He recruits local high school kids for a 200-hour bicycle shop indoctrination program to teach basic work skills such as filling out service slips, ordering parts and how to design professional displays while working closely with customers in a public setting.
The machinist says he also has a side business venture called Cycle QMX, which manufactures off-road wheelchairs for the disabled.
Woods says local cycling hobbyists are excited to see a bike shop in their community for the first time. Some have traveled from as far as Springfield, Rolla and West Plains to make purchases or seek repairs.
“They are so grateful there is a bike shop to go to. We have weekly rides every Saturday at the bike shop and Montgomery Lake here in Cabool. Ultimately the goal is to bring more cycling to our community through a sanctioned BMX track, which requires that you hold a national once a year and would bring 300-500 people to Cabool once a year for that race.
“I think the community has responded very well. In the beginning we had people coming by the shop in disbelief that there was a bike shop in Cabool and they had to come in and see it for themselves. We are in the Show-Me State and they wanted to see it. They were glad we are working with local kids, the local high school, and giving them a place to go and things to do.”
Woods’ next adventure begins with USA BMX, the largest BMX association in America. The two are partnering to bring a high-grade professional track to a property at 1980 Bluebird Road in an industrial area.
Woods has been in Cabool for three years and wants to help the community grow as much as possible, and is now treasurer for the Cabool Chamber of Commerce.
“I’m really involved in the community as much as I can. I attend city meetings and try to work with local nonprofit organizations to get everyone singing off the same song sheet. How do we move forward? How do we bring this small community into the 21st century?
“There’s been a lot of resistance to change in the past in this community. I think having the bike shop has opened up people’s minds; there has never been a bike shop. It is family-orientated, kid orientated and tourist orientated. I think those are all the things that could help Cabool.”
To learn more about Cabool Bikes and watch a video about Ryan’s journey, visit the website.