Reggie Showers: Born on a Bike
by
Robert P. Bennett

 

Born in Philadelphia in 1964, Reggie Showers was like any other Philadelphia-raised kid. He and his friends played hard. His greatest attraction was motorcycles, just like his older brother, Herman. "When I was growing up there were kids in the neighborhood who had little dirt bikes. My older brother, Herman, was always into motorcycles. When I was six or seven I used to sit on his bike, pretending to drive it."

When Showers turned ten he no longer had to pretend. "My dad bought me a dirt bike, a Honda 75. When I started to ride it around I never imagined that I'd be racing one day. I was a casual rider who only did it for the fun of it."

Back in the early seventies there was a dirt bike track adjacent to the railroad yard near where Showers lived. The neighborhood kids spent their days riding their dirt bikes along those trails and playing on the railroad's box cars. Like many kids they never realized the danger that they placed themselves in. One day, Memorial Day of 1978, Showers learned just how dangerous a game he and his friends had been playing. "This particular day my dirt bike was broken so I road my bicycle to the track. After a while I got bored and went to play on the box cars. We used to do that all the time. I jumped onto a box car that was a little higher than the others. I was a tall kid then. Just standing on that car I got too close to one of the power wires that were used to power the trains. The electricity arced onto me."

Showers' sneakers grounded him. The high-voltage electricity coursed through his body, knocking him out. Luckily he never felt any pain. His friends found him and called for help. When the doctors examined him they found he'd suffered some third degree burns on my arms. Nothing too serious. His legs were another story. They were severely damaged. Everything below the calf muscles of both legs had to be amputated. "I'm lucky to be here at all. I spent a month in a Crozer-Chester Burn Center, the best burn center in this part of the country at that time, and another month at Magee Rehabilitation Hospital." Over time he learned to develop the muscles he had left in his legs, muscles that would allow him to use prosthetic limbs as well as the limbs he'd lost.

Showers never shed a tear over this accident. No matter how bad everyone else thought it was, no matter how much they told him he'd never be able to do again all he could concentrate on were the things he wanted to try. He went back to school in September, after a summer of intensive rehab. At the time he could barely walk straight, but he kept pushing harder. His parents constantly told him to slow down, but he couldn't. "It's amazing how some people limit themselves. I do not hold back, though I have to work a little harder than others. I do a lot of physical training, especially bike riding, which keeps me flexible in the leg area."

For some people being a double below the knee amputee would mean a series of readjustments and the loss of many favorite activities. Not Reggie Showers. He was itching to get back on a motorcycle, though his parents were dead set against the idea. "I saved my money from working for my father in his grocery store. I bought my first bike, a 1978 Kawasaki 900, after graduating high school. That was my first real street bike. I used to keep it at my girlfriend's house and didn't tell my parents I got it."

Soon after buying that first bike Showers was challenged to a drag race, which he won. It was the first time he'd raced. Afterward he was hooked. What followed was a series of races. Every weekend he was at the drag strip in New Jersey refining his skills and learning more about riding techniques. "There were a couple of things I had to change or adjust to make the motorcycle more comfortable. One of the problems I'd been concerned with was the placement of my feet on the foot pegs. The placement of the foot pegs on the chasis was critical. I needed to make sure I was firmly planted on the motorcycle with my legs so I could have the most control. The only control that needs to be operated with the foot is the back brake and that's easily accessible for me. Where they generally put the brake lever is just forward of where I place the foot peg."

It wasn't long before Showers found himself building his first pro street bike. With it he set two world records, one a #1 plate in his class. In 1989, he moved up to pro competition, a 'pretty seriously tough class'. He was scared. "When you launch one of these motorcycles you're pulling about 2 g's." He didnít know what to expect from himself, his bike or the race. Still, he had one thing on his side. He was dedicated to improving himself.

The first thing Showers had to do was build a new motorcycle. The bike he built utilized a suzuki engine, which we bore out to 1500 cc's. Every part of the engine was modified in one way or another. He used after-market crankshaft, cylinder heads and transmission. The rest of the bike was also built from the ground up, using a Trac Dynamics chasis and a carbon fiber body by Air Tech.

"My first year out we won a world championship. We set 14 records, some of which have never been broken. In 1990 we entered 4 of the 8 races on the schedule and got the #2 plate." Showers has continued to perform well in every race he's entered. In 1996 he raced against such greats as John Myers in the Winston Pro Stock Motorcycle Championships.

Response to an amputee racer has been extremely favorable. Both the fans and the sponsors love him. "People come up and tell me how much of an inspiration I am to their kids and family. I've met a lot of people with disabilities who have watched me race or listened to me speak. They just get uplifted. The sponsors love the fact that an amputee is out there. It draws attention to me, and to anyone who sponsors me. The competitors have welcomed me too. At first they didn't even know. They treated me just like any other new guy. As far as my disability is concerned I've yet to hear anything negative from anyone. Personally, it makes me feel good to know I'm the only amputee in motorcycle competition and that I'm kicking a few guy's butts."

Showers isn't racing right now. Instead he's busily assembling his own team for next season. Prosthetic Design Incorporated (Dayton, Ohio) has signed on as his associate sponsor for the next few years. They've even promised to build him a set of special racing legs. However, he's trying to solicit an entitlement sponsor.

Going Home Now!

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