While in the Navy, Steve Peace enjoyed riding bikes when the chance presented itself.
In fact, he even won a small local race.
After a 2006 stroke took away his ability to ride a traditional bike, however, Peace has turned his attention to the trike.
So what exactly is a trike?
“With trike racing, you take a normal bike with two wheels and you split the back axle,” said Peace, who picked up the discipline in 2009 and went on to compete in the Paralympic Games London 2012.
“You make it two wheels — sort of like forming a triangle.”
Peace spoke to TeamUSA.org from Italy, where he finished second in the T2 time trial and fifth in the T2 road race at the UCI Para-cycling Road World Cup over the weekend in Maniago. He plans to compete again at the world cup May 18-21 in Ostend, Belgium.
Competing in a world-class trike racing circuit is something Peace never could have imagined that night in 2006, when the stroke left him laying on the floor for 14 hours before one of his Navy friends called the fire department to check on him.
“I had a stroke, and I couldn’t ride a bike anymore and I really missed it,” Peace said.
After the stroke, he tried two other modified bikes, but neither of the low-riding models worked for him.
“There was nothing else in the U.S. I could ride,” he said.
Then, one day his luck changed.
“I found the upright trike in England,” he explained. “I figured, what the heck, and ordered it.”
Learning to ride it took patience. Turning the three-wheeled trike was nothing like turning a two-wheeled bike. Every time he turned he felt like he was going to fall over, so early on he had to slow almost to a stop each time he turned.
“I rode on it and fell on my rear end pretty hard the first time,” Peace, now 43, recalled. “But slowly (I) got better and eventually found myself in a national championship, winning a national championship and making the U.S. team. It’s all been history since then.”
And the trike not only worked for Peace, he realized, but it could also work for many others.
“Almost all competitors who have a disability somehow have had their balance system affected, and you can’t put them on a two-wheel bike. They will fall off,” he said. “You would have too many accidents with other riders. If you put them on a three-wheel bike, that has more stability. You have the ability to keep it steady and straight.”
So Peace, a San Diego area resident, has made it his mission to put more people on trikes. It’s so far been a successful endeavor.
When Peace resumed cycling in 2009, he notes only three people, counting himself, rode trikes in the U.S. Today, he says that number is closer to 30.
“Probably 28 of those I’ve had a hand in some part in getting them on the trike,” he said.
Peace’s efforts have been wide ranging. He’s created a reference guide to trike racing for those interested individuals — Trike 101 (complete with 20 trike rules to live by). He’s also started Peace Cycling Performance, which offers various coaching services and has since branched into a racing team as well. Two team members, Ryan Boyle and Jill Walsh, competed in the 2016 Paralympics.
“I immediately developed contacts,” he said. “I went from coaching to coaching and being a team leader. I’m so pleased with how it has turned out.”
That determination — both on the trike, and off of it — has long been engrained in Peace.
He recalls a conversation he had with his father in the hospital while recovering from his stroke that set the stage for his passion of helping others with disabilities regain the ability to ride.
“The first part of it is being in the military, you never give up,” he said. “I was in the hospital after the stroke and couldn’t say much. I looked up at my dad and asked him what I had to do to get out of there. It’s always been the next thing for me. There are some great people who ride trikes. I want to make sure their lives are as easy as possible riding these trikes.”