May 23, 2024
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May 23, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Bike4chai (B4C) is a two day, 180 mile bike ride that raises funds for Camp Simcha. This is Chai Lifeline’s main fundraising event. We’re talking 600 cyclists—alpha males, retired pro sports athletes, weekend warriors and one guy with one leg.

That one-legged cyclist is JJ Eizik.

As a cancer survivor he has attended Camp Simcha. At the age of 17 he lost his left leg to cancer.

At the age of 18 he was asked to speak to the then 100 riders.

Then someone suggested that JJ ride with Bike4chai. Not the whole 180 miles, because…

(That would be crazy?)

That would be crazy for a man with one leg.

(I mean, how does a man with one leg even ride a bicycle?)

He doesn’t. He hand-cycles.

The first year, he only rode eight miles.

The next year, he rode a little farther.

After that, a little farther.

Each year his journey would culminate with the command center issuing the order, “JJ has gone as far as he can. Someone please pick him up and drive JJ to the rendezvous point.”

(Where do you come in?)

In 2016, I met JJ on day two of B4C. It was a “I didn’t just see what I think I just saw moment.”

(I did. I did. I saw a puddy tat.)

Like Tweety Bird, I had to look a second time.

There, among 500 cyclists—alpha males, retired pro sports athletes and weekend warriors—was a crazy man trying to hand cycle 180 miles in 48 hours.

(Didn’t you say 600?)

Three years ago, it was 500. Each year the number of cyclists grows.

I’ve been coaching since 2011 and I’ve worked with hand cyclists.

This was either the bravest man I’ve ever met, or the craziest.

(You complete in Ironman Triathlons. You run marathons on two and a half hours of sleep. You are calling him crazy?)

The leg muscles are much larger than the arm muscles. A hand-cyclist’s bike weighs twice as much as my triathlon bike.

You do the math.

(No, you do the math for us, Teach.)

JJ has half the resources and has to work twice as hard.

(Yup. You are right. The man is either brave or crazy…or both).

I walked up to him in 2016 and said,

“You need a coach.”

“I probably do.”

“You’re doing this wrong.”

“I am?”

“You should be able to do this whole ride yourself.”

(180 miles with one leg? Now who’s the crazy man?)

There are pro athletes who hand-cycle in the New York City marathon.

(Those are pro athletes. This guy is…)

A sous chef at a kosher restaurant.

(Exactly. How did you think you were going to get this man to do this thing with his one leg?)

That is when I assembled my team.

(Avengers, assemble!)

I reached out to a pro cycling coach. I reached out to a strength coach who’s a former pro wrestler. I reached out to the man who trained me to be a coach, a man who works with pro triathletes. With their help, I devised a training plan to build-up JJ’s arms, shoulders and back. In 2018, we achieved the goal of riding the whole distance and making it to the camp in time for the finish line celebration. I also met two other challenge athletes: Yossi Rotberg and Yehudah Gelman, both cyclists with CP.

Both men who yearned to do the entire ride.

(So naturally you offered to train them.)

Naturally. And that is where our story begins.

By David Roher

David Roher is a USAT certified marathon and triathlon coach. He is a multi-Ironman finisher and a veteran special education teacher. He can be reached at:��[email protected]

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