One thing about Moe Lolley is he’s always on his bike. He’s skinny, has tattoos, a man bun. He has this easygoing attitude about life, anchored by one guiding philosophy.
“Nobody said you have to have two legs to ride a bike,” said Lolley, 33, a former resident of Long Beach, Calif., who recently moved to North Carolina.
When Lolley rides, his right foot is held down by a leather strap on the pedal. But when your eyes wander left, there’s a visible void. No leg, no pedal, only a rolled up pant sleeve flapping in the wind.
“To be able to stand up and power through, up a hill, i miss that a lot,” Lolley said. “I miss being able to just stand up and pedal. I’m always in the saddle with my one leg.”
Lolley chooses not to own a car and prefers to leave his wheelchair at home. A road bike is all he needs. The only alteration is the removal of that left pedal. As an amputee, his rule is to avoid hills, stairs, obstacles — anything that will cause him to fall off or have to walk.
For Lolley, the goal is to keep pedaling. Keep the bike moving, even during stoplights. He’s been riding bikes since he was a kid, but nine years ago everything changed. A freeway collision sent his truck grinding into a guard rail.
“As I was basically unzipping the guard rail from the freeway with my truck, every post, that noise I’ll never forget. The explosion when it first happened. I still have vivid daily reminders.”
The rail smashed through the floorboard.
“It came through like you’re pulling a wire through a tin can. I came to a stop,” Lolley said. “I’m all entwined in guard rail and broken metal. Cars are still whizzing by.”
Then three more cars struck him.
“I lost my leg down here mid shin. That was down the freeway. For three days in a separate room, I was from my foot. They had nerves here, veins here. Taking debris out of my foot to try to maybe salvage and reattach it maybe. It never worked.”
Eventually, doctors had to remove most of his left leg. The only thing left were his quads which were pretty much useless without a knee. Lolley’s life would have been easier if it had been amputated below the knee, and this is why he doesn’t wear a prosthetic to ride. It just feels weird.
“My prosthetic. I have electronic knees,” he said. “The leg itself is 12 pounds dead weight. That’s just that much dead weight on that left side I don’t need. To push and pull would be way off, so to do it with one leg only just feels more natural still. It doesn’t feel as robotic as it would with a prosthetic.”
Riding with one leg hasn’t been easy, and he gets annoyed by the way people react when they see him riding by.
“I couldn’t tell you how video cameras sticking out the sides of windows,” he said. “We had this one guy in LA, he sped up way past us, while hearing the shutter noise the whole time, just to park illegally in the middle of the street, runs into the center divider or the median, squats down real action figure like and starts taking pictures of me as I go by.”
Almost a decade after the incident, Lolley still feels intense muscle spasms. They never go away. And that’s why riding his bike is so important. It helps him forget about the pain.
“Throughout the past three years, I’ve had certain injuries and surgeries, two or three months or so at a time where I didn’t ride,” he said. “I probably put in close to 5,000 miles since I’ve started riding total.”
Counting miles, that’s what Lolley does. He keeps moving.