Friends and family commemorated the donation of Schultz’s new e-bike with a celebratory ride and ‘cheers’ to the Montane Hut on Saturday, April 20. The bike was purchased with close to $10k in donations from the community. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

E-bike brings sense of normalcy for Fernie man with ALS

Community purchases e-bike for cycling enthusiast who continues to struggle with ALS

After months of secrets, friends and family unveiled the gift of a lifetime to Fernie’s Ryan Shultz. In just two short months, 110 community members raised $9,275 to purchase an e-bike for the cycling enthusiast who continues to struggle with ALS.

“It’s so much more than just a bike,” said Shultz as the bike was presented to him by friends and family in his backyard, Saturday.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis is a disease that affects motor neurons of the spinal cord, causing progressive weakness and atrophy of the muscles.

Just over a year ago, Shultz received a tentative confirmation that he had ALS. Since then it has become harder to practice his favourite activity; biking. It has also forced him to quit his job. While trying to support his family, purchasing something like an e-bike was out of the question.

While all this was happening, Shultz was unaware that a group of close friends had started a Gofundme page, vying for support to help purchase him an e-bike. In one week, $8,525 had been raised.

The Free Press previously reported that Shultz discovered the fundraiser before the group planned to tell him.

“It’s so heartfelt that people are recognizing my passion for bikes,” he said in November of last year. “To have friends go ahead and recognize a passion of mine, something that would bring me such great joy… it’s unbelievable to have this happen.”

To commemorate the gift, the group met on Saturday April 20 and ventured out on the Adaptive Trail to Montane Hut for a celebratory first ride and ‘cheers’ at the top.

At the hut, friends and family gathered around Ryan for a group photo with the new bike. Shultz could only find one word to describe how he felt; overwhelmed. At the same time, he said it’s bittersweet.

“I’m so happy to be in this position, yet I hate being in this position. It’s not a position I want to be in,” he said.

Shultz explained that this bike is door-opener for him. During the winter, he was riding a borrowed e-fatbike in Montane when the system shut off. Try as he did, he couldn’t continue to climb the mountain.

“It just really confirms that I really cannot be doing this sport, I cannot be out here, I can’t be with all these people right now without the help,” he said.

Shultz hopes that his story helps change the minds of those with negative views towards e-bikes. He stressed that it’s not a glorified moped or dirt bike, it simply allows him to keep up with his friends and feel a sense of normalcy.

On Monday April 15, Shultz received the results for his latest round of MRI’s. Doctors were looking at his c-spine, brain, hips and femur, to see if they could locate another source of his progressive weakness. They found nothing else, leaving only one probable cause; slow progression ALS.

Shultz is taking solace in the fact his ALS is progressing very slow.

“It’s weird though – this disease is so hard … I’m dealing with the fact that, yeah I get to live longer, a lot longer than most. But I’m going to have to deal with… like Stephen Hawking, an extra 10 or 15 years of that,” said Shultz.

“Which is great and cool and all – I get to, but I have to,” he added. “I get to live longer but I have to live longer because I’m going to have to endure that.”

Shultz smiled, explaining how he’s grateful that he will get a few more strong years before things start to progress more rapidly.

“You just keep doing every day you can,” he said.

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