Where There's a Will, There's a Way

Marek Turkiewicz

From persevering through severe injuries to inspiring adaptive athletes around the world, Marek Turkiewicz has a story that holds lessons for all. 

Mountain biker riding in the forest.

Marek Turkiewicz back on bike and his beloved singletrack.

A high-speed motorcycle crash into a tree in September 2013 left Marek Turkiewicz with life-changing injuries. He emerged from a two-week coma with an amputated right leg, a shattered spine, multiple facial fractures, and complete paralysis of his left arm.

At the time, Marek questioned whether he’d ever ride a bike again. His long journey back to his beloved singletrack was more difficult than anything he could have imagined. It was a years-long process marked by tears and turmoil, but also assisted by friends, family, a newfound community of adaptive athletes, and serendipitous advances in electric mountain bike technology.

Eleven years after his accident, Marek works as a doctor of radiology in an oncology hospital in Szczecin, Poland, near the Baltic Sea. In his free time, he is back on the trails, on two wheels—back to the activity that brings him his greatest joy. He mainly rides on singletrack, but a few times a year he tackles mountain bike parks and enduro courses. His closest friends remark that the joy that had always distinguished him has returned. His broad smile has returned. The opportunity to return to mountain biking is a second chance of sorts, and something he will never again take for granted.

FREEDOM

According to the most common definition, "freedom" is the absence of limits and constraints. It is a situation in which one can do anything according to his or her own free will. It is a tremendous gift and a great responsibility that most people don’t fully appreciate. Only when freedom is taken away can one fully realize how much they had to lose. Fortunately, whether one is truly free depends primarily on their state of mind. Many lost freedoms can be regained.

Marek knows this as well as anyone. He has every right to focus on obstacles and setbacks, but instead he focuses on opportunities and possibilities. While shooting a promotional video in Świeradów-Zdrój, his extraordinary level of professionalism is apparent. Change the location? No problem. Repeat the shot? With pleasure. Some athletes might complain in such situations, but not Marek. Instead, he takes the initiative and seeks routes where he can confidently showcase the full spectrum of his skills.

Fast, tight, winding trails are his specialty. There were occasions during the shoot when he rode up to the beginning of the route multiple times to familiarize himself with the trail and smoothly overcome obstacles at full speed. He doesn't give up, regardless of the challenge.

Cyclist friends riding together on mountain bikes.

Meeting his friends and riding bikes in nature, that is freedom to Marek.

"The fact that I can ride on mountain-bike trails, meet my friends, and commune with nature, that is freedom to me,” he says. “When I get on the bike, I don't feel the limitations that afflict me in everyday life. There are many places I couldn't access while walking, but my E-bike gives me almost unlimited possibilities.”

Most cyclists recognize that riding is more than just a way to stay active. It’s often an extraordinary passion that motivates self-improvement and helps one process life's adversities. Jumping on the bike helps us forget about all the problems, stresses, and hardships of everyday life. Marek acknowledges that cycling is a key form of therapy for him. Only what lies ahead matters. After all, you can't navigate singletrack while constantly looking over your shoulder.

Although he sometimes recalls the events that led him to the life he now lives, Marek looks into the future with hope and optimism. "I want to have a happy life and ride my bike for as long as possible,” he says. “I hope what I do turns out to be inspiring for people going through various injuries or simply struggling with the difficulties of everyday life. Remember that the number of limbs, or your physical or mental conditions, do not define you. Only you decide who you truly are.”

Marek riding mountain bikes with friends in the woods.

Marek and friends on the trail.

GRATITUDE

Lately, the practice of gratitude has become fashionable—and that’s a good thing. It's an important topic because in our busy modern lives, it’s easier than ever to overlook everything at our disposal.

As a cyclist, it’s worth exploring. Ask yourself a question: What do you feel when you get on your bike? Is it joy? Is it happiness? Or perhaps you find yourself annoyed that your brakes are squealing. Or you dwell on the fact that your boss didn't give you the raise you felt you deserved.

It's easy to overlook that you are sitting on your dream bike, riding on trails that may have been beyond your reach just a few years ago. We’re all guilty of treating this hobby as a given—of not being present, spending our rides overanalyzing rather than experiencing. Yet all it takes is to pause for a moment, take a few deep breaths, and look around.

Dog and owner in nature.

There's nothing like having a faithful companion out on a cruise.

Marek regularly speaks of feeling immense gratitude for being able to again ride a bike. When was the last time you silently uttered that sentence in your thoughts? It’s something to consider the next time you put your feet on the pedals and grasp the handlebars.

Marek’s family and friends played an integral role in getting him back on a bike. First, he had to learn to walk again with a prosthetic leg. Later, he began to pedal on a stationary bike. Ultimately, five and a half years after Marek’s life had changed forever, he first got on an E-MTB—and his life changed forever once again.

“It’s a revolution that puts tons of people on the trails,” Marek says of electric mountain bikes, which help him stay active and, most importantly, to access and navigate trails on his own.

Modifications to Marek’s Trance X Advanced E+ include a go-kart style bucket seat for added balance and stability, a steering damper to steady the handlebars on technical terrain, a 130mm crankarm that helps avoid pedal strikes when riding in a standing position, and dual-lever brakes to enable front and rear braking on one side.

Marek refers to his dual-lever brakes as “an absolute must” for stopping a 25kg E-MTB on trails. And he calls the steering damper a “game changer” and the most important modification he’s made.

A high-rise handlebar provides a more upright position, taking pressure off the injuries to his thoracic spine, while the 29-inch wheels on his Trance X Advanced E+ “just roll better.” He also appreciates the linear power output delivered by the SyncDrive Pro motor, which he finds preferable for navigating tight turns.

Marek now feels compelled to return the support he has received from loved ones and strangers alike. When he gets on the bike, he doesn't just think about covering more ground or visiting new places. He’s aware that he now has a large social media following, and that he serves as inspiration for countless cyclists and other athletes worldwide. He enjoys making appearances at cycling events, where he eagerly shares his unconventional journey.

Most of all, Marek has proven that if you truly want something, there is always a way.