“Hey, do you want to see my ‘exercise bike’?” I asked my coworker, another physical therapist. She looked at the picture of me on my dirt bike and said, “Well, I guess you would get a workout on that.”
As I went around the PT gym and showed other PT’s my ‘exercise bike,’ many of them made similar comments. This was my first clue that most PT’s had no idea riding a dirt bike is something that requires incredible strength, coordination, balance, and skill. So I had this thought that if my PT colleagues didn’t understand my “exercise bike”, then perhaps the dirt bike population as a whole was not being served adequately, and Wingman Physical Therapy was born.
My earliest memories are with a family friend, Hal, as we rode around a dirt track in California. I must have been around 4 years old. He just told me to hang on, and then climbed a bunch of dirt hills and tracks. That was the first time I experienced the freedom of being on a dirt bike. My buddy Frankie taught me how to ride his YZ80 when I was in fourth grade. A few months later I got a Honda 100 and used a milk crate so I could stand up tall enough to kick start it and get up on it to ride. I loved riding all over the desert and mountains of Southern California. At 16, I sold my dirt bike to build a Baja Bug, and rode friends’ dirt bikes on and off.
That was the first time I experienced the freedom of being on a dirt bike.
Always wanted to buy another dirt bike, but things came up that were more important: college, marriage, four children, multiple job relocations to Washington, Colorado, and Oregon. After selling our house during our 2021 move and settling in Flagstaff, my wife encouraged me to get my current bike, a KTM 450. When I rode that bike for the first time, I went from 47 years old to 16 years old in the blink of an eye. Freedom.
“Hit me in the @#!$ing face.” Sifu Johnson screamed at me. I learned very fast in Kung Fu that I had to train specifically to be effective, and to have intention behind every move and exercise, regardless of whether it was on the practice mat or in the gym. The world of Kung Fu opened my eyes to the power of the body when used correctly. It also showed me how to heal through knowledge of human anatomy and it sparked my interest in how I could help other people using my hands.
This spark (and a career consultant) would lead me to physical therapy school and a future in healthcare. In my first 15 years as a physical therapist I learned some very interesting things about the body and people. I learned that my job wasn’t in ‘fixing’ people. No one can really ‘fix’ the body. You can do things to help it heal, but it’s not a machine. You can’t just replace the parts like a car. I was able to ‘guide’ people on little things (exercise, stretches, etc.) that would help their body recover. The hard thing about the body is you don’t know how fast or slow it will respond.
I learned that my job wasn’t in ‘fixing’ people. No one can really ‘fix’ the body. You can do things to help it heal, but it’s not a machine.
The other strange thing about people is the power of the mind. Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or can’t then you are right.” I have seen people do things that doctors told them they would never be able to do. I have also seen people ‘unable’ to do things that for all practical purposes they should be able to do. This is one of the main reasons I like to get to know riders first. I want to know what they want to accomplish, what they believe about themselves, the situation, and me. Consequently, I have learned to take time, ask good questions, and listen. These skills have helped me see through the situation and determine the real challenges and then make a plan based on reality. Kind of like Sherlock Holmes looking at several clues, listening to different witnesses, and then forming a picture of what really happened.
Why would I want to walk away from working in hospitals or outpatient clinics (AKA job security) to open Wingman Physical Therapy? In my 15 years of working as a PT I have had the great honor of working in large hospitals, home health, skilled nursing homes, and outpatient clinics. I have seen a troubling trend of less time with patients and less concern about what the patient needed and more concern about what insurance would pay for and how many units can be billed. This has lead to poor satisfaction for both the patient and the PT. I decided that I was going to quit being a PT or I was going to do it the right way. Actually, I did decide to quit, but my wife told me I could not stop being a PT. It was something I was born to do. So here we are…
I am all in. I have learned that to ride a dirt bike I have to be all in. I can’t be thinking about anything else or I will crash. I am all in for using my experiences and knowledge as a physical therapist, martial artist, and rider to help others. I want to do anything I can for them to perform at their best, to ride longer with less effort, and to ride for more years. Being a PT I am also uniquely skilled to help riders recover faster from injuries and/or surgeries.
Something unique about my philosophy is, I believe the dirt bike is an integral part of a rider’s recovery and conditioning. Most healthcare professionals tell riders to stay off their bikes. That makes about as much sense as ‘one size fits all’ (and we all know how well that works). Most trainers want riders to go to the gym. To me it flies in the face of everything I was taught in PT or history. As I mentioned earlier, you have to train for specificity, so why would I leave out the dirt bike with something so important as recovery or conditioning? Years ago I learned the roman soldiers would put their injured calvary riders on horses and lead them around to help them recover, because they needed to be able to ride again. Am I really that far off to see the same benefits in using the dirt bike as an effective tool?
I believe the dirt bike is an integral part of a rider’s recovery and conditioning.
The last thing I will say is that even though I had rode a dirt bike for many years, it was hard to accept as an adult that I didn’t really know how to ride well, especially on a larger bike like the KTM 450. In order to learn what challenges a pro-rider faced, I had training from Ryan Wells, owner/founder of AZ Dirt Bike Training. Through my time with Ryan I learned the foundation skills of how to ride a dirt bike consistently well, which further cemented my understanding of how to train for riding one. I have come to believe that riding lessons are an incredible value not just for pros but for all levels. I have more fun and feel much more in control of the bike after working with Ryan and his instructor Drake.
I love helping people and would love to help you achieve your goals.
See you out there!
Dr. Vincent Maurer, PT, DPT