RA: Have you modified your bike in order to work with your prosthetic limb?
Charles Rutherford: My prosthesis is attached with suction and the air is removed through a hose with each step I take. I’d noticed the diameter looked similar to steel-braided brake line and Ducati Minneapolis was kind enough to cut and attach a couple pieces, giving me what I believe is the world’s only prosthetic foot that won’t suffer from fade. Ducati Minneapolis was also kind enough to take a serious interest in getting me back in the saddle. Simply raising the shift lever so I could hook it with my toe fouled the engine case, so they made some adjustments to a 2013 Ducati Multistrada and put me on the dyno to make sure I could get it up and down through the gears. It worked.
RA: What have people’s reactions been like when they realize you’re riding with a prosthetic?
Charles Rutherford: When I have both feet on the ground at a stop, it’s pretty clear something isn’t normal. I’ve had other riders not in our group point and give a thumbs-up. People who don’t ride also don’t understand how important it was to get back on a bike. Someone else’s simple mistake shouldn’t rob me of my love of two wheels. If you have to explain, they’ll never blah, blah, blah.
RA: Have you had to modify your riding gear? How?
Charles Rutherford: In what will probably horrify the riding community, my best option is to wear thin shoes. That way, I have more room to get my foot under the lever while keeping it low enough to make it reasonable to hit downshifts with my heel.
RA: What did you family and friends think about your decision to start riding again? Has that changed over time?
Charles Rutherford: For me, riding is baked in the cake. Photos of my first time back on my dad’s bike had 255 likes and dozens of comments on Facebook. There weren’t many that were anything but positive. Thankfully, my love and addiction to motorcycles wasn’t stored in my left foot.
RA: What do you ride now and what do you want your next bike to be?
Charles Rutherford: I’m between bikes right now. That Hypermotard was the most amazing machine I’ve ever thrown a leg over, but the kind of riding I want to focus on in the future is going to be something that’ll chew up the miles in places and between points of interest that a Hyper can’t do. I don’t have to try very hard to picture myself on a Pikes Peak Multistrada for 2014. After watching The Long Way Down and The Long Way Round during recovery, I may have to consider a BMW though.
But I have to tell you, after the outreach of the Ducati community in general and John Meyer, president of DOOM (Ducati Owners Of Minneapolis), it’s going to be really hard to picture myself on anything but Ducati.
RA: And the aftermath?
Charles Rutherford: I could write a compelling country song about it. I started the summer with a girl, a bike, a pistol (I legally carry a pistol and I voluntarily surrendered it to police on the scene), a left foot and I lost them all.
Also, your insurance or the auto insurance of the other driver will not be enough to compensate you for any serious injury. If you ride a motorcycle, get an umbrella insurance policy! If either me or the driver had a million dollar umbrella policy, I’d be talking to you from Italy or the Dominican Republic right now. Thankfully, my health insurance covered my hospital and prosthesis, but the loss of the foot isn’t worth the $100,000 he had in liability. Additionally, with State Farm, the “under-insured” motorist policy doesn’t mean squat when I’m on a motorcycle. Know your policy.
Although the driver had some personal assets that weren’t insignificant, I decided not to sue (and likely win). Instead, I invited him out for a beer so he could instead share in the joy of the fact that I’m back to golfing, skiing, and mountain biking. He went from being a sad, broken person, worried that he’d ruined someone’s life, to genuinely sharing in the joy of my having my life back and still looking forward to all the things I have left to do.