R2R: BIKING HELPS ARMY VETERAN BATTLE PTSD

Ride 2 Recovery

Joe Qualls was playing fetch with his service dog as he opened up about his time in the military and his experience with Ride 2 Recovery (R2R). His previous battle with PTSD seemed far away, as he joyfully spoke at length about his experience with biking and the people surrounding it.

Enlisting in the U.S. Army right after 9/11, Qualls left his life as a college football player for basic infantry. But when he came back, things were different. He struggled relating to everyday things and saw himself as a “monster.” But through an inpatient program at Menlo Park VA PTSD in California, the founder of R2R contacted him, told him about the program and lent him a bicycle. Qualls was 387 pounds at the time.

He started slowly, buying a bike and starting to ride by himself. Prior to the military, Qualls mountain biked a little, always calling road cyclists “road weenies.” But, as he climbed on his first road bike he realized “it was hard to be pissed off as a combat guy in spandex.” Qualls is now averaging about 200 miles a week on his road bike and has lost 100 pounds.

Nothing has helped Qualls recover like cycling. “It’s cool to be an athlete again,” Qualls said. “And cycling makes me feel comfortable in my own skin. It’s given me my confidence back and has given me something to look forward to.”

The community has helped Qualls recover as well. “I don’t deal with society so well, but cycling puts us all on an even plane. We challenge each other. There are actually a lot of veterans that find their way into cycling. You don’t need anything besides you and the bike.”

Although he doesn’t ride a Raleigh bike, stating that his height (6’6″) is too large for most of their bikes, he greatly appreciates companies like Raleigh taking a chance on R2R riders. Most companies just sponsor events or teams, Qualls commented, “but Raleigh is a part of the family.”