How a near death experience led to Kradl and our commitment to give to Fire & Rescue Services in the places where you ride.
As I laid there propped against my pack with dust in my face and the bitterness of aspirin in my mouth I was losing my fight for life. Although the paramedics had finally been dispatched, the ambulance was stuck at the trailhead. I could not survive the time it would take for them to reach me. I should have been dead after having just suffered the most lethal of all heart attacks - the "widowmaker." Even if help was to arrive, what could be done? This was real. I began to make peace with myself; memories filled my head as I struggled to remain conscious.
I recalled growing-up having never left the state of Michigan until 1969 when, as a 23-year-old college student working on a master’s degree in engineering, I took a summer job in Berkeley, California. With no way to get there, my wife and I volunteered to drive a Cadillac Coupe de Ville across the country for a guy who gave us gas money to relocate the car to San Francisco. The plan was to camp along the way.
With no prior camping experience and no camping gear, our first stop was Chicago, where we bought a tent and sleeping bags. We packed our new gear into what we called our Coupe de-Motel and headed west.
On the third day of travelling among corn fields and where the water tower in the distance is 70 miles away, I saw dark clouds off in the distance. My wife, who's always right, said: "I don't think those are clouds..." As we approached, the Rocky Mountains pierced the flat landscape with an abruptness and scale that I will never forget.
That night, we slept under the stars in the mountains near Ouray, Colorado. It was here, some 10,000 feet higher than I had ever slept before, where I first discovered my passion for the outdoors.
The fluttering in my chest began to transform to a sharp pain in my lower back as I thought of those years working as an engineer for a research laboratory in the San Francisco Bay Area. I would take my wife and kids to hike and camp in Yosemite, boat and fish in the San Joaquin River Delta; windsurf at Lake Del Valle; and ride bikes to the summits of Mt. Diablo and Mt. Tamalpais. We even gave surfing a try off the coast of Santa Cruz, which was so cold I wished I was back skiing in that blizzard near Donner Pass.
It was ironic that after all those adventures, three kids, two grandchildren and a move to San Diego later I would collapse during a training-hike in preparation for two major treks - ‘Cactus to Clouds’ and a rim-to-rim of the Grand Canyon.
At the four-mile mark something went wrong. While crossing a fairly level, rock and shrub filled area, I was suddenly unable to take another single step. I collapsed into the dusty terrain - I was having a heart attack.
There was no cell service and help was at least an hour hike away. Despite the situation, looking back, I was lucky in this moment: I wasn’t hiking solo (I sometimes did). Of my three hiking mates, two scrambled down the mountain in search of cell service while the other force-fed me a couple of Bayer tablets through my dimming consciousness. Laying there slumped against my pack, my heart stopped while I conjured the image of my family. This was my final memory.
The next day I awoke surrounded by the happy faces of strangers. I lay in a hospital bed. Men in uniforms were standing next to me, but they were not the uniforms of doctors or paramedics, they wore San Diego Fire Dept. badges on their sleeves. Why had they come to see me?
It turns out there was more to that dusty rock filled cropping where I had collapsed - it was a scruffy clearing with odd metal fencing on the ground that had been miraculously designated as a helipad. And, (you can't make this stuff up) the City of San Diego Fire Department had just purchased a helicopter, which, coincidentally, happened to be in the area. Unable to reach me by ground, the Fire Dept. pilots collected a paramedic from the ambulance below. But, it was too late - I was dead when he arrived. Undeterred, he gave me the maximum shock from a defibrillator and found a pulse. Laying there somewhere between life and death, the rescue team put me on the floor of the helicopter and airlifted me to nearest available operating room. My story was on the evening news and celebrated by the fire department (1stResponderNews.com). For the rest of my life I will cherish the sound of helicopter blades cutting through the air.
...I never planned to build a bike lift, the idea wasn't even on my radar...
I was grateful to be alive in a way you don’t understand until you so narrowly escape death. I had been given a second chance and wanted to maintain a regular exercise regime, but wasn't mentally ready for the remoteness of hiking. Cycling became my exercise of choice and I soon became addicted. I craved the warm Santa Ana winds on my face, the fatigue in my quads, being alone with my thoughts; I couldn’t get enough, but I had a problem.
It may sound silly, but getting my bike out for regular rides was a real pain in the... As an engineer and someone who enjoys being in the outdoors, my garage is basically a workshop decorated with backpacks, kayaks, golf clubs, skis and, of course, bicycles. I also manage to stuff a car in amongst it all. There were some days where I would go climb stairs rather than deal with the hassle of getting my bike out of the garage. I looked for solutions, but didn’t want to install some big rack or clumsy pulley system or leave my bike outside. Hanging my bike from the ceiling was the obvious solution, but lifting an unwieldy bike to hang it from a hook certainly wasn't going to get me out on rides more often. I knew there had to be a better way. Even though I never planned to build a bike lift, the idea wasn’t even on my radar, I did what an engineer does: I built it myself.
After years of design, trial and error, and prototyping, Kradl was born. This first of its kind bike lift can lift a bike weighing up to 40 pounds without electricity, clumsy ropes or pulleys. It is a revolutionary design that is easy to install and straightforward to use - it lifts your bike up and you pull it down. I built what I wanted for my lifestyle - when I am ready to go for a ride, Kradl allows me to get out and on the road without fuss. My hope is that our product will help you get to your bike when you are ready to ride and on the road you choose.
Robert G. Ozarski, Founder