Bobby McMullen: mountain bike racer, paralympian, husband, father and friend, died on Monday, September 12, 2022.
The news of Bobby’s passing has friends, family and the cycling community saddened and in grief for the loss of a truly inspiring man. Bobby fought his extensive battle with diabetes, cancer, kidney failure, and other health issues with humility, grit and grace. Despite losing his vision during his first year in law school back in 1993, his stoke and determination to hit the trails never waned. He continued to race mountain bikes blind. Bobby leaves behind his wife Heidi and daughter Ella. Bobby and Heidi were set to celebrate their 10 year anniversary later this month.
A tribute to Bobby McMullen by longtime friend and riding partner Yuri Hauswald
We’re on our way to the airport, Bobby’s Ford F-150 van stuffed with bikes and gear, his wife Heidi driving, when the gravity of what I’m doing really hits me. I’m heading to another hemisphere, with a blind man who basically has to carry around a small pharmacy of pills to help keep all his organs working, to guide him down a dangerous track of berms, bumps, and banks that most sighted people wouldn’t even consider riding. I’m going partway around the world to ride with a man whose wellbeing, every time we swing a leg over our bikes, is in my hands and my hands alone. I’m embarking on a journey of a lifetime with a man I barely know, to spend two weeks competing, riding, and traveling around the South Island of New Zealand, and all I have to do is make sure he has fun and, most importantly, makes it home in one piece.
I wrote those words a decade ago about Bobby McMullen, a man who had plenty of excuses for not riding a bike, or living life to the fullest, but there we were on our way to the South Island of New Zealand to compete in a six-hour Super D race in Queenstown. Bobby had survived diabetes, kidney failure, years of dialysis, two kidney/pancreas transplants, multiple tibia/fibula fractures, open heart surgery, and an aggressive form of cancer. Oh yeah, and he also went blind when he was 29, which makes the fact that he rode a bike for the past 30 years that much more incredible.
What most folks would have seen as a life ending disability, Bobby turned into an ability, which he used to inspire countless people across the globe. But that was, to steal the title of a movie made about him, “The Way Bobby Sees It.” Bobby never made excuses, in fact, one of his greatest gifts was his eternal positivity, his ability to find the silver lining, the humor, the possibility in every obstacle that stood in his way.
Speaking of obstacles, you might be wondering how a visually impaired rider like Bobby pedaled a bike. Well, on top of being a gifted athlete before he lost his vision, he used echolocation, and a very keen sense of his surroundings, to navigate the terrain. My voice, and those of his other guides over the years, was a staccato stream of commands that laid down a “track” that he followed instinctually, a beacon that helped show him the way.
One of my favorite Bobby-isms was his saying “I’ve got dirt in my teeth,” which he’d use after we’d executed a perfectly choreographed run that ended with big grins on our faces that had collected more dust/grit than the grill of a car collects bugs.
Our cycling community lost a truly inspiring figure, someone who I was honored to have guided over the years, someone I loved like a brother, someone who inspired through his actions, someone who NEVER made excuses. On our flight home from New Zealand many years ago, I asked Bobby why he did what he did, why he continued to compound his medical risks by taking physical risks on the bike. And I will never forget his squinty eyed, smiling response: “Every day I get up, I’m thankful for the life I have. Every day gives me the opportunity to push limits beyond limits and show what we’re capable of.”
In honor of Bobby, I encourage you to get a bit of dirt in your teeth every day, to live life to the fullest, to find humor and possibility in challenges that we face, to tell those around you that you love them, and to push your perceived limits so that you can truly tap into what you’re capable of. That’s how Bobby would want us all to live and, by doing that, you will carry his spirit within you.
— Yuri Hauswald
A GoFundMe has been created to support Heidi and Ella as they move into this new world without Bobby. You can learn more here.
Bobby was featured on our cover back in 2012. You can read the story here. We are looking to update the images and quality of this post.
Learn more about Bobby McMullen’s legacy on his site Ride Blind Racing.