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On A Roll

Quadriplegic motorcycle mechanic spends years crafting his own custom power trike.
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- Ron Asay's main means of getting around for more than 30 years has been a wheelchair. 

His other ride is flashier and a whole lot faster. 

The custom trike with a bored-out 2.8-liter Chevy V6 engine has the Roosevelt, Utah man reaching speeds of 80 mph, collecting local car show honors, and fielding questions from curious onlookers who see him rumble by on the bright blue machine. 

"Most of them tell me they're amazed, and can't believe I can do it, and say they couldn't do it, even with the use of their hands," Asay said. 

You see, the trike Asay rides wasn't just built for him, it was built by him. 

"I was a motorcycle mechanic when I got in my accident that put me in the wheelchair," he said. "I can't ride two wheels any more, so I do three now." 

In 1981, Asay was in a head-on crash with another vehicle that was towing a car on a trailer. The trailer began to fishtail and the driver lost control. 

"I flipped end over end twice," Asay said about the crash that landed him in the hospital for 3 months and permanently damaged his spine. 

"I have no movement in my fingers," he said. "I can move my arms and my wrists a little bit, but I don't have full strength in them, and I have no movement or feeling from the chest down." 

Asay was forced to give up fixing bikes for a living. He enrolled in a computer training program and eventually got a job working for American Express, where he retired after 17 years on the job. 

But the desire to feel the wind blowing in his face never subsided. It has always existed for Asay, who built his first motorized trike at the age of 6, affixing a small engine to a kid's tricycle. 

"We left the pedals on it so you could still pedal home if the engine quit," Asay said, adding that after his crash he, "missed the motorcycles." 

So in 1993, Asay began building his first trike - the blue one with the flame paint job that he still rides today - from a mix of parts that included the front end of Chevy Citation, the forks and front fender of a Harley-Davidson, and even sheet metal from a washing machine. 

His dream machine took 13 years to finish. He's since built two more, including a red two-seater V8 that was completed over the last year and a half. Asay's second trike sold on eBay for about $12,000, and he is looking for a buyer for the red trike. 

"I didn't build that one for me to ride," he said. 

Asay's trike includes a bucket seat that slides out to allow for an easier transition into and out of his wheelchair. It also includes a steering wheel rather than handlebars, power steering and power brakes, and is operated exclusively with hand controls. 

To fabricate the trikes, Asay has had to build new tools or adapt existing ones. He's built a rack that allows him to rotate the frame of one of his creations 360 degrees. 

"I can work on the bottom, the top, any angle I need to," he said. 

He also relies on help from his friends and his father, for "things that I can't get to on my own." 

"But I do most of it myself," said Asay, who added that he's never thought of himself as a role model for people with disabilities. 

"I just do it so I'm not bored," he said. 

As for his next project? 

"I've been toying with the idea of building one like a limousine," Asay said. "It would be kind of enclosed, have drop-down DVD players and the backseat would rise up out of the sunroof. 

"I don't know if I'll ever get to that or not," he said. "I'm slow with it, and I get frustrated sometimes, and things get a little challenging, but it's better than sitting in the house doing nothing."
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