Scott Pellett will always remember May 1, 1971, as the day his life changed forever. He was an athletic and daring 15-year-old from rural Coventry, and he decided to climb a telephone pole. “I was going after those old glass insulators,” he recalls. “Somewhere along the line I touched a live wire. It was 13,000 volts in my left wrist.”
Pellett narrowly survived his electrocution, but he also fell from the pole and broke his back, losing the use of his legs. Since then, Pellett has reconciled with paraplegia, living an active and prolific life. “I kind of found a new identity,” he says. He discovered wheelchair basketball in college. He married his wife Lynn, and together they ran a fitness center throughout the ‘80s. Their son recently turned thirty.
Then, at 40 years old, Pellett tried a “hand-cycle” – a bicycle powered by a hand-crank. He took the vehicle to the East Bay Bike Path for a test ride. “I just fell in love with it,” Pellett says. “I still remember, to this day, leaving my wheelchair behind, seeing it get smaller. I saw all these people, and they were so happy. There was this parallel universe, and I never knew about it.”
So in 1999, Pellett went back into business, selling hand-cycles. Today, he’s the owner of Bike On, a specialty bike shop in Warwick. The store is tucked into a narrow drive, but customers visit from across New England to try Bike On’s fleet of hand-cycles, recumbent trikes, tandem bikes, and athletic wheelchairs. He displays these diverse vehicles on the showroom of his 10,000-square-foot building.
“I thought it would be a little part-time venture,” recalls Pellett. But then he was startled to receive an order from a customer in Israel, and he suddenly realized the global reach of an Internet storefront. Today, Bike On helps riders of all stripes, from older riders to wounded veterans, living anywhere in the world. Many of the models have whimsical designs: recumbent trikes for people with back problems, electric devices for power-assisted movement, and the OPair, which can connect a wheelchair to a bicycle and turn it into a kind of rickshaw.
Pellett is still an active athlete, having completed many 100-mile “century” rides with his own hand-cycle. He’s also been encouraged by decades of accessibility advancements. But Bike On has also opened doors to an entire generation of alternative riders. “Many of my customers have grown old with me,” says Pellett. “I’ve sold them five or six bikes over the years. We always say we can get anybody riding a bike, if they wish to.” Warwick