Charles-Ryan Barber has always pushed himself.
Whether he was jumping off the tallest point on the playground at 5 years old or performing (literally) death-defying stunts as an acrobat in his late 20s, Barber admits that he’s never been one to turn away a challenge.
So it's no surprise that he kept on pushing, even when life dealt him a devastating blow: the loss of his leg.
Barber's life changed in late 2018. It was Christmas and he had just said goodbye to his parents in Phoenix. As he started his ride back home to Los Angeles, a drunk driver swerved into his motorcycle.
The accident led to a series of procedures that would ultimately end in Barber's leg being surgically amputated below the knee.
When he came to in the hospital in Phoenix that night, he faced the news with a sense of optimism.
"I was just so glad to be alive. It was such a crazy accident," he told us. "When I realized that it was just my leg, I was like, 'Oh man, there are so many things I can do on one foot. No problem.'"
Still, despite his confidence, he found out that things wouldn't be that easy -- especially as the medical procedures kept on coming.
"For a time, I really struggled to make any progress. I tried to get fitted for a prosthetic, but that didn't work and I was never able to take full steps. I got depressed. That was the hardest time," Barber said.
Faced with these new difficulties, he was introduced to Rad Power Bikes by Travis Brewer, an American Ninja Warrior finalist and close friend. Barber tried out his friend's RadMini in mid-2019 and discovered that an ebike didn't just help him get moving, it also cheered him up.
He bought his own RadRunner not long after.
"Being able to finally get around was crucial for me at that time. It made a huge difference for me mentally," Barber explained. "It's my wheelchair and a source of therapy, transportation, and just plain joy. I love it."
To date, he has had 15 different surgeries, the most recent of which was a procedure to remove an additional portion of his leg above the knee three weeks ago.
None of it has stopped him from pursuing his career as a professional acrobat, however. If anything, it's just made his resolve stronger.
Photo Credit: Chase Riner (IG: @iamchasespenser)
Leaving that path never seemed to be in the cards for Barber. He fell in love with acrobatics after wandering across a group of performers practicing their routine on a beach in Santa Monica.
For someone who had grown up as a daredevil, it seemed like a natural calling. He quickly engulfed himself in the world, mastering the flying rings and eventually training as a trapeze artist.
"When you're swinging back and forth in a giant arc 30 feet up in the air and doing flips on either side -- there's not much else that comes close to feeling like flying."
Amid an ongoing recovery, Barber returned to the sport more determined than ever.
"Having one leg gives me something unique as far as acrobatics go," Barber said. "I became the first amputee trapeze catcher in the world."
While his journey is far from complete, Barber’s looking forward to the future -- one that's both in the air and on his bike.
"I'm ready to really step it up," he quipped. "Pun intended."
(Cover Photo Credit: Ardavan Tavakoli)