Bobby McMullen has survived diabetes, loss of his vision, kidney failure, years of dialysis, two kidney/pancreas transplants, open-heart surgery, and has battled a particularly aggressive form of cancer. He has broken more bones than he can count. In spite of challenges that would take most people out, Bobby lives life full-on. He is a passionate extreme sport competitor -- a tenacious adrenaline junkie who competes alongside fully able racers. As a downhill mountain bike racer, his “life support” is the bike.Bobby is an inductee to the National Athletes with Disabilities Hall of Fame, and a current nominee to the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame.
Born and raised in Redding, California, Bobby now makes his home in Mill Valley. He is a natural athlete who was a high school sports star in spite of being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 12. Bobby attended Weber State University in Utah where he skied for the Wildcats ski team. He earned a degree in Political Science and returned to Northern California to begin law school.
In 1993, during his first year of law school, Bobby lost his eyesight as a result of complications related to diabetes. It was a sudden loss. He was totally blind in a month.
Undeterred from pursuing his love of competitive sports, Bobby learned to ski with a guide. Within a year he qualified for the U.S. Disabled Ski Team. He spent seven years as a member of the U.S. Team, was a two-time U.S. Disabled Overall Downhill champion, and earned his spot on the Nagano Paralympic ski team.
During competition in the 1996 World Disabled Alpine Championships in Austria, Bobby’s kidneys began to fail. He was on dialysis before the end of the year, and received his first double transplant (kidney and pancreas) in 1997.
Bobby was back on the ski circuit within months. He competed in the 1998 Paralympics in Nagano, Japan, taking fifth place in the Alpine downhill ski competition. He continued to race with the U.S. team until his body rejected his transplant organs. He endured another two years of dialysis before receiving his second double transplant in 2003.
Through his ski career, Bobby used cycling as a means of balance, strength and endurance conditioning during off-season. He worked with other riders to develop a method of “guide-follow” (similar to that used in skiing) for use in both road and mountain bike riding.
Following his second transplant, Bobby renewed his commitment to bike riding. He was competitive in 23 mountain bike races in the year following surgery, and has not slowed down since. He works with a “ride guide” who rides ahead of him and calls out obstacles. Since 2004, Bobby has raced in at least 25 downhill, cross-country, and 8- and 12-hour mountain bike events each year.
Mountain bike riding demands extraordinary athleticism, coordination, focus and courage. Riding blind with a guide requires extraordinary faith and trust. Bobby exhibits all of these traits as he faces adversity on and off the bike.
Bobby spent the summer of 2010 in Europe where he raced the Euro Cup SuperEnduro in Sauze d’Oulx, Italy, followed by the Megavalanche race in Alpe d’Huez, France. He is the first visually impaired rider (let alone two-time double transplant recipient) ever to have competed in these races. The Megavalanche is one of the most extreme mtb races on the planet: 1,000 riders start at the same time for a race that drops more than 10,000 feet in 19 miles. It’s just plain nuts – Google it.
Bobby’s passion is mountain bike downhill competition, though he competes in cross-country races as well. In 2006 he completed the 3,000-mile Race Across America, riding for Team Donate Life to raise money for transplant research.
Bobby’s participation in the 2005 Nissan XTERRA World Championship Mountain Bike Triathlon was covered in a CBS Sports Spectacular (February 2006). He has been featured in a number of publications, including Sports Illustrated, Decline Magazine, Bike Magazine, Dirt Rag Magazine, Mountain Biking UK Magazine, BIKE Magazin Germany, Los Angeles Times.com, New Zealand’s Spoke Magazine, and many others.
He recently appeared in the film “Kranked 8: Revolve”, featuring the world’s top mountain bike riders, and was profiled in “Look to the Ground” (both from Radical Films (2009) – www.radical-films.com). Both films are currently screening at film festivals around the world.
In the past year Bobby was featured in “Blinder Mountainbiker” a television special for Germany’s Galileo TV (roughly the equivalent of the U.S.’ Discovery Channel), which has been viewed across Europe.
Bobby’s life and philosophies are subjects of the international award-winning documentary “The Way Bobby Sees It” (2008, Poison Oak Productions –www.poisonoakproductions.com). The film follows Bobby’s preparation for and competition in the 2007 Downieville Classic Mountain Bike Race, a 17-mile course said to be the country’s most challenging downhill race.
2012 threw some powerful obstacles in Bobby’s path. He underwent heart bypass surgery to unclog arteries, had a pacemaker inserted in his chest, was diagnosed with cancer that metastasized to his lymph nodes and required multiple surgeries along with a radical regimen of radiation treatments, all while dealing with the death of his father.
Nevertheless, he came through not much worse for wear, still pedaling, still smiling and optimistic. He continued to participate in race events and to motivate others through speaking events.
He also married the love of his life.
Bobby kicks off his 2013 Season with the Queenstown Bike Festival in New Zealand followed by a series of race events in the U.S., Canada and Europe. He plans to return to France to take care of unfinished business with Megavalanche.
Bobby shares his life experiences and inspiration with audiences worldwide through speaking engagements and film screenings. In 2010 he was keynote speaker at the Windham, NY, World Cup MTB event, raced the World Cup citizens’ course and participated in motivational events for the Windham Resort Adaptive Sports Program. He has presented at corporate motivational events, for colleges and universities (as well as grammar schools and high schools), at film festivals and for community organizations.
By participating in these events, Bobby has been able to spread awareness of and appreciation for disabled athletes, to inspire and motivate thousands of people world-wide, and to demonstrate all that is possible in life.
Santa Cruz Bicycles, Wilderness Trail Bikes, Kali Protectives, SRSuntour-Cycling, Lezyne, GU Nutrition, Ryders Eyewear, Royal Racing, 5-10 Shoes, Kore USA, GoPro Cameras, Gamut USA, and Skullcandy.
Bobby has volunteered for and spoken on behalf of the Lighthouse for the Blind, American Association of Kidney Patients, BloodSource, American Diabetes Association, Da Vita Dialysis Centers, Focus Film Festival, NorCalHigh School Mountain Bike League, and the Bay Area Outreach and Educational Program, the Windham Adaptive Sports Program, and many others.