There are basically two constants in David Abramo's life: pain and optimism.
And for the Healdsburg personal trainer, one thing eases the former and reinforces the latter — getting out on the road on his bicycle.
Abramo, 43, who was born with a type of cerebral palsy that affects his legs, back and hips, wants to show the world what he can do on his bike. He hopes he'll get the chance at the next Paralympic Games to be held in September 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.
But he is asking for help to get there, becoming a pitchman, fundraiser, planner and trainer with the goal of representing the U.S. in para-cycling at the world's largest international competition for people with disabilities.
And while it's more than two years away, Abramo says he has had to gear up quickly.
For one, he has to raise funds for a new custom-built bike, which is expected to cost $18,000. For another, qualifying races have already begun for the 2016 Paralympics.
In early July, the 2014 USA Cycling Amateur & Para Road Nationals will be staged in Madison, Wis., and Abramo, who is registered for the Road Race and Time Trial events, has to get both himself and his new bike to the meet.
The road to Rio begins now.
"I'm putting everything into this," he said. "I haven't even thought about failure. Not too much, anyway."
That might as well be Abramo's personal motto. Smart and self-effacing with an easy charm, Abramo has spent the past few months knocking on doors, asking for donations from friends and strangers in person and online, and recruiting sponsorships.
His efforts are paying off — he's raised more than $13,000 and secured a corporate sponsor, and after a fundraiser Saturday, he hopes to have enough to fly up to Seattle for the first fitting on his new bike.
"I've never been more excited and more terrified in my life," he said. "It's all starting to feel real."
When he arrives at Davidson Bicycles, the company that agreed to design and build his custom bike, it will be the first time in his life he has ridden an upright bicycle. His will have two rear wheels and a movable top bar.
Until he committed to trying out for the Paralympics, Abramo's cycling was limited to a recumbent bike, a type of bicycle that's low to the ground and allows the rider to pedal from a reclining seated position.
It was, he thought, the only kind of bike he could ride, owing to his condition — he can't lift his leg high enough to clear the top bar of a traditional upright bike.
On the recumbent bike, he embraced the sport and routinely rides more than 100 miles a week, participating in dozens of organized rides all over the West Coast.
"I really like the competition. It was another way I could challenge myself," he said. "Cycling has been a great thing for me. I've met so many wonderful people, and I just love riding.
"It's the mobility I never had. There's nothing like being out on the road in your bike. It's the one time I feel like I don't have a disability."
But even cycling presented a ceiling for Abramo. When he tried to register for the aqua/bike race two years ago at the Windsor-based Vineman, they told him he couldn't compete on his recumbent bike. Vineman is a race that's sanctioned by the Union Cycliste Internationale, the international governing body for cycling including para-cycling, and recumbent bicycles are not permitted in international competition.