Living life my way: How carbon fiber is an expression of me

Meet Pete Anziano, a world traveler, autocross racer, father and husband. He is a big contributor in the assistive technology world in the form of peer support groups, adaptive sports, fatherhood and, of course, racing. Since his early racing days, Pete always knew that he was a carbon fiber man, so to get his own APEX C was a no-brainer. We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to meet with Pete to talk about life, his journey, and his plans for the future.

Pete Anziano says his father played a big role in his life starting from a young age. He always encouraged him to “live life his way.” With that life creed in mind, Pete began his world exploration at the young age of 15 with his first solo trip to France where he hitchhiked from Paris to Thonon. Then he climbed to Chamonix and explored Mount Blanc. He spent the remainder of his teenage years and early 20s motorcycling through Europe, climbing the mountains of Ecuador, mountain biking in Peru, touring the great parks of the USA, racing motorcycles and making new friends along the way.  In 2004 Pete suffered a spinal cord injury that would lead to spending the rest of his life in a wheelchair. The accident changed his perception of life.

Can you share with us what you went through after your injury and how you rediscovered yourself?

After my injury, I was lost trying to find my way back to my father’s “living life my way.” I had to get good at being me under these new undesirable circumstances. I had spent my younger years traveling throughout the world and doing activities that I loved. After my injury, I did not know how feasible it would be to keep on doing the things that made me feel like me. I put a lot of focus on family and friends and started researching wheelchairs and adaptive equipment that could help me get back into my active lifestyle. I also got involved in peer support groups, which were tremendously helpful. It is important to have access to this kind of resource when adapting to a new lifestyle. Once I realized that I had a strong support network and opportunities to find a wheelchair that would fit my lifestyle needs, I knew I could get back on track and “live life my way.”

You mentioned you were a big fan of autocross racing. Can you tell us a little about the sport and share some of your favorite memories in competition?

Autocross is a form of car racing, sorta like the competitions you see on the X-games except all is done on asphalt, not cross terrain and on a budget. My father did it in his younger years. He calls it "gymkhana". I have always loved the sport and after my injury was very interested in making it accessible to me since motorcycling was not as fun as it had been. I was always searching for the lightest quality parts I could use on the cars, to give me the best chance to win. I’ve raced competitively now for four years and for the last three years I placed in the top three for season points.  Winning is awesome… but I really love refining the car as much as driving. I love cars as much as racing.

We also heard you were getting into the world of water-skiing and making and modifying your own equipment. How has that been?

Water skiing was my first attempt back into the world of sports after my injury. I live in a great place in Georgia that is advantageous for people with an outdoor-esque lifestyle. I did some research, got some equipment and realized that I could make my own better adaptive equipment to enjoy the water and maybe win. Being drawn in by the creative process, I built an adaptive ski and was on the water testing it, making modifications, and ultimately succeeding, being selected for the USA team for the World Championship. It was a great realization for me that lead to hope for future projects in adaptive sports. Because, while I enjoyed water-skiing, it didn’t really fit my lifestyle.

How did you find out about Motion Composites’ carbon fiber wheelchairs?

The first time I found out about Motion Composites was at their tradeshow booth in Germany. I was visiting a friend in Germany when I heard about the REHACARE, the International Trade Fair for Rehabilitation and Care, in Dusseldorf. While visiting the exhibit hall, I started to take notice of a new age, lightweight material being used by wheelchair manufacturers:  carbon fiber! With a past in racing and the lifelong quest of finding the lightest, most efficient equipment in racing, I had already wondered why I hadn’t seen this material for my wheelchair. The APEX was not available in the USA at the time. So I had to wait. A few years later it finally became available. Since then, I have always considered my carbon fiber wheelchair an extension and expression of my personality.

Tell us about the first time you tried out the APEX C.

After the introduction to the company in Germany, I was put in contact with one of Motion Composites’ local reps. He brought a demo by for me to test. The moment I sat in the chair I knew it was for me, that it was an expression and an extension of me and my personality. I loved how light it was, its easy functionality with transfers when going on trips with my family, and not to mention the “sexy look” of the caster setup. Once I am in my chair, it is something I am proud to display, my “gator skin boots” if you will. My chair is like the one pair of shoes I wear everywhere. It’s important to me that it demonstrates how I feel about myself. Someone who wears “Gators” wouldn’t be seen in a pair of Birkenstocks. The APEX helps me feel like me.

What difference do you notice between carbon fiber and other materials you previously tried? How does this compare to the racing car equipment you use in autocross?

Now that I have upgraded from titanium to carbon fiber, it is easy to say that I am in the lightest chair I have ever owned. There are many positives about the carbon fiber material: less vibration, light transfers, durable, etc. Furthermore, carbon fiber speaks to my spirit. The things that stuck out the most was the actual design of the chair. For example, the extra platform with padding on the front of the frame… pure genius! It is easy and does not add stress to your hands because of the ergonomic design. Car racing is no different. You not only have to think of light, durable materials, but also of the actual design and everyday functionality of the machine. 

You have been using your APEX C for about a year and a half. How has it been so far?

It has been fantastic. Motion Composites was great when ordering my own personalized APEX C. It was perfectly matched to what I wanted in a wheelchair. I have two beautiful little boys and a loving wife. The chair makes it easy and fun to do family activities. I now have more liberty in this chair then what I have had in previous chairs. I live my life with no… well fewer restrictions. That, plus the chair looks sexy!

And finally, we heard you have begun to “slow down.” What are your plans for the future?

My wife and I just recently built a house in Georgia, so you’re right, things have slowed down a little bit since then. But I want to instill my father’s life creed into my boys, so I want to start traveling with them more. We have a plan to start domestic with an RV or home-built schoolie trip across the USA. This will be a good starting point to create memories and beautiful experiences with my family. I want them to “live life their way” as I was taught long before by my father.

Motion Composites would like to say thank you to Mr. Anziano for taking the time to speak with us and wish him a happy future with his new-found lease on “Living life the Pete Anziano way.”

To follow Pete's path with his APEX C and see the difference for yourself, you can visit the product page.

About Motion Composites

Motion Composites has an international reputation as a leader in the design and manufacture of ultralight manual wheelchairs.