Editor's note: Updates Tuesday's article to add that Specialized is donating $10,000.
OGDEN, Utah (BRAIN) — Volagi Cycles co-founder Robert Choi remains hospitalized here following a collision with a car a week ago. Choi faces a long recovery as supporters rally to help him, his family and the company that has been his passion for at least the last six years.
Choi, who is about 55, suffered a head injury after being rear-ended in a roundabout near the Volagi headquarters in Ogden the evening of Sept. 27. After refusing medical treatment at the scene, he returned to his office, where he was found unconscious a few hours later. After emergency surgery, he was in a coma for several days.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Choi's condition was slightly improved, Barley Forsman, another co-founder of Volagi, told BRAIN.
Forsman said that after a very difficult week, he is now more optimistic about Choi's future health.
"There's been a lot of back and forth and ups and downs," Forsman said. "We all want some kind of definitive answer about his future and whether he's ever going to be himself again. At this point I think him returning to 100 percent would fall into the miracle category. But Robert is very tough, and if anyone could defy a doctor's expectations, it would be Robert."
Forsman met Choi when they both worked for Bell Sports in the 1990s, after Bell had bought VistaLite, a company that Choi founded. Choi and Forsman later worked together at CamelBak and then at Specialized. They both left Specialized to found Volagi in 2010. Specialized later sued the pair, claiming they stole the Volagi bike design from their former employer. Volagi lost the suit and was ordered to pay Specialized $1 in damages. On Wednesday, Specialized founder Mike Sinyard told BRAIN the company was donating $10,000 to help Choi. See details below.
Several years ago, Forsman stopped working at Volagi day-to-day as he began doing freelance design work. But he remained a co-owner and drove from his home in California to Utah soon after the accident last week to help out. The third Volagi co-founder, Susan Scarlet-Macaw, also has returned to help.
Although the company announced last week that it was suspending operations, Forsman said Volagi is now accepting and filling orders.
"We are now getting back up to speed and we have every intention of keeping it going, and supporting our customers and supporting the brand," he said.
At the time of the accident, Choi was training to attempt to set a world record for the most vertical feet climbed by bike in 48 hours.
Forsman said details about the accident are scarce in part because Choi didn't talk to anyone after the accident other than emergency responders. It appears that he was doing one of his regular after-work workouts around a roughly 1-mile loop through the industrial park where Volagi is located.
An elderly driver entered a roundabout on the loop and, with the setting sun in her eyes, never saw Choi before hitting him. Forsman said the driver was reportedly very distraught after the incident.
Although his bike was heavily damaged, Choi refused medical treatment and returned to the Volagi office. When he didn't return home or call that evening, his wife eventually went to the office, where he was found unconscious.
Choi has two adult children and was recently remarried.
The family has launched a GoFundMe campaign to defray medical costs and other expense.
Specialized founder Mike Sinyard told BRAIN Wednesday that Specialized employees were donating $10,000 to help Choi with expenses. Sinyard said the donation came from "all of us at Specialized, especially Kwai Kong and myself." Kong is Specialized's leader of equipment and a former colleague of Choi's at Bell Sports and VistaLite. Kong shares the patent with Choi on the VistaLite LED light.
"I've known Robert a long time and care for him ... If there’s anybody that is strong and determined in this world it's for sure Robert," Sinyard said.