Perhaps it was that first motorcycle, a small dirt bike that he got when he was 12 years old.
Maybe the horrific car accident he was in at the age of 24, an accident that cost him his right leg below the knee and incorporated a metal rod permanently in his left leg that influenced his future walk in life.
But Port Orange resident Eric Cinnamon, now 35 and a successful Realtor with Adams Cameron & Co., has become a competitive motorcycle racer and an inspiration to other young motorcycle riders to navigate safely on public roads.
He also is an inspiration to other competitive motorcycle racers, who observe him in action on the racecourse, and to others in the gym where he works out who might be having a hard time working out – until they see this man with an artificial leg working out.
“They tell me I motivate them,” Mr. Cinnamon said, and that is easy to believe, because this tall, trim man is a positive person who believes “attitude is everything.” The same day his doctor cleared him for “50% weight bearing” on his injured legs, he jumped on a friend’s motorcycle and rode around the block.
His car accident occurred in March 2011. By the end of that calendar year, after 24 surgeries and more than three months in the hospital, his medical bills, even with insurance, were astronomical, so it was 2015 before he invested in a motorcycle, a Suzuki GSX-R1000. Then he says he decided to “go for it” and try his hand at racing. “It was time to not give myself any excuses,” he added. He “parlayed that with the support and encouragement from some close racing friends.” He obtained his race license and established Eric Cinnamon Racing LLC.
This all began in early 2018 when he came across a program online that looked like a contest, “What would you do with the opportunity to get on a racetrack?” He said he hadn’t seriously considered racing, because it was “prohibitively expensive,” but this program was partially funded by the State of Florida. He applied for one of the few spots available, and earned a spot.
“It was so much fun, I don’t think the smile was off my face for three days,” he laughed.
But he needed to learn more. “I simply didn’t know what I didn’t know,” he said. “As I began learning technique and proper operation, I became a sponge for more information. I absorbed all the knowledge and advice that experienced racers surrounding me were generous enough to share. I worked through the physics behind each technique, then went on the track and applied it. No matter what level of riding I achieve, the learning process is endless and I’ll never stop striving to improve.”
Two years later, he started racing competitively. He established a “great team of race sponsors that support me and believe in me,” he said. The list includes the law firm of Charles Vega P.A., TST Industries LLC, MGS Auto Works, JW Coatings, MotoStop Daytona, Allison Motorsports, Mark Tenn Motorsports, Engine Ice Hi-Performance, GoPro, Motul, OGIO, Shorai Batteries, Braking, Action Sports Canopies, Blur Optics, Motool, Slick Products and Flasch Nutrition. He is always seeking more sponsorship opportunities from businesses as he continues racing.
Then he had his racing bike, a Yamaha YZF-R6, redone “top to bottom in my own livery” to accommodate his leg. Part of the remake included a boot and foot peg system, where he could keep his artificial leg in place while he put weight in that side of the bike in a turn, yet easily remove his racing boot from the peg after the turn.
When he had his car accident in 2011, his legs were crushed and the car caught fire, resulting in bone grafts, skin grafts, titanium rods, knee reconstruction and amputations of his right leg below the knee as well as two toes and part of his left foot.
“The sport is rooted in lower body strength, which is not my forte,” he said. “To compete with an amputated leg takes extra effort and creativity just to keep a level playing field, but it’s a challenge that I gladly take on.”
Of all the venues he could have chosen for his first races, he chose the “mack-daddy, all-intimidating Daytona International Speedway, which attracts competitors from literally all over the country and internationally.”
He added it was the support and encouragement of his wife Connie and his good friends Dan and Kevin Spaulding and David Wallace that he decided to tackle Daytona.
He competed in four races in March against competition with much more experience, and “prepared myself mentally for the likelihood of actual last-place finishes. I would have been perfectly content with that just to have survived the experience,” he said.
Instead, he finished far better than he had hoped for with a fifth place in Championship Cup Series Heavyweight Supersport, sixth place in Championship Cup Series GTU, a longer race; fifth place in American Sportbike Racing Association Endurance, and fourth in CCS Middleweight SuperBike (only 1.2 seconds away from finishing on the podium).
He plans to race again this fall during Biketoberfest at Daytona, and also has started coaching new track riders with various track organizations in hopes to grow the sport and make the public roads a safer place for everyone.
“Once riders see how fun and safe an environment the racetrack can be, it changes their outlook and the manner in which they ride on the public streets. Not only that, but by teaching them the fundamentals of proper bike control, it makes them more capable riders on the roads, which turns it into a safer place for themselves and everyone else on the roadways,” he said.
Mr. Cinnamon is now employed by the Florida State University Police Department Motorsports Team to do just that, by instructing alongside them in their “Preventing Street Racing Through Legal Alternatives Program,” which is partially funded through a Florida State grant.
“It just so happens that my first trackday ever was through this same program,” Mr. Cinnamon said. “As one of their success stories, it’s such a satisfying opportunity to come full circle and give back as an instructor on the other side of the classroom.”
He is passionate about giving back – and about racing.
“To hang off the side of a bike, inches from the ground at triple digit speeds is exhilarating,” he said. “It’s massively challenging and requires total focus, allowing the bike to become an extension of yourself. Strategy, preparation and anticipation are the name of the game.
“It’s exhausting,” he continued. “But when you pass that checkered flag, all the effort becomes worth it. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”