Not all heroes wear capes. Some of them wear bicycle helmets. Just ask Dan Mahalek -- or, as he's known around the house these days, the Rad Ranger.
Dan’s a mild-mannered retired school teacher from Kearney, Nebraska. Last week, he took his RadCity electric commuter bike out for an afternoon ride with his wife, Sandy. It started out like any other trip, with the two exploring the trails surrounding Yanney Lake, but that all changed when he noticed a young man running frantically along the water.
Riding closer to investigate, they spotted a family crouched down along the rocks trying to console a struggling dog. It turned out their four-legged friend was tangled up in fishing line, with a hook embedded in his tongue and a large, barbed lure stuck in his paw.
"This poor dog was panicking," Dan told us. "He was trying to use his paw to scratch at his mouth, which had the line hanging out, and that would have made it all much worse. I mean, it was pretty painful looking."
Not being one to let a helpless animal suffer, Dan jumped back on his electric bike and took off like a rocket to go get help.
An avid cyclist, Dan told us that he usually tries to stick to pedal-assist one, the lowest power setting on his bike. Occasionally, he'll even knock it up to a two or a three if he's taking on a daunting hill or strong headwinds. But with a pup's safety on the line, he didn't hesitate to use the bike's throttle to get himself up to 20 mph without pedaling.
"The throttle's invaluable. It takes just a flick of the wrist to get you going," he explained. "Usually, I only use it when I'm going across busy intersections with a lot of traffic, but this was a good exception."
Dan tore off down the road until he came across a visitor station on the other side of the lake. He quickly explained to the staff what was going on and they rushed to gather up the right supplies while he rode back to see if there was anything else he could do.
Not long after, a park employee showed up with a pair of side cutters and jumped right into the lake to free the dog. The relieved family got a ride back to their car, where they loaded in and headed straight to the vet.
When the dust had settled, Sandy told her husband that it looked like he was flying when he left to get help.
"I guess that's true," Dan said. "I'm 77 years-old, and without my electric bike, it would've taken me three times as long to have gotten help. Sandy ended up giving me a nickname too. She now calls me the 'Rad Ranger.'"
When he got home that evening, Dan felt compelled to share his story on social media.
“We’ve all been so down about this damn virus," Dan said. "Sandy and I have 11 grandchildren that we've seen like for about five minutes total in the past few months and everybody, everywhere is just so upset. I thought it was worth sharing a story that could make people feel good for a change."
It ended up getting a lot of attention. After the news spread, the park's personnel sent him a letter thanking him for the kind words he gave their employees. The dog's family also reached out, letting Dan know their pet's recovering just fine -- thanks, in part, to his quick actions.
The experience left Dan, who has been riding Rad since 2017, feeling hopeful about what electric bikes can do. After his new nickname started to take-off, he even posted a challenge to other riders, something he jokingly refers to as "the Rad Ranger pledge."
“Let’s try to get a little kindness," he wrote. "All you have to do is pledge to do one kind thing a day for someone else."