Back then, we had to go all the way up to Manchester to find the special trike we needed for our triathlon cyclist. By the time we participated in the 2013 TriTogether, an inclusive cycling centre had been established in the neighbouring county of Wiltshire, although this was still a 64 mile round trip.
We took a group of residents every week so our triathlon cyclist could practise, and others could enjoy the fun and freedom offered by the specially adapted bikes. Having been bitten by the cycling bug, the Gloucestershire House residents and physiotherapy team began the process of developing an inclusive cycling project and finding a good place to ride near to the service. The Forest of Dean won by a long way. Everyone loved being in such a beautiful and natural setting. Funding from so many benefactors has enabled us to have well over 20 inclusive cycling taster days and events so far, both in the forest and at a nearby athletics track.
This project has shown me how there is a real need for this facility. Many of the disabled participants, and people who lack confidence, post-illness and injury, spend a lot of time indoors. Cycling gives them the chance to feel the wind, sun and rain on their skin. It really means no-one is excluded. Whether people have a sensory, physical or learning disability, they can get to ride a bike if they want to. The sense of freedom and joy participants experience means they can’t wait to have another go. As soon as one session is over, they ask when the next one will be.
Essentially, just like Leonard Cheshire’s legacy — where everyone regardless of ability is equally valued — we want to enable people with disabilities, and those needing the help of others, to access bikes and be a part of the ever-expanding ‘cycling society’.
Cycling gives them the chance to feel the wind, sun and rain on their skin. It really means no-one is excluded.