There’s no doubt about it – some children with disabilities need an adaptive bike. These kids have significant medical challenges and cannot hold their trunk upright or pedal due to their disability. However, there are many kids out there who just haven’t yet mastered the skills needed to ride independently but don’t need the intensive support of an adaptive bike.
I know because I had one of those kids. My son has an intellectual disability and he took longer than most to learn any new skill – bike riding was no exception. We practiced for hours with him and enrolled him in a summer bike riding camp with little success. He was simply too afraid to pedal fast enough to gain his balance. It wasn’t a physical limitation it was the same anxious response he had to many other new experiences. When he felt like he might tip or if the bike leaned at all the whole session would grind to a screeching halt, he would get off the bike and refuse to get back on.
So I did what any other parent would do: I started researching options – there were several:
Adaptive Bikes & Trikes
First, there were the adaptive cycling companies like Rifton . These folks offered excellent products for individuals who need the intensive support of bikes that have special trunk, hand, foot and seating adaptations. However, these bikes were very expensive and my son didn’t need all those “bells & whistles.”
Bike Camps, Clinics & Programs
Then there were the programs like icanshine bike camps. They maintained that they could teach any, (physically-able), child the fundamentals of riding a bike independently in just (5) 75- minute sessions. Their program sounded great but you needed to have access to a camp and your child had to actually get on, (and stay on!), the bike if they were going to learn to ride in such a short amount of time.
Side-By-Sides, Tag-A-Longs & Tandems
There were also many other possibilities like side-by-sides & tag-a-longs. Both good products but they also had their downsides & limitations for our particular situation. We also tried a tandem but it was just too darn hard. My son would not pedal leaving me to haul both of us around while he leaned this way and that laughing and then decided that it was funny to tickle me (grrr). I ended up sweaty and grumpy – not the two dwarfs you want to resemble when you are trying to engage in a “fun, family activity.”
Adaptive Training Wheels
In the end, FATWHEELS was the best solution for my son. They were the “silver bullet” that really helped us get him on a bike. He LOVED that he got to go to the local big box store and pick out a “cool bike” like the other kids in the neighborhood. He LOVED that the bike was stable and didn’t lean or tip. He also LOVED that he could go at his own pace and “teach” himself to be comfortable on a bike.
In return, I LOVED that there was an easy and affordable solution to a problem we faced.
Every Kid Deserves To Ride a Bike
Just as autism is a spectrum disorder, so is the array of choices in adaptive cycling. There really is no one size fits all solution. The bottom line is that every kid deserves to ride a bike and every parent deserves to see them ride. Each child is different & thankfully there are many options out there.