My name’s Jamie and I believe I’m the longest active member of Bikeworks. I was introduced to Bikeworks back in 2011 by someone who I knew and who was also volunteering with them.
At the time I was living at University in High Wycombe during the week, which meant I was unable to use the gym as it was shut at weekends, and so Bikeworks was a great way of getting some sort of exercise which was accessible and safe. I was quite excited and apprehensive about getting on a bike again as I hadn’t used one since outgrowing my Kitten Trike when I was little. My Cerebral Palsy meant I needed to use an adapted bike and even kids bikes wasn’t exactly affordable. I can remember Digger (a Bikeworks volunteer) helping me onto a recumbent which I hadn’t used before and thinking wow I’m sitting on the floor; Digger knew my feet wouldn’t be great at staying on the pedals so improvised with some bungee ties, then that was it – I was off – Freedom!
Luckily, now days, the bungee ties have been replaced with Velcro foot straps, although the bungees are not totally retired and still make a good back up. The new recumbents are also a lot more comfortable; I can now rely on a nice bit of suspension and padded seat when I hit those speed bumps.
Bikeworks also allows me to maintain my independence as I know that all the Bikeworks staff and volunteers have the ability and common sense to help me transfer correctly. This is reassuring as it also means I don’t have to rely on other people having to come along to help me transfer. which is very important to me.
For a few years work commitments meant I only got to ride occasionally;
However, after being made redundant I unintentionally drifted back to Bikeworks and now I’m a devoted regular. I’m thankful for Bikeworks as it’s given me some sort of weekly structure and routine alongside fresh air and social interaction. I hadn’t been back long before I was asked my thoughts on developing a user group for the All-Ability club and if I would like to become a member, and 3 years on we are still going and play an important role in what happens with the AA sessions. Again, I’m very grateful as this has given me purpose and structure as well as allowing me to keep my ‘work brain’ active.
Over the three years the user group has been a part of a number of factors, such as, establishing led rides, which was very popular last summer, with rides along the river and through Greenways. Given practical advice and provided support to those attending courses run by Bikeworks. We have also been involved with funding, trying to give that added human touch to vital funding bids.
As a member of the user group, I feel a duty to represent the variety of All Ability members; its important to be aware that everyone has different needs and has different expectations of Bikeworks. What makes our user group even better is that it’s not just us saying what we want, Bikeworks also trust us to give feedback on work that is going on behind the scenes. There has to be a high level of trust and honesty on both sides. Members of the user group also get invited to the official Bikeworks board meetings. I believe this is credit to how successful and valuable the user group has become; it also says a lot about how Bikeworks is run and their ethos.
Both employed instructors and volunteers are a great asset to Bikeworks, you can tell they enjoy their job and are genuine people; they are willing to give time and support to everyone. Their patience is immense, they also share your joy when you achieve your goals. They’ve supported me many times along the way, the latest being a charity ride consisting of 100 miles in a month, the support and encouragement from everyone was a great help. In
The last few months, I have seen how with their support and patience other members also get to achieve their goals; with one member in particular achieving the goal of becoming an accomplished rider of a 2-wheeler, despite facing balance issues due to their disability. This also shows the sense of community Bikeworks creates as all those members who has witnessed their success were incredibly pleased for them.
The past year has been a difficult year for everyone. At the start of lockdown 1 I didn’t think I would be riding a bike for a long while but with safety measures in place and some common sense I was very grateful to be able to go on a few rides. We all know that accessing exercise and sport for people with disabilities or health conditions can be very difficult at any time, but it seemed like the pandemic meant we had no ‘right’ to want to exercise, but yet for everyone else it was classed as essential. I was extremely thankful that Bikeworks were able to adapt and remain open as it gave me some sense of normality and a reason to legally escape my house and spend some much-needed alone time, whilst the exercise got the endorphins pumping allowing me to go home in a much better mood.
Some members commented on how having a disability or health condition can make them feel quite isolated and how this was intensified during lockdown but thanks to Bikeworks they can participate in some sort of social interaction. Bikeworks took part in some crucial work during the pandemic which took a lot of stress away from organisations such as, councils and some NHS services; we know this is going to be a challenging year for funding, I just hope funders see how vital Bikeworks role is for its community.
Riding a bike is a very inclusive sport/activity – well with the help of Bikeworks it is. For those that have family members who have additional needs it’s not easy to find activities that you can take part in as a family. Personally, one of the greatest aspects of Bikeworks is its ability to allow families to be physically active whilst having fun together. I can recall seeing a dad riding around the park with his 2 daughters, one was on the Van Ram in her wheelchair with the dad peddling, and the other was in front riding her own bike, they all couldn’t stop smiling and the dad looked so happy. This also means a lot to me as thanks to Bikeworks and their adaptive bikes my family and I share fond and funny memories riding together.
Whether it be increasing my fitness levels, maintaining my condition or just needing that mental escape for an hour, I have benefited significantly from using Bikeworks over the years. We underestimate how essential fresh air is both mentally and physically, I really believe that the fresh air – being able to expand my lung capacity protects me from some of the nasty stuff out there; recently I’ve also noticed that whilst I’m on the bike my pain from other conditions decreases massively – until I get off. Above all I think the most enjoyable part of Bikeworks is the feeling of freedom riding a bike can give you.