The Forest of Dean –Leonard Cheshire wheels for all Cycling session

A student’s perspective

My name is Archie Keen and I am currently in my final year at the University of Gloucestershire studying marketing. As part of my degree, I am currently carrying out a placement opportunity at Tomcat as a social media and content assistant. Why is this important? I can imagine you’re wondering. Well, carrying out this placement recently allowed me to visit one of the many inclusive cycling sessions put on by Cycling Projects, that run up and down the country.

A man working at a table on an iPad with an attached keyboard. There is a Tomcat brochure next to him.

Initiatives such as this, put on by The Cycling Project offer great opportunities for both adults and children who may have any disabilities, whether that be mental or physical. There’s a vast array of different trikes on offer to fit the needs of as many people as possible and all of the trikes can be tried and tested multiple times by everyone taking part.

Several Tomcat trikes in front of a small shed and picnic benches. There is a Tomcat feather banner up beside them.

Firstly, it is almost immediately noticeable how there is a community atmosphere. Everybody is happy to stop and chat with others, give advice or offer a hand if needed. This is not restricted to just the Cycling Project; the entirety of the cycle centre is the same. In addition to this, there is a wide range of differing abilities, different bikes and different ages. One minute you’ll see a group of teenage boys showing off their latest tricks, closely followed by a five-year-old flying down the path several yards ahead of their parents. The combination of atmosphere and variety makes for a perfect setting for the trikes to be tried and tested by those with disabilities. No one is the same at these days, nobody’s bikes are the same. Nobody stands out as ‘different’, and this struck me as a superb chance for those with disabilities to have a real opportunity to test out some potential options for them.

Two people sat on a Van Raam OPair, being helped to set up by a third person.

“It’s so nice… Its just perfect isn’t it?! All sorts of options, it’s just brilliant!”

As mentioned previously, there is a great variety of people attending these events. Being half-term in the local area on the day I attended, meant that there were a large number of younger children there. It was great to see so many young kids getting away from iPads and tablets or their games consoles and out riding, getting active and enjoying the outdoors. Not only that, their reaction and opinions of the trikes was brilliant and so refreshing. They couldn’t believe how cool the trikes were and were desperate to have a look and a ride on one. Ultimately, going forward these young children will see the trikes as a norm of cycling centres and, if anything, will be surprised and disappointed if the trikes are not in attendance. This promotes inclusive cycling and will hopefully build a foundation of understanding equality for this generation as they grow into the adults of tomorrow’s world.

Three people helping to set up someone on a trike, at Cannop Cycle Centre by the bridge.

“There’s not a lot of fun activities we can all do together, this really helps us to do active things as a family.”

A final thought from myself is the great work that the guys working with The Cycling Project do. They are there all day, offering a friendly face and are more than happy to help and assist with any need or disability that they are presented with. This was great to see and from an outside point of view, it really made those coming to trial the trikes a lot more comfortable and confident. It must help a great deal and remove any nerves or concerns that the riders, or their carers, may have upon testing the trikes. As well as this, a special mention to Ride A Bike, who originally started as a company providing opportunities for cyclists of traditional two-wheel bikes. They then branched out and introduced the trikes to their centre to increase the inclusivity of their events and prevent any discrimination occurring. The fact that those with any disability can now partake in days like these with everyone else, whether it be their peers or family, is amazing to see and the joy and happiness it brings to everyone is infectious.

A further point that should be expressed is the great work and help that Tomcat provides for these days. Offering their trikes to be used throughout the day gives greater variety to the choices on offer and as well as this gives the potential for more and more people to come and have a go. The help that the Tomcat employees offer is vital as well. The expert knowledge clearly goes a long way, for carers in particular. There is a real sense of gratitude at the opportunity to talk to a specialist in this sector face to face and gather all the information they need in order to make the next steps. It was really great to see a genuine relationship building, from business to consumer, that did not consist of any corporate selling undertones.

Two people on a Van Raam OPair cycling down a track.

“Finding things he likes to do can be so difficult, but he really loves this.”

I would highly recommend this experience to anyone looking to get active, no matter what their physical or mental wellbeing may be, as everyone is catered for perfectly and the atmosphere of the whole day is brilliant for everyone in attendance.