On a bicycle made for two

05 December 2018 | West and South West England

Charlotte's tandem

Brilliant tandem charity helping disabled people experience the joy of cycling.

Alex and Kate Reeves have made it their mission to help children with a disability enjoy cycling after seeing how much pleasure their own daughter got from the activity.

Their daughter, Charlotte, has severe learning difficulties, severe autism, erratic challenging behaviour and is non-verbal. Seeing how much Charlotte benefited from being out biking with them on a tandem got the couple thinking about how many other children and adults missed out on cycling, getting fresh air and a change of scenery, because of a disability.

They wanted to share their love of tandeming with others in Gloucestershire. So they approached a local tandem club, who kindly donated a few tandems, which the couple then lent out to families for as long as they needed them.

The couple, from Dursley, started taking her out as a baby on a seat on the back of their bikes when she was a baby and toddler, and when she was five, she moved up to a tag-along bike that attached to theirs.

“She loved it. Although she couldn’t speak, she would smile as we cycled up the hills to the Cotswolds or down into the Severn Valley,” he says. But when she was eight, Charlotte became too big for the tag-along. Her parents, who also have another daughter Hannah, 19, didn’t want to stop Charlotte enjoying what she loved the most.

“So we looked into getting a tandem, but the nearest shop wouldn’t let us try one out before buying, so we just had to take the plunge and buy one,” says Alex. “It cost us about £500, but was well worth it. Thankfully Charlotte loved it. She became like a local celebrity.”

And after becoming a registered charity in 2012, Charlotte’s Tandems is now thriving. They now have around 140 tandem bikes, 24 tag-along bikes, two tandem trikes and four tag-along trikes all over the UK and Ireland.

“The youngest person to use us is eight, and the oldest is 96,” smiles Alex. “He used to love cycling when he was younger, and this has given him back a sense of freedom again. Our borrowers have disabilities and special needs ranging from autism to cerebral palsy and blindness. I know one borrower who is blind said it was just amazing to feel the wind in their hair and sheep bleating in the meadows again. It really sets them free on a new journey.”

Cycling along through the picturesque countryside, Charlotte Reeves smiles broadly as a couple stop and wave her on.

“Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do,” they sing, chanting the words to the famous song about a “bicycle made for two.”

It makes Charlotte, 21, smile even more. And it makes her dad, Alex, who’s sat at the front of their tandem, even more sure that the charity he set up with wife Kate and named after their daughter, has a vital role to play for other families like them.

“It was hard to keep her busy and happy, but we found that cycling did both of those things,” says Alex.

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