Whilst COVID 19 has had a big impact on our clubs and groups ridding activity the effect on cycling groups that cater specifically for riders with a disability have been hardest hit. We caught up with Tom who runs the Active Wheels Project in Merthyr.
Active Wheels is a social cycling group set up for riders over 16 years of age with a disability and was set up to cater for riders who felt that the existing mainstream clubs were a little bit too much for our local riders to join in with. We are supported by the Disability sport merthyr forum and organise rides an active chairs programme to also allow wheelchair users to join us on rides in their chairs. We do much the same as other clubs in terms of having a strong focus on the social element by using different routes and ensuing we always enjoy mid ride café stops.
With members in the vulnerable category, how has the club coped during the pandemic?
The Taff Trail has always been a good base for most of our rides, whilst it’s great to see it being used by so many people normally this has impacted on how we can use it whilst trying to remain socially distanced from others meaning we have had to avoid cycling outdoors as much as possible. However some members including myself have looked to access the trail at less, busy times including ridding at 6:30am to avoid big numbers of users. Whilst we cannot ride together, the group have been sharing images and stats from apps like Strava in order to keep connected with each other on these rides.
Whilst isolation may be a new thing for many people during this pandemic, many of our users have experienced social isolation in the past with various health conditions. The club provides a hub for fellow members to remain in contact with each other and the outside world to remain positive and support each other to remain active, hopefully more people will get involved with us as restrictions lift. This would be great to not only engage with more members but to highlight that disability does not have to hold you back from enjoying a ride on your bike.
Ebikes have been hailed as a vital part of the nation’s transport recovery plans to help support more people to get involved in cycling, as an Ebike user how have they helped you?
An Ebike has helped me massively by reducing the effect of fatigue, not only allowing me to ride further but to also allow me to ride more often. It’s great to have the ability to help me get home if the fatigue sets in and there is still some way to go. For anyone starting out or with health considerations I would really recommend looking into one. I had a brain hemorrhage when I was aged 9 which led to partial paralysis on the left side, this presented a few challenges for my cycling so I had to learn how to adapt to be able to ride again. My balance was fine but a loss in feeling and strength on my left side made it hard to remain in contact with the pedals and bars on the left side. I’d tried lots of different ways but for me using weight lifting gloves with Velcro and a clip in plate system really helped me learn to adapt and build the strength back up on my left side. In a short space of time, my body retrained itself and now go back to a bike without modifications.
Hopefully the group will be able to restart regular social rides again in the near future.