There are many wonderful charities that have expensive adapted bikes that people with disabilities or additional needs can ride around a tarmaced area such as a playground. Charlotte's Tandems is different.
Charlotte's Tandems lends for free, relatively inexpensive, tandems and tag-alongs to anyone with an additional need or disability anywhere in the UK and now spreading into Ireland. The Borrower has the bike for at least two months to use as as much as they want, so that they can enjoy the wonders of the open road.
There are now over a hundred tandems and tag-alongs in the Charlotte's Tandems fleet and are located with Volunteer Helpers all over the UK and Ireland. The scheme began in Gloucestershire, UK, in April 2010, became a small charity in April 2011 and then a Registered Charity in July 2012. The machines range from fast road tandem bikes to leisure, mountain bike style tandem bikes, tandem trikes, tag-along bikes and tag-along trikes.
The disabilities and special needs of the Borrowers have so far included: Severe Learning Difficulties, Autism, Asperger's, Blindness, Visual Impairment, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Stroke, Amputation, Hearing Loss, Dyspraxia, Fybromalgia, Parkinson's, MS, ME, CRPS, COPD, Hemiplasia, Tuberous Sclerosis, CHARGE & MPS III.
Feedback and photos of the many Borrowers feature highly on the charity's website CharlottesTandems.co.uk, Charlotte's Tandems Facebook Group and Twitter Feed (@CharlottesTand).
The charity is named after Charlotte, who has severe learning difficulties, autism, challenging behaviours and is non-verbal and is nineteen. She loves to be out on her tandem; whizzing down the Cotswold Escarpment and sitting back, allowing her Dad to all the hard work, as they climb back up the hills. Since she enjoys tandeming so much, the charity was set up so that other people could experience the delights of tandem riding, without splashing out on their own machine.
Alan and his brothers borrowed the North-East England based Dawes Discovery tandem and took their Dad, Robert, who suffers from Parkinson's, on a weekend tour of Northumberland. They uploaded their adventures onto Facebook and said that “It was a brilliant weekend and the tandem was much appreciated.” and “115 miles done. Best weekend for a long time”.
Maya borrowed a Gloucestershire based tag-along and a backrest for daughter Rani, who has various physical and learning difficulties. They have been able to now go on lovely rides together as a family in the sunshine. Maya says that “We are going to take it on holiday with us and we have even persuaded Rani to hold on some of the time.”
The charity would love to hear from anyone who would like to borrow a tandem or tag-along. Contact Alex via the website, CharlottesTandems.co.uk, and he'll put you in touch with the nearest Helper. As you can see, almost anyone can and should ride a tandem.
They are also hoping to spread further in Ireland. If you'd like to become a Helper and see the joy of people riding a bike for the first time then please also contact Alex via their website.