Charlotte’s Tandems gives people with disabilities the freedom of cycling

Charlotte riding with her family
Eight-year-old girl inspires hundreds of others to go cycling
How one girl inspired her parents to set up a charity to support people with disabilities.

A girl with severe learning difficulties, autism and challenging behaviours has inspired hundreds of others to enjoy the benefits of cycling thanks to a charity set up by her parents.

Charlotte’s Tandems is a Cycling UK affiliate group that lends tandems and tag-along bikes to people who have disabilities or additional needs. Those who are unable to ride a bike safely on their own are loaned the equipment and given support to enjoy the pleasure of cycling with their friends or family.

Around the UK, Charlotte's Tandems employs a series of ‘helpers’ and ‘volunteers’ that store bikes and teach people how to ride and enjoy them safely, as well as give them the confidence to get going. Cycling UK has helped Charlotte’s Tandems recruit volunteers which have been crucial to getting tandems to different areas.

Benefits of riding a tandem

19 years ago, when Charlotte Reeves was eight years old her parents Alex and Kate first discovered the many benefits of riding a tandem together. The family has always been interested in cycling but their passion really came to fruition when they saw how much Charlotte got out of the experience.

Alex said, “Charlotte has severe learning difficulties, severe autism, erratic challenging behaviour and is nonverbal.

It is hard to keep her busy and happy but we found that cycling was the best way. When Charlotte grew out of her tag-a-long in 2005 we decided to take the plunge and buy a tandem, without even trying one out beforehand.

“There were never many big issues getting started, as she had been used to riding a tag-along bike. We had a few early episodes of her resting her legs on the frame or locking her legs up and we'd glide to a halt. Now she is always fine, but needs some encouragement when we are climbing hills.

“Fortunately, she loved it from the start and we've ridden many miles."

Quite often we ride between one and two hours at a time and often at weekends we do five trips of that length. Since she’s started using the tandem we saw so many positive effects, she really enjoys being active. When we are on the bikes we have a lot of fun together.

Alex Reeves, Charlotte's father

"It can be a really bonding experience and that is why we set up Charlotte’s Tandems as we wanted other people with disabilities to enjoy the wonders of cycling as much as Charlotte does."

Adapted cycle

If you know someone who could benefit from getting out and enjoying a tandem ride, visit Charlottes Tandems to find out more.

To try out different adapted cycles in Greater Manchester or Inverness contact The Inclusive Cycling Experience.

The Inclusive Cycling Experience

Cycling UK’s exciting new programme, The Inclusive Cycling Experience, is funded by the Motability Foundation; it will support disabled communities in Greater Manchester and Inverness to start cycling.

The scheme offers free try-out sessions and non-standard cycle loans to enable people to consider cycling as an active travel option for everyday journeys.