Richard's story - renewed confidence outdoors

Richard on his mountain trike enjoying the view
Richard Brooks' mobility gradually decreased after he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. However, since finding Experience Community's mountain trike group, Richard is able to go out for rides with others and rediscover the outdoors.
Experience Community is a not-for-profit community interest company that provides films and information about walks and other leisure activities for people with disabilities, as well as the wider community. It also has a programme of regular mountain trike rides that help people of all abilities access the countryside in Yorkshire and beyond.
Richard Brooks benefits from Experience Community’s programme of mountain trike rides. Richard was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) 14 years ago, and over the last few years this has increasingly limited his mobility. He became aware of the mountain triking group via Facebook:
"I was new to social media, and I discovered [Experience Community] from Mountain Trike’s Facebook page. I didn’t even know there were any other mountain trikers in this area. I got in touch with Craig and arranged to meet him in a car park. My daughter said: 'You can’t arrange to meet a bloke off Facebook in the middle of nowhere!' Anyway, I did - we met at Dovestone Reservoir, which is where one of the regular rides now takes place."
Richard has had his mountain trike for over three years, but before linking up with Experience Community, he had never really ridden with other trike users and was almost at the point of giving up.
He explains: "I have always been an active, outdoors type. I mountaineered when I was younger; I climbed Mont Blanc when I was 17. I used to get out a lot. When I first got the trike three years ago I was out and about everywhere, I had the confidence to go anywhere. But over the last three years I’ve deteriorated more and more, and there have been a couple of times when I’ve been out and almost got in trouble. That made me question what I was doing. The MS has taken over in the last four years, making me more disabled and I was just looking for ways to keep accessing the outdoors."

Now I’ve joined the Experience Community group it has given me renewed confidence. I’m not necessarily riding any further, but had I not met Craig, I think it would have dropped off even more and I might have even stopped.

Richard Brooks,
Experience Community member

Richard doesn't just go along to participate in the rides, he is also keen to put some time back into the project. He is one of three regular ride attendees that is doing Cycling UK’s Trail Leader qualification
Richard said: "I am as eager to come along and give something back as I am to take part. I want to give as much as I can to help other people. Although I know, if I’m having an off day, there’ll be someone here to help me. I’ve got the support of the volunteers and staff that come out with us."
One of the key ingredients of the Experience Community project is the social element, and for Richard this has also spilled over into his family life: "One of my lads lives in North Wales, and we go there regularly. The trike enables me to go to the places we used to go to without even thinking about it. I was tempted to go to an MS group in Bradford, where you can talk with other people that have got MS. But that wasn’t for me and if you go down that road you lose sight of what is possible and things can snowball. Whereas, if you can get out with like-minded people who refuse to let their disability stop them from doing the things they enjoy, you can see that there is still so much to do out there."
Richard is keen to share what Experience Community offers. He believes it is something worthy of a much larger audience that could have far reaching benefits for many more people.
"I just feel like we should be going to hospitals, institutes, finding people and saying: ‘Look! This is what you can do.’ I sit at a desk most days, and after I’ve been out a few days on the trot and I get back to work I have a real spring in my step. I feel invigorated. I’ve got loads of exercise products at home I don’t use - none of them beats going out on the trike with other people. I don’t really consider it to be exercise, it’s just something enjoyable that I do. The physical benefits are just an added bonus," Richard says.
Experience Community CIC is one of over 40 Cycling UK-accredited groups in the UK that are part of the National Inclusive Cycling Network  - a partnership between Cycling UK and Cycling Projects. It is funded through the Big Lottery Fund
Case study by Gavin Wood. For more information about inclusive cycling in the North East, contact Cycling UK's Ian Richardson