Watch out Wiggo! Bradley gladly embraces cycling with a little help from the Big Bike Revival

Sarah and her 14-year-old son Bradley at the Big Bike Revival event in West Clacton

Watch out Wiggo! Bradley gladly embraces cycling with a little help from the Big Bike Revival

Like his famous knighted namesake Bradley Wiggins, 14-year-old Bradley Wicks just loves cycling. And, with a little help from the Big Bike Revival, it is helping to transform his life.

Bradley, who is epileptic and has Global Development Delay (GDD), was among dozens of youngsters who attended the Coppins Fun Day, a Big Bike Revival event organised in conjunction with Inclusion Ventures in West Clacton, Essex.

The 14-year-old zoomed around on his bike under the watchful eye of his mum, Sarah, at an event which included free cycle maintenance, a visit from a fire tender and four crew from Clacton-on-Sea fire station, face painting, a barbecue – plus a ‘Pulp Friction’ static bike which people pedalled to make smoothies in the scorching sunshine. 

The Big Bike Revival Fun Day took place at Coppins Hall Community Centre, the base of Inclusion Ventures, an organisation set up in 2002 as a response to concerns about vulnerable young people in the area at a time when the local Percy King Estate had the worst youth crime rate in the country.

Bradley is just one of dozens of teenagers to have benefitted from both Inclusion Ventures’ work and the Big Bike Revival – a nationwide programme developed by Cycling UK which helps people to bring their bikes back into use by providing bike health checks, sharing maintenance knowhow and giving people more confidence in the saddle.

His epilepsy and GDD – a term used when children are significantly delayed in their cognitive and physical development – means Bradley isn’t allowed out on his own.

Mum Sarah said: “Bradley does not like walking anywhere. Cycling is the only way he seems to like getting around. Much as he loves riding a bike he only goes on the pavement when we go out, because I’m not confident cycling on the road.

“That’s where Cycling UK and Inclusion Ventures have been such a help. They took us on a Saturday morning ride in early August on the road along the seafront. Bradley went on a tandem with Dean Welham from Inclusion Ventures, while I rode my bike with Richard Monk from Cycling UK behind me.

“It was the first time I’d cycled on the road since I was a child. I found it scary at times but felt a real sense of achievement at the end. I felt really uplifted and Bradley was full of it afterwards – he absolutely loved it.

He is an outdoor child really so cycling will do him so much good. There are such good health benefits, getting around and being out in the fresh air. As he doesn’t walk much, it builds up the muscles in his legs too.”

Bradley Wicks' mum Sarah

“Now we have just got ourselves brand new mountain bikes so we can go out on our own on cycle paths and along the seafront. He is really looking forward to it. It just gives us a bit more freedom.

“Bradley also likes swimming but refuses to walk to the pool at the leisure centre. Now he won’t hesitate to cycle there.

“He is an outdoor child really so cycling will do him so much good. There are such good health benefits, getting around and being out in the fresh air. As he doesn’t walk much, it builds up the muscles in his legs too.”

Bradley’s love of all things bike was certainly evident at the Coppins Fun Day – one of 1,500 events held around the country during this Bike Bike Revival Summer of Cycling – which was also attended by his 17-year-old brother Anthony, another keen cyclist.

Sarah, who helped with the barbecue, added: “Bradley hasn’t stopped being on a bike today. I’ve loved it and so has he. This kind of event is so good as it helps bring the community together.”

The tandem Bradley rode along the seafront also made an appearance at the Coppins Fun Day – along with its lead rider, Dean Welham.

Dean, Operational Manager with Inclusion Ventures, was joined by Project Director Sarah Hanness, who explained: “We opened the doors of our drop-in session at Coppins Hall Community Centre in 2002 and welcomed in the first of many young people to engage in our project.

“At that time the estate was very run down and the incidence of youth crime was unusually high. Outreach work led to a realisation that young people were involved in anti-social behaviour, and specifically criminal damage of the community centre, as a result of feeling excluded.

“Some of our young people experience discrimination and exclusion as a result of poor reputations due to past behaviour, or simply because of the location in which they live. Lacking the confidence to take control of their lives, these young people are at risk of spiralling into negative behavioural patterns with little hope or aspiration. This is further exacerbated if family life is strained, and education feels a struggle.

“If they feel undervalued it is often difficult for young people to feel empathy for others which can lead to anti-social attitudes and criminal behaviour. In opening the drop-ins we gave the young people something to take ownership of and gain a sense of belonging.

“Our motto is Turning Exclusion Into Inclusion. We offer young people a specialised staff team who understand their underlying issues and, with respect and trust, we gradually encourage them to understand the responsibility that goes hand in hand with their rights.

“They are provided with a safe environment and interesting activities they can take pride in – like cycling. We support education, develop health and wellbeing, increase aspiration and offer them opportunities to become responsible members of their community.”

The cycling element of this work really took off when Tendring District Council made the introduction between Cycling UK and Inclusion Ventures about 18 months ago.

It’s good to come out and give people a hand. I’ve serviced 16 bikes today and have always found it nice that you can make them safe for the youngsters, because not everyone can afford a big-shop service.”

Bike mechanic Andy Woolf

Natasha Bourgaize, who had been helped by Inclusion Ventures as a local youngster, had returned to work for the organisation as a youth mentor and before long was assisting Richard Monk, Cycling UK’s Cycling Development Officer for Essex, to organise fortnightly bike rides.

Natasha, who went on to train as a Ride Leader, recalled: “We had a random bike ride in the November and the youngsters responded really well to it – although the first thing Richard had to do before the ride was pump up 40 tyres!

“We started doing bike rides every other Saturday and even got hold of a tandem. Cycling is great exercise and great therapy – being outdoors in the fresh air, looking at the scenery, can help both your physical and mental health.”

Natasha has since started studying for a Masters degree in Art Psychotherapy at Goldsmiths, University of London, but has been back working for Inclusion Ventures during the summer and was proving a dab hand at face painting during the Big Bike Revival Fun Day.

Also showing his skills at the Coppins event was bike mechanic Andy Woolf, who runs ATW Cycle Repairs in Colchester and provided free bike servicing.

Andy, who was involved with the Big Bike Revival in Colchester last year, said: “It’s good to come out and give people a hand. I’ve serviced 16 bikes today and have always found it nice you can make them safe for the youngsters, because not everyone can afford a big-shop service.

“Some of the bikes were in a bit of a scary condition and really needed a service, too. If bikes had MoTs, half of them wouldn’t be on the road!”

As some youngsters roared around on their bikes and others were shown over the fire tender by Sub-Officer Simon Bates – himself an accomplished cyclist and triathlete – Cycling UK’s Richard reflected on the hard work that has gone in to try to transform one of the most disadvantaged parts of the country.

He said: “Inclusion Ventures have done wonders in the area and the cycling is slowly but surely touching families in a great way. Hopefully it can help improve the lives of the vulnerable young people here, and the community as a whole, and give them a positive future where they fulfil their potential.”

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