Years ago, we purchased bicycles for Dan, Jenna and I. Jenna was finally at the age we felt she could ride between us safely. We were thrilled to take on a family activity like bike riding. We added a child seat for Ryan onto Dan’s bike, assuming Ryan would enjoy it. The struggle Ryan put up getting him in it, and the crying that we had to endure, contradicted any fun for any of us. Needless to say our dreams of family riding times were dashed.
About a year later, prior to a trip to Yosemite, we had begrudgingly decided not to take our bikes, because we had no way for Ryan to particpate, when our neighbor generously offered us a “tag along”. (A tag along is a ‘half-bike’ with only a back tire, handle bars and pedals, that fits on the back of a regular bike.) One does not need to know how to ride a bike to use a tag along, just be able to stay seated. Fortunately, Ryan actually sat on this bike and seemed to be happy doing it. This tag along allowed us to take our bikes to Yosemite, and many other happy destinations. It provided us a sense of security to have Ryan safely behind one of us.
We used the faithful tag along well beyond where Ryan fit on it, mainly because we could not find a suitable replacement and no bicycle shops seemed interested in helping us modify it. Plus the fact Ryan continually refused to learn to ride a bike. However, I am proud to say, this past summer I put my no-quit attitude to test and enrolled him in a bike camp for special needs children. It was truly a test to my mind-set; but after five days of literal blood, sweat and my tears, he learned to ride a bike. (I highly recommend this camp.) Not to say he was happy to accomplish this, but we were. We bought him a beautiful bike and forced him to practice for a while. Yet, we still had the question of his security and riding by himself. So we fell back to the good ol’ tag along. The poor child did not look comfortable by any means, with his knees up to his chest, but he didn’t complain and we kept on.
While on a mini vacation a few weeks ago, which is very bike friendly, I pleaded with Dan to ask a local bike shop what they could to modify the tag along. I know he felt it was another waste of time, but I wanted to try—this seemed like the place for us. We rode to the shop, with Ryan on the back and showed them our predicament. Perhaps bringing Ryan along and showing them his discomfort added to our persuasion. They quickly seemed confidant they could help us, so Dan returned later that morning. He arrived at our campsite victorious, he was truly humbled by the care and time this wonderful shop provided us. They had outfitted us with a taller seat and handlebars—exactly what we had asked other shops for over and over. Ryan hopped on his new and improved tag along and the smile that crept across his face was true bliss. His tag along was perfect–again.
Later that day, we rode to the bike shop, as asked by the staff, so they could see Ryan on the bike: another reason they became dear to my heart. Dan and I gushed too much over their handy work but they were gracious. Did they try extra hard to help us because they knew Ryan was autistic? It doesn’t really matter to me, but I think mainly they are just nice people and saw our extenuating circumstances, so: yes. In any case, thank you, Ventura Bike Depot.
Sometimes it’s the small things that help people the most. It may not have seemed big to you all, but to us it’s monumental. There are few things our family can do together, willingly and happily, and you helped us get back to it. We have a new lease on our biking adventures; where we feel safe with Ryan tucked behind, and he is happy to remain there for now.