When Bella was 6 years old, I realized that she was outgrowing her toddler bike. Being the mama bear I am, I needed to figure out a way for Bella to continue riding with her brother and her friends. Our family belongs to the Holland Bloorview Hospital and with the help of Arnold Lopez, in the Life Skills & Therapeutic Recreation department, we were able to borrow an adapted bike to use over the summers.
Although it was great to have access to the adapted equipment at Holland Bloorview, I soon realized that in order for her to enjoy meaningful participation in this physical activity at school and in the community, I needed to invest in a bike. After researching a few options, I realized the market for adapted bikes were very expensive, with prices ranging from $1000 to $5000!
That being said my husband, Peter and my dad decided to DIY Bella’s bike. We purchased a regular 18 inch-wheel bike and added sturdy training wheels to it. We switched the seat for one with back support and added foot plates to the pedals. Our next hurdle was to figure out how to ensure that the front wheel would only turn when Bella was pedalling. My good friend Michelle who is a competitive runner and triathlete, referred us to Mariposa. Mariposa is a hand-built bicycle manufacturer, where they create, craft, and build bicycles personalized to their customers’ needs.
Thank you to Mariposa’s team: Mike Barry Sr., Michael Barry Jr., and Dede Barry, as they were able to modify the gears and brake system so that Bella would be able to ride smoothly and safely. Bella was able to have 2 good years on this sweet ride...
When Bella was 12 months old, I was told by medical practitioners that she wouldn’t be able to walk. However, with the proper equipment and supports, she was able to take her first steps at 3 years old. Bella is currently not able to ride a bike independently, however like learning how to walk I am sure that a customized bike combined with an ABA biking program, will help her ride a bike on her own very soon!
Freedom Concepts Inc. is a company based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. It was founded in 1991 when President and CEO, Ken Vanstraelen, received a special request to build a bike for a young boy with cerebral palsy. This one bike was such a huge success that new requests started pouring in. Since this first bike, Freedom Concepts Inc. has blossomed into a company dedicated to imagining, designing and building products that enhance overall quality of life for people with disabilities.
I was intrigued with the personalization of Freedom Concepts Inc. products, so I immediately contacted them. They were able to connect me with a sales representative and within the same week, they came to our house to get Bella on a bike. Bella was able to test out a bike, and we were shown possible customizations to ensure that the bike would be a perfect fit.
Bella is able to sit upright on her own, however requires a wider seat and back support for her balance. The customized special seat has a belt strap across the waist, and the option to use the 5-point harness for more support.
As Bella is still in the emergent phase of learning how to ride a bike, she requires foot plates with adjustable straps to: 1) keep her feet in place, and 2) help her feel the circular motion when pedalling.
Bella has always had low muscle tone, and what’s great about this bike is that it has a direct drive gearing system with easy pedal power to encourage the reciprocal patterning of her legs.
The bike frame also allows Bella to safely and comfortably transfer on-and-off the bike. The pivoting frame, removable rear wheels and detachable seat allows for easy transportation and storage.
Although this bike was on the pricier side, you have to remember that the bike is customized and adjusted to the exact specifications and unique requirements for Bella. One of the highlights of this bike is the versatile seating system which allows for Bella to maintain proper hip-to-foot alignment as she grows into her early teens.
Check out my vlog on the DCP 16 bike review.
If you are looking for an adapted bike for your child or teen who has special needs, check out Freedom Concepts Inc. They have 18 different adaptive tricycle models for riders of all ages and abilities. Each model can be customized with special seating, foot plates, or headrests that make riding safe and comfortable for anyone who gets placed on a bike.
We have only taken Bella twice on the bike, and it was great to see her ride with a smile. We are looking forward to working with her physiotherapist and team of therapists at Breakthrough Autism to apply the principles of IBI into her ride.
Thank you to Freedom Concepts Inc. for helping us make bike riding possible for Bella!
Check out some snapshots of Bella and her ‘ride or die’...