Until Becci Snow wrote her recent blog (hopefully the first of many) about how she became involved with Talan Motorsport started, how many of you knew about who or what they were?
The same can be said for one of my favourite charities called The Bike Experience (also set up by Talan Skeels-Piggins) where people who have sustained a catastrophic injury are given the opportunity to ride a motorcycle in a controlled environment as part of their rehabilitation.
I have known Talan (along with most of the team) for over 6 years and I have been promoting the charity since day 1 quite simply because I have been fortunate to see first hand the positive effect it has on people who for want of a better description had given up.
The Bike Experience is a registered charity – set up as a trust in April 2011 and gained official charity status on 19th January 2012 which Is about when I first got to know Talan and became aware of both the charity and the race team.
For anyone who like me has ridden a bike all their life, to suddenly be told that their riding days are over or realising because of their injuries they will be unable to ride again can be devastating. The Bike Experience tries to address that issue and so far has been very successful.
Days are run at the famous Silverstone Formula 1 and MotoGP track in Northamptonshire and at RAF Odiham in Hampshire. Events used to also be run at Donnington Park but increasing costs by the circuit owners made running days there prohibitive, so for now just the two venues are used.
What is impressive about The Bike Experience is their values and excuse me for lifting these straight from their website but it explains perfectly what they are about –
“Our three core values are:
- Freedom – Giving back the feelings of independence through riding a motorcycle, thereby empowering individuals with the right of choice and equality, so that they can experience the passion and emotions that riding brings.
- Achievement – Showing people that you can achieve great things when you believe you can, that you have a huge resource of power, courage and bravery inside you, to make the impossible into the possible and improve self-confidence.
- Evolution – Bringing together able-bodied and disabled people so that the established boundaries are broken down and myths of disability are deconstructed on both sides, allowing everyone to ride together, side by side.”
So how do people get to go on a Bike Experience day?
Well, first thing to bear in mind is that The Bike Experience is open to anyone not just people who have previous bike riding experience. Some people have never ridden a bike but fancy the idea despite their injuries, and the charity is happy to accommodate. As one of the main organisers and team leader Will Swift commented, they have had people turn up never having ridden a bike in their life but despite their injuries by the end of the day they are almost riding like seasoned professionals.
Riders are not charged to attend the day, however they are a charity and rely heavily on donations and this has become even more relevant since Silverstone started charging the charity to use the venue which as they have to use somewhere where full medical facilities are available for obvious reasons.
Volunteer helpers are provided who come from various areas of the motorcycle community. They act as instructors and “Launch crew”, they help with keeping the bike steady, helping riders on and off the bike or into their wheelchairs and ensure that the day runs smoothly and that everyone leaves at the end of the day with a massive smile on their face.
Courses are usually limited to 5 participants per day with an average of 4 helpers allocated to each rider. This ensures both maximum enjoyment and benefit.
So what about the bikes used?
The Bike Experience has a number of bikes to suit different disabilities. Some have all the controls on one handlebar which is idea for people who have suffered an arm amputation or simply the loss of use of an arm for whatever reason. Some have been adapted to suit a paraplegic so all the controls are on the handlebars including an electronic gear change and there is even a bike with its own skids so that if someone is riding solo (without help) and they lose their balance it prevents them falling off
Riding kit can also be provided, but riders are encouraged where possible to bring their own if possible, but even without their own kit, they are not precluded from joining in.
We are so proud to be sponsors of The Bike Experience.
Spending a day with the Bike Experience team
Earlier this month I went to Silverstone and spent the day with everyone.
The 5 riders participating ranged from a chap who had suffered a T4 spinal injury and was paralysed from the waist down and was back on a bike for the first time since his accident in 2017, to a lad who had his leg amputated just before he was due to take his test and wanted to find out if he could still ride, to another middle aged chap who had suffered a major stroke (age is no barrier either)
Sam (the chap with the T4 spinal injury) was understandably nervous. He had ridden for some time before his accident and so know how to ride, but because he had no feeling from the waist down he found that he had balance issues, and was very unsure about his level of control.
Within an hour or so though, his confidence was building and he was making progress and the smile was getting bigger and he was able to transfer over to the bike with the skids.
The chap who had suffered a stroke was a different story. He had what was perceived as nerve damage to his hands and this caused problems with his overall control of the throttle and brakes as it tended to be like an on/off switch. But as with all attendees, the guys don’t give up and with time he will be back riding in the near future now they know what the problem is and how to resolve it.
They have even had partially sighted people riding.
The power of Bike Experience
Ultimately though, on all the days I have attended in the past it never ceases to amaze me how much it helps raise a person’s self-esteem, their pride in both themselves and their family, the fact that there is life after suffering a catastrophic injury but ultimately the massive big smile of joy it puts on everyone’s face at the end of the day.
A number of quite high profile individuals also support the charity –
Karel Abraham (MotoGP, WSBK) has agreed to be the patron for the charity.
Mike ‘Spike’ Edwards – Racing legend
Marc Potter – Motor Cycle News Editor and motorcycle guru
Talan Skeels-Piggins *741- Paralympian and until recently the only paraplegic solo motorcycle racer in the UK. Talan founded The Bike Experience.
Russel Docker – Triple Paralympian and avid biker, Russ has been involved with the charity from it’s very concept. He currently rides a GSX-R1000.
The guys are very reliant on donations, so always welcome any contribution no matter how large or small,
If you would like to know more or maybe get involved or even make a donation, then have a look at their website at www.tbex.co.uk
The Bike Experience will also be our guests at the Hudgell Bike night at the Ace Café in London, Friday, 1st June, when Talan and Will Swift will be on hand to answer any questions and talk about this wonderful charity that one day we may want to make use of ourselves.