Manchester-based bike brand Insync has teamed up with a part-time inventor to enable disabled children to experience riding a bike.
Les McMahon has engineered a trike that allows his young neighbour, Lewis Flint, to get out on the roads with his parents, Dawn and Andy.
The trike, which is much cheaper to make than alternatives, is set to be available to families all over the world after Indian-owned Insync’s new Global Design Centre in Manchester stepped in to help Les refine his invention.
Les, from Ellenbrook, Worsley, had seen the couple struggle to help Lewis, who has an undiagnosed genetic condition, experience cycling with the rest of the family. He communicates through an aid, has no independent mobility and relies on other people for his personal care.
Mum, Dawn describes the 13-year-old as a “white-knuckle child” who enjoys going to his local ski slope and attending an adventure centre where he takes on challenges like rock climbing. Cycling was one hobby they wanted him to be able to join in with, but they couldn’t find a suitable solution.
They had tried options including using straps to attach his hands to handlebars and his feet to pedals but, without his wheelchair, he was left feeling uncomfortable. That also meant he had to be carried whenever the family reached their destination, which would become more difficult the older he became.
Les’s solution involves a ‘sidecar’ fitted to a bike, with a bike to roll on the wheelchair. After drawing up a sketch, with Dawn’s approval, he spent two to three months making the trike using parts donated by various people. Lewis’s condition means he has other complications and trikes where his wheelchair is at the front of the vehicle would be unsuitable. With Les’s design, his parents can see him at all times, meaning they can ensure he is physically ok but also enjoy riding together, too.
Les then contacted Hero to investigate making the trike available on a larger scale, and the brand, which has its global design centre in Manchester, was only too happy to help.
Les, a former engineer, said: “I’d seen the family struggling and I knew they were really keen on getting Lewis to experience everything an able-bodied child can, so I knew there was a real need for the trike. I got lucky in that the design just came together and when Hero invited us to demonstrate the bike it was too good an opportunity to miss.
“It’s quite humbling and uplifting to think you’ve helped somebody with basic DIY skills and it seems inconceivable that, with Hero’s help, we might be able to change other people’s lives, too.”
Dawn, who also has a son, Cameron, 14, said Lewis loves fresh air and speed but finding activities he can take part in can sometimes be a struggle.
She said: “I don’t think we could have found a better neighbour. Les has been phenomenal in the time and energy he’s put in to make this for Lewis so that we can all go out on a bike ride. He absolutely loves it and it means we can go for a ride in the sunshine and then go to a café.
“It’s amazing to think Les made this in his garage and now Hero is going to help him so that other families could benefit like we have.”
Abhishek Pratap Singh, head of design at Insync said the company, owed by Hero Cycles the world’s biggest bike maker, was delighted to help once they heard about Les’s design and the benefits it had brought to the Flint family.
He said: “Insync is a family bike brand and we believe cycling is a force for good improving mental and physical health and bringing the family together for quality time. We want to make cycling more accessible to everyone including those with special needs. We are very keen to support Les because we can see the difference his trike has made to Lewis’s life and how it could help others.
“Our design team is now working with Les to make his invention more mature and we’d like to create a trike for the general market so that more families with children with special needs can benefit. Our design is set to be much cheaper at around £500 compared than alternatives which start at around £5000 so our version will be much more accessible to families. We are planning to create a ‘flat pack’ kit that will enable families to assemble it at home or alternatively we are going to offer a download design so people can create their own versions of the trike. We’d like to include the trike as part of the new Insync family bike brand we have created for the UK and European market.”