My Trip to ABC – Edinburgh’s All-ability Bike Club

Some years ago, I cycled everywhere. I could cycle much more easily than I could walk. I have a kind of inflammatory arthritis which was first diagnosed in my 30s but which has been active since childhood. Fast forward to now, and both health and practical difficulties interrupted my cycling and it is now some years since I have been able to cycle confidently. Weak muscles and stiff joints mean that city cycling with lots of starting and stopping has been too challenging and lack of exercise has compounded the situation. I started to consider that I might feel more confident on a tricycle due to the extra stability. When a friend shared details of ABC All-ability Bike Club with me, I was excited. I wanted to have a go on a trike and I thought I’d write about the experience for our newsletter so off I went to the Tuesday evening drop-in.

ABC cycling opened in Edinburgh in August 2015 at City of Edinburgh Council’s Bangholm Outdoor Centre. CTC and FABB Scotland received Scottish Government funding to open a centre to promote and enable cycling for all – especially those who may have been excluded from participating in cycling through disability, lack of confidence or lack of experience. They run group sessions for specific groups to develop essential cycling skills and participate in cycling around the off road cycle paths near the centre.

They also run drop in sessions where anyone can attend. Times of these currently are:

Tuesdays 12-1, 2-4 and 5-7

Wednesdays 1-3

Fridays 12-4

Sundays 10-12

I attended a Tuesday evening session after work. I had a walk of about ten minutes or so from my bus stop to the ground. The premises has a large car park and so is accessible for private cars, taxis or other vehicles if a ten minute walk is too much for you.  

There were already a few people there when I arrived. Dave Holmes was the man in charge for the evening and there were some people seated at the table in the low building on the left as you enter the gate. I was introduced by name to other group members and to Sarah – a volunteer working on a Tuesday. I’m a little nervous on going into new groups but soon relaxed as it was a warm and welcoming atmosphere. I was shown to the tricycles outside and Sarah got me a helmet and helped me check which one was for me. 

The tricycle I chose is pictured here in the second image and I cycled around the large football-pitch-sized area on the rubbery green surface. I’ve never been so comfortable cycling! The seat with the backrest felt luxurious! It felt a little strange to be leaning slightly backwards and the turning of the tricycle felt quite different from on a bicycle. One other difference which I liked was the feeling of the handlebars. Leaning slightly forward on a  very upright bicycle could result in some wrist pain for me. On this style of tricycle there was no strain on my wrists whatever. I was a little cautious due to the long spell away from cycling and didn’t ride for too long but I was on cloud nine! I had missed that feeling of the breeze from cycling and being able to exercise. While I was touring the pitch, the rest of the cyclists went out in a group and Sarah joined them.  

ABC cycling club has worked with people aged 3 to 94 years old. Dave tells me that they have managed to accommodate a wide range of capabilities and conditions with little difficulty. They even have a bike which can accommodate a person still in their wheelchair. For those who are unable to cycle alone, there are two person machines – a kind of Tandem where people sit side by side as the third picture.

Future plans include opening a second venue at Saughtonhall. Negotiations are ongoing and it is to be hoped that this will open later in the year. They will also be expanding on facilities already offered to blind and visually impaired cyclists.

What then of my visit? I left with a big grin on my face and plans to go back. From the looks on the faces of the others returning from their cycle, they also had a great time. I will go and see if I can build my muscles enough to be more stable on my bike. Perhaps next time, I’ll be brave enough to go out with the group around the local tracks. Watch this space for news of my adventures! 

Here is the ABC cycling club Facebook page for more information;

https://en-gb.facebook.com/EdinburghABC/

Or you can follow them on Twitter;

https://twitter.com/edinburgh_abc?lang=en

For more info email David Glover <david.glover@CyclingUK.org>