Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Assisted Cycling Tours: A Colorado-Based Non-Profit Offers the Joy of Cycling through Fully Supported Tours for Individuals with Disabilities and Their Families

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Assisted Cycling Tours: A Colorado-Based Non-Profit Offers the Joy of Cycling through Fully Supported Tours for Individuals with Disabilities and Their Families

Article excerpt

As far back as 2001, when his son David was just 11 years old, Bob Matter began dreaming of a project, an organization, that he and David could found and operate together when David reached young adulthood. Today, David, a young man with autism who is now 18, and his Dad are moving full speed ahead, figuratively and literally, with their organization, Assisted Cycling Tours (ACT), a Westminster, Colorado based 501(c)3, non-profit that is offering the joy of bicycle tours in breathtaking, scenic locations to children and adults with developmental and physical disabilities and their families.

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Dabbling in starting ACT back in 2002, a series of family tragedies--his father's death, his own cancer scare, his brother-in-law's suicide--back-burnered Bob's idea. Ultimately though, it was the introspection that often accompanies personal trials that pushed Bob forward toward his dream, adopting the "if I'm going to do this, the time is now" mentality. His wife, Carrie, also a cyclist, agreed and he was off and running--or riding, as the case may be.

For years, Bob Matter had been an avid cyclist, considering a Saturday biking in the beautiful Colorado Rockies as an infusion to body, mind, and spirit. And back when he was a young dad, he longed to share this pastime with his son David, hoping for a father-son activity they could enjoy together for years to come. Bob tells the story of teaching David to ride a bike when he was 12. "He had a 'Granny' bike as a starter, complete with the little, white basket on the front. I had to take that basket off. It was just too lame," Bob quips. He also mentions that "it was difficult for David to learn because of his neurological hiccup. He has trouble moving his legs in tandem, and his coordination is poor so when he first started learning to ride, he could steer but couldn't pedal. So, I improvised. I fashioned a platform out of two-by-fours and used some plywood to fashion a seat so that I could sit behind the main bike seat." With some additional pedal modifications, which allowed Bob to put his feet on the pedals alongside David's, a month of daily, intense pedal practice ensued. They graduated to a tandem bike with Bob still serving as bike coach and partner. One day David was in the company of a boy about his same age who also had disabilities, and Bob noticed that the other young man just jumped on the bike and started riding. Bob had a moment of fatherly epiphany and says, "I suddenly realized I was enabling my son. I was underestimating him. I pulled the retrofitted bike seat off the back of David's bike that same day, and he has been riding solo ever since!" Bob is thrilled to have realized his wish of sharing the joy of riding with David. "We ride together all the time," he says. And David is also tasting the sweet splendor of gaining a degree of independence that his bike now provides as he enters young adulthood, riding to places close to home--the library, the bagel shop, McDonald's--that are accessible by bike trails. Bob mentions that "David is realizing for the first time that his bike can be a mode of transportation." And he's riding in style. David now has a 27-speed, aluminum frame recumbent bike, which Bob describes as "a really sweet ride."

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It is in this spirit of independence coupled with family interaction that Bob founded ACT, saying that his goal is to "open up the world to people with disabilities and let them experience the freedom and independence that comes with riding and also offer this as an activity that families can do together. …

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