World Champion, European Champion, Winter Paralympian and found of charity, ‘The Bike Experience’ - Talan Skeels-Piggins [@talansp] took time out of his busy schedule to update us on his year so far…
“I can’t believe we’re over halfway through the year already - it’s absolutely flown by. Those who know me are aware I like to keep busy - and I certainly have been. In terms of The Bike Experience, we’ve held a number of events this year already - at Silverstone and Bedford Autodrome.
Let me set the scene for those who aren’t familiar with the work of the charity. In a nutshell, it’s a charity that teaches and advises motorcyclists who have been disabled how they can ride again. Through the provision of an adapted and modified motorcycle and with the help of volunteers, we give people the opportunity to learn to ride in a safe environment and show them that anything is possible.
It’s not just the process of getting onto a motorcycle - it’s the focus on the individual to empower them to enrich their lives and encourage their self-belief. We use the bike as a medium to show them that the impossible is possible, which helps them to change everything they currently think about their lives. People that ride bikes, it’s a passion for them, they do it because they love it and then when someone tells them that they can’t do it anymore and the choice is taken away, it’s very upsetting. We show them that the choice is theirs and they can do it. Own choice is vital in life and we return that choice to them. Sometimes the riders go on to race, ride on the road and ride on track days or sometimes they’re just happy they’ve achieved it - but that’s their choice.
Those who have taken part have ranged from paraplegics all the way through to those with severe brain injuries - every single person who attends achieves their own Everest. It’s a very emotional experience as you see the change in their eyes. They turn up and look apprehensive about what the day will bring and by the time they leave they’re smiling. One gentleman who came has severe brain injuries - he was unable to speak and had no balance - he arrived and made the link between who we are and what we’re going to do and smiled. You can’t put a price on that - that happiness and the pleasure in life. His carers say that the smile hasn’t left his face since!
It’s not just the participants who take a lot from the experience which is also part of the joy. Those who volunteer to help at the events leave with the feeling that they’ve changed someone’s life - not often you can say that. When people raise money for charities or run marathons, more often than not they don’t physically see how they have helped - whereas volunteering on a day, you can see exactly how you’re helping the person and the joy that comes from that. Our chief instructor Rob, who is paralysed from the chest down, used to work in a retail environment, but he’s now left that to become an occupational therapist - amazing how working with the charity has helped give him more direction to where he wants to go.
Nobody is paid for their work with us - our volunteers give their time for free - we use donations to pay for the modifications to the bikes, the upkeep to them, fuel and venue hire. We don’t want our participants to have to pay for the experience.
Bennetts have been extremely helpful and generous in supporting us - for which we’re thankful. We regularly see staff from Bennetts volunteer - in fact there’s a waiting list for those that want to join us. We’re all working together to get people back into the motorcycle family.