How adaptive bikes enhance lives of riders with mobility issues, special needs

How adaptive bikes enhance lives of riders with mobility issues, special needs

Cyclists take it for granted - wind whistling past our ears, that quasi-sensation of flying.

Children with a motor disability, brain injury or balance issue don't. Families with special-needs children can hardly see past health appointments, neurological assessments, medical bills. A $3,000-$5,000 adaptive bicycle? Seriously?

Adaptive bikes differ based on mobility issues. Recumbents address back or neck problems. Lowrider trikes provide stability in coordination and balance situations - "deltas" have one wheel in front, two behind, and "tadpoles" are just the opposite. Hand-cranked bikes assist with lower extremity difficulties. Even tandems can be modified.

While expensive, adaptive bikes become available through various fundraising efforts, enabling special-needs children to bike to school, hang with peers, and maybe forget, just momentarily, any mobility limitations. Parents, seeing their child gleefully biking, can be tearfully emotional.

Easterseals physical therapists and Bike for the Kids co-chairs Laura Basi and Joanne Pygon in August 2021. Courtesy of Easterseals

Those with cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, spina bifida and genetic disorders benefit physically, socially and emotionally by riding adaptive bikes, according to Joanne Pygon, assistant director of physical therapy for Easterseals DuPage and Fox Valley.

In 2016, she and physical therapist Laura Basi organized Easterseals' Bike for the Kids ( fundraiser with a three-mile family ride, plus 25- to 100-mile cycling routes.

The seventh annual event is Aug. 28 in Elgin, with bike groups like Wheaton's "B4D4WN" supporting its bike giveaway.

JRH Properties' Jonathan Huard notes his group has fundraised since the ride's inception.

"I encourage our cycling group to donate toward an adaptive bike each year. Having a bicycle is a child's first taste of freedom. Seeing the adaptive bikes given to the kids, and their excitement, is very rewarding," Huard said.

Wesley Kraker and dad Richard of Glen Ellyn enjoy a spin around the sixth annual Bike for the Kids course last August. Courtesy of "Bike for the Kids"

Easterseals has given away 65 new adaptive bikes through the Jonathan Goers Bike Club, established by Dick and Ellie Goers of Hinsdale to share Jonathan's love of biking to more children of all abilities.

As clients outgrow them, returned bikes are refitted for others. Therapists consult with mechanics to accommodate each individual, primarily mechanics at Hal Honeyman's The Bike Rack in St. Charles.

Gets it big time

For someone who shook hands with three presidents, organized wounded warrior rides at numerous VA hospitals, including Walter Reed, and was featured as a Hallmark Hero by Regis Philbin, Hal Honeyman is very down-to-earth.

His passion for adaptive bikes, nevertheless, has brought self-esteem, confidence and freedom to individuals with limited mobility.

Originally pursuing architecture, Honeyman switched during college to assume his family's bike business, purchased in 1975. When triplets were born at 27 weeks, his life took a major turn. Two girls, initially struggling to breathe, pulled through OK after many anxious months in the NICU.

Jacob, however, developed cerebral palsy from brain bleeding shortly after birth.

"It's one thing to see other families with a special-needs child," Honeyman muses. "But until you live through it, you really don't get it."

Honeyman gets it big time.

Everybody Rides June 5

Spurred by his son, Honeyman founded Creative Mobility in 1997, a business building adaptive bikes and related equipment. Honeyman launched Project Mobility in 2004, a nonprofit supporting hundreds of adaptive biking activities, workshops and other services countrywide and overseas.

Its 10th annual Everybody Rides event rolls June 5 from St. Charles' Breen Park, with a 10-mile family trail ride and road routes of 29-62 miles. Besides the food tent, beer garden and live entertainment, this fundraiser features a post-ride adaptive bike giveaway.

With Winnipeg manufacturer Freedom Concepts, Project Mobility presents a $4,000 adaptive bike to the individual earning the most likes on its Facebook page. The group has donated more than 40 adaptive bikes.

Recreation for all

Forest Preserves of Cook County partners with Adaptive Adventures from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 11 at the Busse Woods Boating Center near Elk Grove Village, offering adaptive cycling, kayaking and rock climbing.

"Our intention is for anyone with physical limitations to participate," said Tim Mondl, FPCC North Region program coordinator in the Department of Conservation and Experiential Programming.

Participants can try all three sports using specialized equipment provided by Adaptive Adventures, a national organization hosting outdoor activities for individuals with disabilities.

National program coordinator Greg Zbrzezny said, "Call this experience more of an intro to adaptive outdoor recreation."

All activities, including lunch, are free. Advance registration is strongly encouraged, leaving more time for trying out equipment.

"More important than ordering food is ensuring we bring the right types and amounts of gear," Zbrzezny said. "We have worked with kids 3 to 4 years old, plus adults and veterans."

A 24-foot trailer containing 30-40 adaptive bikes enables a range of participants to try cycling, with individual equipment adjusted appropriately.

"Accommodations include foot and hand adaptations, plus all kinds of straps and belts. We can even mount gear and brake controls on either side of a bike, depending on riders' needs," Zbrzezny said.

Interested volunteers for Adaptive Adventures events can contact Zbrzezny at

Volunteers Steve Miller, Libby A'Hearn and Ginger Wheeler provide information about the proposed East Branch DuPage River Trail. Courtesy of Ginger Wheeler

Cycling shorts

Friends of the East Branch DuPage River Trail host free guided walking and biking tours from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 4 at Butterfield Park District's Glen Pavilion in Glen Ellyn. Latest trail information is available, plus food trucks and live music.

This community event focuses on future development of a 28-mile North-South Central DuPage County Trail, specifically five miles stretching from near St. Charles Road in Glen Ellyn to Butterfield Road.

"Guided tours allow people to walk the area and see it with their own eyes. While people are very supportive in general, when you see the space, you can also see how doable this project is," said EBDRT Friends volunteer president Ginger Wheeler.

• Join the ride. Contact Ralph Banasiak at

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