Tandem cycle rides

Our tandem history

Norwood was the very first charity to introduce an international charity cycling Challenge (in 1992) and our history is built upon sharing the experience with some of the people we support.

In the early years of our cycling Challenges, people with minor learning or physical disabilities, living at Ravenswood, our collection of homes in Berkshire, were seated on a bike with stabilisers, attached by rope to a regular cyclist who pulled them along. (Can you believe it?) By 1994, tandems were introduced and these have since become an integral part of the Norwood experience.

In the ensuing 28 years, people we support have been encouraged to join us on cycling Challenges all over the world, visiting over 35 different countries. And today, people living in Ravenswood and our residential and supported living homes throughout London regularly take part in our cycling Challenges, as well as our international treks and running Challenges.

Changing times

As the years have progressed and times have changed, the tandems have also improved. This has enabled us to provide opportunities for people with more complex disabilities to participate in our Challenges because of the introduction of specially adapted tandems that can accommodate wheelchair users. But there has also been a corresponding increase in health and safety legislation, making it necessary for more comprehensive risk assessments. This means we must ensure that adequate safeguarding measures are in place and due levels of care are maintained while we are away.

At the same time, there is a huge responsibility on the lead cyclist who has to be not only physically strong and able, but also comfortable dealing with someone who may have complex learning disabilities or autism, and additional physical disabilities such as cerebral palsy or epilepsy. Having cycled hundreds of kilometres, they will have felt every turn of the wheel and truly deserve all the praise and respect they gain from fellow participants. It’s a life-changing experience for any lead cyclist. Despite the inevitable blisters, bruises, sweat and occasional tears, many say that the tremendous solidarity and phenomenal sense of achievement felt, make it all worthwhile.

Julie Braithwaite, Challenges Manager, says: “People arrive with their own personal challenge in mind, but gradually they become aware that support is needed because there is something bigger than just fulfilling your own goals – it’s about getting everyone across the finish line.”

Following the increase in legislation, greater competition from other charities and the world generally becoming a more expensive place, our costs have increased too. It is, therefore, becoming more and more difficult to fund all of the additional costs necessary to ensure the inclusion on our Challenges of people with very individual needs, who may require one-to-one support or 24/7 specialist care.

We pride ourselves on the inclusivity of our Challenges but, without help, many of the people we support could not afford the costs in taking part. And yet it is so important that they are enabled to participate because the impact is so positive for them. We know that taking part in activities with others, socialising and making new friends play a vital role in helping people to develop greater independence and confidence, and to live a full and meaningful life. For many, being part of a Norwood Challenge is a life-enhancing experience that has a profound effect on their health, wellbeing and lives.

Please help

If you’re interested in becoming a lead cyclist of a tandem, please contact Julie Braithwaite in the Challenges team on 020 8420 6811.

More importantly, if you’re interested in sponsoring a tandem team to take part (which costs us about £5,475 per person), please contact us, or click here to donate today.

Finally, whether you’re taking part in a Challenge or not this year, please consider donating to our tandem team fundraising page. A little goes a long way.

Thank you. We look forward to sharing a future Challenge with you.