FOR many people, it can be difficult to ride a bike because they may have difficulties with their balance or have a condition such as cerebral palsy. However, the Morrello’s Marvels Paracycling Club, are changing this for many people with such conditions.

The paracycling club was first set up by Jakko Brouwers who is the clinical director of the Morrello Clinic in Langstone, Newport.

The clinic provides specialist neuro physiotherapy treatment and exercise advice for people who have had a stroke or spinal cord injury, have Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and other neurological conditions. It also helps amputees who need rehabilitation.

Mr Brouwers said the paracyling club was officially established after people from the clinic first entered into the Carten100, a 100 mile charity cycle ride from Cardiff to Tenby, in 2014. This year there are 29 members including the support team covering the ride.

He said: “We meet up with our cycling club every fortnight and we have been preparing for the Carten100 in Tenby since November 2016. The preparation is about people trying different bikes and finding out what is a suitable bike for them and their disability.”

Each member of the team have a different bike set-up to accommodate to their needs. At the moment the club have one normal tandem bike, a three wheeler tandem, a three wheeler bike and two people on a recumbent bike which is a sit down bike with three wheels.

As well as meeting up fortnightly, the club aim to get out once every couple of weeks or once a month with their bikes for family daytrips out.

“We go for a five or six mile ride and some people may want to do two or three loops. Some just want to do it once and that’s fine too,” Mr Brouwers said.

Getting an event like the Carten100 organised takes a lot of organisation for the group as a lot of support is needed for the riders to ensure there are no injuries.

“It’s quite a big organisation to get off the ground as every disabled cyclist will need one or two support cyclists to ride along with them, especially those who are in bikes close to the ground,” said Mr Brouwers.

“We need to make it safe so car drivers need to see them because the recumbent bikes are so low that if people look out of the car window they won’t see the riders.”

There are many bikes that are custom made to ensure the rider is fully comfortable. One of the riders – Steve Thomas – who will be riding a three wheeler bike, has had all of the controls moved to the left hand side of the bike as he doesn’t have the use of his right arm.

“We had all of the controls moved to the left, all the gears, all the brakes, everything moved to the left so he can use it,” said Mr Brouwers.

Even though the Carten100 is supposed to be competitive, Mr Brouwers, said that the main thing about the Morrello’s Marvels is getting people together.

He said: “The whole idea behind the cycling club is to get the people – able bodied but also disabled – together to have a really nice time together. It’s not just all about events, it’s about getting together and having a life and riding together.

“There’s an enormous health benefit to it and members can also try different pieces of kit.”

One of the Morrello’s Marvels riders, Ieuan Coombes, said the club offers members a chance to rehabilitate, but it also helps people who used to love cycling get back into it.

“The idea is it gives people the opportunity to enjoy cycling and one of the main things is it goes along with a lot of the patients’ recovery,” he said.

“It’s just grown and grown. This year particularly it’s kind of surprising how quickly things have taken off.”

Mr Coombes, 21, who has cerebral palsy, said one of the most pleasing things about taking part in the Carten 100 is that it helps people achieve their own personal targets.

He said: “For me it’s really helped me. I’ll freely admit I went through a stage of being quite lazy with looking after my condition and looking after myself. I suppose the cycling club on a personal level for me has kind of made me think actually I need to get on the bike, quite literally.”

Other members of the group described it as a “safe environment where you can feel like an ‘able-bodied’ person” and that it provides a “family atmosphere” which is “friendly and welcoming”.

Members also say they doubt the club will ever be a competitive one and it will mainly focus on getting people involved who enjoy cycling as well as building long-lasting friendships.

“It’s all about the comradery,” said Mr Thomas. “It’s all about the safety and encouraging each other and helping each other.”

“The social side is just as important as the fitness side,” said Mr Coombes. “It’s important, especially as a lot of people we cater for have been through a lot themselves. If we can offer them a social environment, it might be that someone had a bad week and we can offer them advice and make them feel a bit better.”

The group is now affiliated with Welsh Cycling – the national governing body of cycling in Wales.

Dan Coast, cycling development officer for South Wales, said: “Morrello’s Marvels are just one of a growing number of clubs we have in Wales that promote and support inclusive cycling.

“A just over a year old, the club provides opportunities to take part and learn about the sport of cycling by providing workshops, rides and activities for everyone. They follow a social club model, encouraging their members to take part in sportives and challenge rides raising money for charities across Wales, and just enjoy cycling. They are truly inspiring more people in South Wales to cycle.”

At the moment the Morrello’s Marvels is raising money for trikes, and are looking to get an ICE trike – a low bike with two wheels at the front and one at the back – so that members can try it out. These cost around £3,500 so the group are aiming to raise as much as possible for one or more.