Riding a bike seems simple enough, but to someone with disabilities, it could mean so much more than a quick ride through the park. With that in mind, the Treasure Valley Down Syndrome Association is hosting its first Treasure Valley iCan Bike Camp at Meridian's YMCA beginning today and running all this week.
“They start off on adapted bikes with a wide roller as a back tire,” said Paul Auger, Camp Director for the iCan Bike Camp and Secretary of the Treasure Valley Down Syndrome Association, describing what makes this learning experience so unique for these particular cyclists. Auger told the Boise Weekly that the specially designed bikes help make the transition to a traditional bike that much easier by allowing the cyclists the opportunity to get used to how a traditional bike would feel.
“I’ve been extremely pleased with how the riders are doing,” said Auger, adding that he was proud of how far the riders had come in such little time. Already entering the third session of training for the day by the time BW talked to him at midday Monday, Auger added that he's excited to see how quickly the bikers are developing. The cyclists start off with the adapted bicycle to get the feel of no longer having training wheels, and then adjust to the "feel" of an ordinary bike. The cyclists then make the transition to a tandem bike, riding alongside another person, and eventually are able to ride a regular bike on their own. “I haven’t seen a single rider not make any progress,” said Auger.
This year is the first-ever iCan Bike Camp in Idaho, and Auger is eager to make it an annual event. Hosted by the Treasure Valley Down Syndrome Association, the program is open to anyone ages 8 and up, and to anyone who has special needs and has had a hard time learning how to ride a bike. Because the TVDSA is a non-profit organization, Auger explained that they have “fundraising efforts throughout the year to put on events like this” and the profits “help cover the cost of putting on the event.”
He added what makes this program so special isn’t merely having the ability to ride a bike, but bikers leave with a newfound confidence.
“It provides a mechanism for them to be mobile and self-sufficient later in life,” said Auger. He continues to explain that, depending on one’s disability, they may not be able to drive. This provides a way to tackle that obstacle and a way for the bikers to be proud of themselves. Auger says that it’s not only a form of exercise, but also a way to experience the “great scenery that Boise and Idaho have to offer.”