About the charity
‘The Bike Experience’ was formed in April 2011, as there was no project in existence that taught disabled motorcyclists how to ride. Over a period of eight years the initial idea has become a registered charity and over 320 disabled motorcyclists have learned to ride again. The concept has started to evolve the motorcycling industry worldwide, inspiring other riders in different countries to get back on a bike.
In March 2003 Talan Skeels-Piggins, the founder of the charity, was knocked off his motorcycle and thrown under the path of the oncoming traffic. The accident left him paralysed from the chest down and he thought he would never ride a motorcycle again. Eight years later Talan decided to try and learn to ride again. He bought and adapted a motorcycle, hit setbacks and failures, but eventually found a way to safely ride a motorcycle again. After a year of gentle practice, Talan ventured out into the realms of track day riding, and hasn’t looked back since. The feelings gained from riding again made Talan realise that there must be more disabled riders out there that would love to have the same opportunity.
Talan says “When I am riding I do not feel disabled, I feel free from my wheelchair, I enjoy the sense of excitement and independence just as I used to. Getting to this point has been a struggle, but it has been worth it. I wanted to help other disabled motorcyclists have the fantastic feeling of being back on a bike, without the falls and setbacks I suffered, so The Bike Experience Charity was established.”
The Bike Experience is a registered charity (registration number 1145547). Initially set up as a trust in April 2011, it gained official charity status on 19th January 2012. The charity does not charge any of the participants to attend the days experience, the reasoning is that many disabled people are living without disposable income and would therefore not be able to take part if a fee were imposed. This decision has meant that everyone has access to this life-changing opportunity. It also means that the charity only exists through donations and fund-raising. As all people currently working on the charity are volunteers, every penny that is raised goes to getting riders back on a bike, whether it is paying for venue costs, bike maintenance/repairs, fuel, tyres, etc.
For the first two seasons, The Bike Experience operated at two venues: Castle Combe Circuit (Chippenham, Wiltshire) and RAF Odiham (Basingstoke, Hampshire). From 2013 onwards, The Bike Experience moved its main teaching events to Silverstone Circuit, using the Old Copse Runway arena, whilst also using the Tarmac Lake at Donington and a hardstand at RAF Odiham. Although the charity operates at race circuit location, there is always a reminder to the clients that the experience is run on the car park area, which means it is not a race day, but merely the use of a closed road, which allows for maximum safety. The charity is always looking for new venues to operate from in order to reach more riders.
The charity tries to ensure that anyone who is interested in getting back on a bike is helped to full-fill that dream. Riders have come from all areas of the UK, as well as riders from Northern Ireland, Belgium, Italy and Finland. It is pan-disability: paraplegics, vision impairment, single/double leg amputees, triple amputee (he only had the use of his left arm/hand to control the bike), acquired brain injury, stroke, MS, muscular atrophy, rheumatoid arthritis, polio, spina bifida, PTSD, and nerve damage.
The internet has allowed the charity to advise motorcyclists from around the world and a new division, TBE USA, has recently been set up by Mike Petrowski (a volunteer with TBE in the UK for two years who has since moved back to the United States).
The riders attending the day have a variety of riding experience as well as a variety of time off a bike, with one of the riders having been paralysed from a motorcycle accident eleven months, whilst another leg amputee had been off a bike for 51 years. In this respect, the newer injuries see how the impossible is possible and it changes the way they see the rest of their lives. For the older injuries it is the realisation of a dream they have had for over 50 years, such is the joy of finally reaching their goal of riding again, some have broken down in tears of happiness at their accomplishment.
The charity has the ability to really change people’s lives for the better and the results are immediate to see. Some riders come for just one event to realise they can overcome the impossible. Other riders return for multi visits to grow in confidence and then purchase their own bike so they can ride on track or back on the road.