Inspiring cyclists: 9 year old boy with dyspraxia learns to ride a bike

Posted by Adam Coxon on

Declan Nangle didn't think he'd ever be able to ride a bike because of his dyspraxia; he learned to cycle a bike with help from the Big Bike Revival. Cycling UK's Christina Bengston went to meet him.

9-year-old Declan from Kidderminster in Worcestershire did something he never thought was possible. He rode a bike, completely on his own.

Adam Coxon who is an Open Trail cycle coach said: "It was my task for today and I knew he could do it.”

After less than an hour Declan had won his first trophy. Adam explained this meant getting one pedal put on the bike, turning it from a balance bike to a pedal bike. Then Adam added the second pedal. 

“It gives kids something to aim towards.” Adam has been a cycle coach for six years and typically can teach a child to ride a bike in an hour or two. 

For Declan it has taken three sessions and around six hours. 

“Declan has dyspraxia which is a developmental coordination disorder,” said Siobhan, Declan’s mum. “So, things like physical activity, ball games and football he finds really difficult, it affects his balance”.

“Declan was very nervous during his first session," explained Sarah Hipwell, Thrive Practitioner at the school. "He wasn’t keen, he wasn’t enthusiastic, you could see he was scared."

Declan’s parents, Siobhan and Paul, tried to teach him how to ride a bike when he was younger and when that was unsuccessful, they also looked for cycling lessons, but still Declan was unable to ride. 

“The headteacher [at Foley Park Primary Academy and Nursery] said it would be really good for him to learn how to ride a bike and we’ve been saying it for the past couple of years, but because he finds things like this really tricky we didn’t know where to start,” said Siobhan. 

“This has been fantastic for us as a family and for him and his confidence, so he can ride his bike with his friends… We’ve been delighted that he’s had the opportunity to do it.”

Declan’s achievement was possible thanks to the charity Open Trail, founded by Hannah Escott, the Elite Women World 4X Series Champion 2019.

Open Trail received funding this year from Cycling UK’s Big Bike Revival which enabled them to go into Foley Academy and provide bike training for every child that needed it. 

Hannah Escott  explained “Big Bike Revival has really helped me get into these schools and convince them to take part in this, so without Big Bike Revival these schools wouldn’t be connected with us and these kids wouldn’t be learning how to ride a bike”

Open Trail has some big ambitions for the future of cycle coaching. “My personal mission for Open Trail” said Hannah “is to stop children leaving [primary] school without being able to ride a bike.”

“Up to Year Four, when children are eight or nine years old, they are quite happy to put their hand up and say ‘I can’t ride a bike yet and I’d like to learn’, but by year five and six, they know they can’t ride a bike but they don’t want to admit to it and by the time they get to high school, forget it, they do not want to admit they can’t ride a bike, they don’t want to tell people, they don’t want to be in front of anybody saying ‘I can’t do this’.

“So, it’s really a case of if we don’t catch them before they’re 10 years old, they might not ever learn how to ride” said Hannah.

The headteacher at Declan’s school, Kathryn Sugars said, “we offer cycling proficiency at the school, but to do cycling proficiency you have to be able to ride a bike. 

“Every year we said, this year Declan will ride a bike, this year, and it’s never happened. We’ve never been able to get him riding a bike. 

“We wouldn’t be having children riding today if it wasn’t for Hannah and Adam, it’s been amazing.”

“[Cycling] is like a rite of passage," said Sarah Hipwell as she watched Declan cycle unaided for the first time. "they [children] should be on wheels.

“Declan has faced one of his biggest challenges today and he’s cracked it.”

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