Gail Martin, Independent Editor
It’s a bicycle built for two, but unlike any you’ve ever seen.
Chateau Gardens in Elmira is the proud owner of a Duet tandem bicycle. It’s a bike that will allow staff and family members take their loved ones for a bike ride, regardless of physical ability.
That’s because the bicycle comes in two parts — the rear, complete with pedals and hand controls for the bicycle driver, and the front part, a wheelchair that provides maximum comfort and safety for a passenger.
Vicky Rau, activity coordinator at Chateau Gardens, said the duet bicycle has long been a part of her wish list for residents of the long-term care facility on Herbert Street.
When a family of former residents indicated they would like to make a donation, Rau directed them to a YouTube video on how the bicycle works.
“She called back and was ecstatic,” said Rau. The family donated the money in memory of Mary Grace Martin. The bike cost approximately $6,800.
Since then, staff has taken training on how to operate the bike, along with its numerous safety features, and Rau has been taking it out for a few test spins with residents.
One resident who has enjoyed the new bicycle is Torin Lyness.
At the age of 45, Lyness is one of the younger residents of the nursing home. He has been a resident of Chateau Gardens for the past two years, a victim of an aggressive form of multiple sclerosis.
Prior to getting the disease 13 years ago, Lyness lived a very active life, serving as a bodyguard for a number of famous individuals and groups, including Black Sabbath, the Spice Girls, and former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. He also liked extreme sports like heli-skiing, and had his own motorbike.
And, while the Duet bicycle won’t get anything like the speeds he once enjoyed on his motorbike, Lyness is still a big fan of the Duet bicycle.
“It gets me out of the place I’m staying at right now,” said Lyness. “It’s a lot better out there.”
Lyness is a big fan of the nachos served at the Woolwich Memorial Centre.
With the Duet bicycle, he can get a scenic ride to the WMC, and then get wheeled indoors when the bicycle portion is detached from the wheelchair.
The ease of separating the two sections of the bicycle also means that residents can be put directly into the wheelchair portion from their beds, without the hassle of trying to transport them to the bicycle itself. When they get outside, it’s a relatively simple task to hook up the wheelchair to the bicycle and go for a ride.
Currently, 12 residents have signed up to participate in the program, and they are enjoying it “very, very much,” said Rau.
“It gives them freedom, the chance to feel that you’re free,” said Rau.
Families are being encouraged to learn how to use the bicycle, which is now available for residents’ use at Chateau Gardens.
As for Rau and Lyness, they hope to one day tackle something more challenging and visually stimulating than Elmira’s streets.
“We hope to do (the Kissing Bridge) trail one day,” said Rau.