Families with kids who have special needs know all too well the pain of feeling different. Even everyday outings and joys can be a challenge—something as simple as riding a bike can feel impossibly out of reach for a child who is fearful, easily distracted or can’t balance a bike and pedal.
But Shelly Patterson is changing lives one bike at a time.
Her business, Bikes for Every Body, began long ago when her former business partner, Barry Nelson, found an old alternative tandem bike that allowed his autistic son to safely ride in front with him. He tinkered with the design and create the Buddy Bike, an alternative tandem bike that allows passengers to sit in front of the adult pedaling. Patterson fell in love with the product and its powerful impact, and took over the business in 2005.
The Buddy Bike’s rear-seat steering set up allows for riders with special needs providing adaptive and therapeutic cycling for riders with autism, down syndrome, sight impairment, balance issues, low muscle tone and other disabilities that would prevent them from riding a bike safely on their own.
“These bikes are special,” Shelley Patterson explains. “Every other option puts the kids behind; for kids with special need, there may be cognitive disabilities; they may have an urge to hop off in mid ride, or don’t understand where their bodies are in space, and this allows them to be safe and in sight of the adult powering the bike.”
In addition to the Buddy Bike, her small business also sells all kinds of adaptive bikes, from stable three-wheeled trikes to recumbent models that can be pedaled by hand as well as wheelchair bikes (that attach to a wheelchair).
Bikes for Every Body is primarily a one-woman show—one that requires her to often be on the road attending trade shows or out in the world demoing her bikes for families.
That’s where she needs another set of wheels, and where Fluid Truck comes in.
“Now that Covid is receding, I need the truck for outdoor activities and events,” she explains. “These bikes can be awkward and heavy; I can’t just throw them on a bike rack. The Fluid Truck rental is spacious and much less backbreaking for me to use.”
The first thing that attracted her to Fluid Truck was that it turned out to be less expensive than traditional rental companies, where she would rent a minivan or small truck. These vehicles are now too small for her growing fleet.
“[Some rental companies charge] 69 cents a mile, which just kills me,” she says. “The Fluid Truck vans’ lower entry makes loading easier; the rental process was easy too. No lines, everything is so automatic. The support staff is incredibly responsive. I do plan to use it as I add more bikes to my fleet and get me reliably to events where families can demo and experience the bikes.”
Recently, Patterson loaded up a Fluid Truck and covered 712 miles in one weekend, visiting a variety of groups and events including a seniors’ expo, autism awareness event and an adaptive sports group. “When I have Fluid Truck, I make it count!” she says.
Patterson admits this is a tough business to be in—the bikes are highly specialized and expensive, and getting the word out and reaching her clients is an ongoing challenge. But it’s a business she loves and believes in.
Her advice for other small business owners? “The key is you have to have a good idea. That is the foundation. I don’t think I would have done this for so long if the Buddy Bike wasn’t really something people needed. When I go to an expo for kids with autism, or Down Syndrome, and see the look on those parents’ faces—everybody gets it. So if your idea is strong and serves a purpose, everything else will fall into place.”
Fluid Truck was built to help empower business owners with purpose and good ideas. Let us help you grow! And in the meantime, keep up with Bikes for Every Body on their Facebook page.