We take it for granted that if the weather is good, the bike is serviced and the weekend is free we can gear up and head out for a days trail riding. For some riders it's not so straight forwards. Cal Bennan is a nineteen year old with a passion for riding. He also has a severe disability that confines him to a wheel chair and makes him reliant on others for almost all aspects of his physical life. He is one of the most passionate trail riders you will meet.
His dad Tom has seen the huge positive impact that riding green roads has had on Cal. He recently sent an email that summed up how the TRF has helped Cal participate in the great British countryside.
Apologies for not replying sooner but Cal has one of his regular bouts of illness which has thrown our diaries into chaos.
Thanks for your interest in Cal's somewhat peculiar contribution to trail riding and, indeed, trail ridings enormous contribution to his quality and enjoyment of life. The background is complex but I will try to explain without labouring on the negatives.
Cal is 19 and has a serious metabolic condition called Lesch Nyhan Syndromewhich is not treatable. It manifests itself in a number of physical, psychological and medical ways and can change intensify rapidly and without warning. The physical aspects are those that influence his ability to trail ride and they manifest themselves as follows;
Cal cannot walk, can only talk a little, can't feed himself, toilet or coordinate movement productively, he has the physical appearance of a 12 year old and is tied to the use of a wheelchair which is propelled by others.
In spite of this he is intelligent, ambitious, adventurous and has near normal comprehension, normal hearing, eyesight and sensation. We have always encouraged him to live his life to the full and guaranteed him that we will support him in anything he wishes to do. He is now an almost uniquely brave, determined,generous and funny young man who has a profoundly positive outlook and influences these virtues in everyone he comes in to contact with.
He enjoys all manner of outdoor activities including off-roading, skiing, golf? (I know) and he is an active member of our local rugby club. He gets me taking him to training in his off road wheelchair and last year we completed one of Endurolands mud runs!
His enthusiasm is infectious and we (including the TRF) have created a monstrous force for good and inclusion.
When you think of the conditions, travel requirements, risk, discomfort and limited technology, there can be no less suitable sport for Cal.
When you think of his personality, ambition and appetite for adventure there can be no more suitable sport.
We have the support of a large family group who have a sideline interest in our sport, a long suffering wife and mother Lorna, but most importantly our riding buddies who back me up 100% and make it all possible. Collectively 'Team Cal Cal', the principle players are a soon to be retired Army Paratrooper Officer called Rick Fawcett, a self confessed adventurer, climber, diver and biker. Brilliant organiser, useful mechanic and a big strong bloke. The other leading player is Alex Walton who besides being a brilliant Enduro rider is a young man with a natural gift for care and is Cal's best mate. Alex has grown up with a sister who suffers from Cerebral Palsy and has a keen understanding of severe disability.
All a bit strange but it really does work.
Tom and Cal enjoying the freedom of closed enduro circuits
It all started about 8 years ago when we bought a little side by side buggy just to let Cal muck about in a field with some mates who had little dirt bikes and he progressively wanted to go faster and further and the little buggy died a glorious death and was scrapped. Cal loved the idea of Enduro and motocross and we bought and adapted (allowing Cal to be a passenger) a sports quad which let Cal join his pals at some more open minded venue operators, he loved it and we hit the road to find increasingly tougher tracks. In parallel I bought myself a bike and got hooked.
We were regulars at Enduroland, a marvellously supportive organiser and took trips to Wheeldon Farm in Devon.
The TRF in South Wales organised a Forest Trail ride in South Wales for disabled young people and catered, mainly, for the more physically able folk with learning difficulties but lacked any adapted kit for those without the necessary control to ride as a pillion. We took our quad along and, in addition to Cal getting an enjoyable ride, we were able to offer others the chance. One of the volunteers was Ross Fisher, former Cornwall TRF chair, and he was organising a similar event in Bodmin. We signed up right away and found ourselves making trips to Wales and Cornwall to take part and help out.
In Cornwall Cal met Debbie Hutchinson and we had to find a way of getting Cal (legally) on to trails. The sports quad struggled with the punishment and we moved up to an 800cc Canam built for two and road legal. Cal has continued his interest in racing and trail riding and we have been all over England, Wales and France. We now have a 1000cc Canam with a proper roll cage which has been tested in practice. We have been to TRF events all over and Cal is well known in the Enduro community
The overwhelming strength of the TRF membership is the way that we have been welcomed, assisted befriended and encouraged. The people have given Cal a chance to participate and we have not encountered any 'nay sayers'.
Motorcycle dealers, event organisers, track owners and riders have been terrific in allowing us to visit places and do things that would normally be out of the reach of disabled people, this is an important message to get across.
Cal's ambition is to establish a small fleet of adapted equipment (at my expense) and run a 'not for profit enterprise' offering access to our sport to other disabled people. He would need the continued support of the TRF to help with event access.
This August Tom and Cal will be demonstrating their adapted quad bike at Mersea Island Festival in Essex. For more information and to book your place visit www.merseafestival.org.uk
The TRF campaigns for access to the countryside for trail riders. If you support our values why not get behind our latest fundraising initiative that aims to send a clear message to local authorities around the UK. Green Roads are part of our heritage and should be conserved and managed for all user groups.