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Making a Tandem Dream Reality   

August 25, 2015

Penny won’t tell us her age, and that’s fair enough. But I hope she won’t mind me guessing that maybe a good three decades ago she was a 17 year old woman who loved horse riding, was just getting her driver’s licence and pretty much about to embark on the world as a young female.

Then a mozzie bit her.

Innocuous enough, sure, but tragically for Penny she contracted encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain caused by a virus. Her body shut down and she went into a coma for one year. Coming out of her coma, Penny couldn’t communicate. It took her a decade to be able to speak again, and although she has awesome upper body power and movement, she’s in a wheelchair.

John, 45 years old, was born with cerebral palsy and an intellectual disability.

Both are Scope clients and go to Knox Leisureworks, which is how Adrian McKnight comes into the picture.

Adrian isn’t the kind of man to make a fuss.

He’s a fairly straight-shooter, and although he appears to be a pretty handy triathlete, he’s not the kind to chest-beat. He certainly doesn’t go looking for accolades. But a few years back he noticed a public announcement from Scope – they were in need of volunteers to help assist their clients in certain recreational endeavours, like going to the gym.

Adrian liked the idea of helping other people “extend themselves a bit”. He could probably help Scope out…

And so it started. Adrian met Penny, Paul and another client, John. Very quickly he formed a bond with all three, respecting them for their commitment to maintaining overall health, fitness and wellbeing.

And then just all became friends.

Along with their primary Scope carer, all three meet Adrian once a week at Knox Leisureworks to go through a series of gym routines. After a while, Adrian realised the bulk of their activity was indoors. He wanted to get them out to enjoy some sunshine, fresh air and simply not be stuck in the one spot.

As serendipity would have it, not too far away from Knox Leisureworks can be found Greenspeed, possibly one of the most intriguing and charmingly eccentric bike building shops you’re unlikely to ever visit, unless you have an appointment to do so…

Greenspeed specialise in tandem bikes, and knowing his Scope friends’ physical limitations, Adrian realised he’d need a very particular tandem bike, not to mention ideally a system to enable him to safely get his fellow rider in and out of the bike. Greenspeed just so happened to have one such prototype, and arrangements were made for Adrian, Penny, Paul and John to head over for a one-off tandem adventure.

It didn’t come together seamlessly, but the moment each of the three experienced their turn on the tandem, Adrian realised some magic was happening.

They were outside, with the wind in their hair, moving at a tidy pace and tasting that freedom we cyclists (may) take for granted every single time we jump on the saddle. It was invigorating, liberating and left all three wanting more. And that’s the catch.

Adrian realised he’d created a (good) dilemma; everyone wanted to turn this into a regular occurrence, but the resources and reliable availability of equipment made this very unlikely.

Well (as anyone who is either a triathlete or knows a triathlete will attest) – never underestimate the drive and tenacity of someone who willingly trains and races for three disciplines rather than one. They tend to aim high.

Self-employed in the insurance industry, Adrian wasn’t quite sure how to make it all happen, so he put one foot in front of the other and started by reaching out to his own immediate personal connections. Before he knew it, he’d developed and printed a couple of thousand flyers sharing his Scope story thus far and calling for help.

It’s through one such flyer I came across Adrian and decided to give him a buzz to find out a bit more. At the time we spoke, this whole idea of providing Penny, John and Paul with ongoing access to tandem bike riding was so far in its infancy it was practically neo-natal. But there was something that immediately struck me about Adrian’s laconic, humble way and I thought perhaps there might just be a role for us in this – we could help get the word out.

So that’s what we’re doing, and we hope you can help by sharing this story far and wide so that maybe someone – or several people – might just be able to lend a hand.

Interested in helping Adrian make this dream a reality? Please email him on or call 0412 348 903.

Adrian reckons he needs to generate $45,000 to cover the $30,000 fee to build three tandem recumbent bikes set up with hand cranks at the rear. He wants to ensure the bikes have adjustable rear seats and cranks to accommodate different riders. He’s then factored in $15,000 to cover a portable hoist, trailer, water proof clothing, helmets, spare parts, lights and insurance.

Adrian and his wife have talked at length and will get things going with a sizeable contribution from their own savings. Adrian’s talking about possibly establishing a Foundation and taking this further for even more to benefit.

Like Penny says, “a lot of people can’t afford all this… They’d like to, but in the real world unless everyone all helps each other, they can’t… A bit of kindness goes a long way. Every bit counts.”

If you think you can help – by way of a donation, lending your expertise, making some introductions, there’s several people who’d be pretty darn appreciative.

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