Limitless Cycling’s cofounders, Matthew Stepaniak and Darren Dobier, have known each other for years as Greater Stillwater Chamber of Commerce members, collaborators, and community volunteers. What they didn’t know was that they both were working on bringing adaptive bicycles to the St. Croix River Valley until an Enrichment Director at The Lakes of Stillwater senior living campus brought them together in 2019. Coincidentally, they were both exploring the idea with her until she asked, “Have you two been speaking to each other?”
Matthew was looking for more ways his 86-year-old mother (89 at the time of this article) could be more physically active and socially engaged. Darren was looking for ways his company, DIRO Outdoors, could provide more inclusive outdoor experiences to less abled individuals. Realizing that this idea was bigger than either of them individually and needed to be brought to the community, a partnership and the nonprofit service Limitless Cycling was born.
Limitless Cycling, a Cycling Without Age affiliate, and their fiscal sponsor River Valley Trails, bring adaptive bicycles to various senior living facilities and community centers. It is a free service that increases opportunities for socialization and self-care to enhance positive mental health and overall wellbeing of residents. Supporting and honoring their senior community is the cornerstone of Limitless Cycling’s vision as they also strive to serve the needs of our veteran and less-abled communities young and old alike. They acknowledge the diversity of their community as they promote the principles of inclusion with their adaptive bicycles so that all may enjoy the outdoors and create equity for all.
“A community is made stronger by meaningful interactions among people,” says Matthew Stepaniak, Limitless Cycling Co-Founder. “This program will allow volunteers and riders – people of different generations, with different life experiences, and abilities – to connect through a pleasant, shared, outdoor experience.”
With the help of the Stillwater Area Community Foundation (SACF), Limitless Cycling was awarded $15,000 with their 2021 Fall Grant that focused on mental and physical health, and the well-being of local communities in the wake of pandemic-related hardships. Limitless Cycling utilized the SACF grant dollars for phase one of their project – the purchase of a Van Raam Chat rickshaw bicycle. Trained volunteers’ “pilot” the bicycle to provide a social, outdoor experience for 1-2 passengers per ride.
“The Stillwater Area Community Foundation strives to enhance the quality of life for all in the Stillwater area,” notes Erica Oesterreich, SACF board member/fall grant committee chair. “When highly active cyclists and families with young children share the trail with those being assisted to ride, it demonstrates that this is a caring, compassionate, inclusive community.”
Limitless Cycling’s reach has already accelerated into Phase 2 and 3 with donations from individuals, crowdsourcing, local businesses, and Rotary’s to add two more bicycles – Van Ramm’s Fun2Go 2-person side-by side and the VeloPlus bicycle specifically designed for a wheelchair user. Most recently, they were awarded the United Way of Washington County East’s Kay Clint Fund for Emerging Needs which will upgrade their current trailer to a new enclosed trailer. It will allow them to increase their ridership and transportation efficiency by being able to carry all of the bikes securely at once.
Currently, they are fundraising to add a fourth adaptive bicycle, the split frame Van Raam OPair for those who are in a wheelchair but can make an easy transfer. It allows the front portion to easily remove from the cycling component, which enables use as a wheelchair on location. The depth adjustable seat of the OPair can be set to the passenger’s measurements as well as the angle adjustable back rest, expandable side rests, head support, and a 4-point safety harness making the bike suitable for both children and small adults.
Even prior to COVID, studies have shown an increase in anxiety, social isolation, and depression due to lack of resources, especially in rural communities. These negative effects were exacerbated during the height of COVID due largely to stricter lockdowns, higher threat of illness, and loss of social support to our senior living facilities and the community as a whole.
The challenge in the months and years ahead will be providing services to meet the needs of the increasing numbers of individuals to provide opportunities for them to remain active and live independently in their communities – Limitless Cycling will be one of these services.
Learn more, sign up for volunteer opportunities, and donate at www.LimitlessCycling.org