This is a guest post by Bunch Bikes customer Erin Smith. Erin had her hands full with three kids – one toddler and two kids with autism. She thought a Bunch Bike might give her family some much-needed freedom of movement, but she wasn’t sure they could afford it. Then a Christmas surprise changed their lives…
Erin, Mike, Grayson, Easton, and Jovie in their Bunch Bike!
Three special kids, each with their own needs
My husband Mike and I have been married for 15 years. He's in law enforcement, and I am a stay-at-home mom. We have three beautiful, hilarious, and sometimes feral children - Grayson (9), Easton (7) and Jovie (4).
Both Grayson and Easton have autism. Grayson is profoundly affected by it, and he is also mostly non-verbal. He has a history of elopement and has to have eyes on him constantly because we never know what he might do next. He is a very loving and sweet kid, but so ornery.
Easton also has an autism diagnosis as well as ADHD, but he is very different from Grayson. He talks constantly and he has a really neat sense of humor.
Jovie rounds out our family - she's the little mother hen of her brothers. She keeps watch and reports back everything she sees. She works really hard to engage Grayson, and she and Easton are best friends.
Solo parenting after school – and feeling trapped
For the past three years, Mike worked second shift, which meant he was gone every single afternoon and evening. After-school time, dinner time, bath time, bed time all fell to me. With three little kids, one toddler and two with exceptional needs, who all needed assistance with every little thing - it was extremely exhausting and draining for me - for all of us!
In the evenings, we would get major meltdowns - sometimes resulting in property destruction. I felt like we were trapped. I didn't think it was safe to take all the kids out in public all by myself, especially with Grayson's tendency to run.
Dreaming of freedom and fresh air
One day I saw an ad for Bunch Bike on Facebook. The idea of getting out of the house with all three of my children on a bike ride where all three of them were contained in one spot - it was like a dream come true. The thought of exercise, fresh air, and a little bit of peace was freeing for me.
I mentioned this Bunch Bike idea to my parents. My dad is an avid cyclist and he loved it. But we were still trying to figure out how to afford it. We’re a single-income home, with the extra financial responsibilities of two kids with special needs - we don’t make any big extra purchases.
A life-changing Christmas surprise
Erin discovers the Bunch Bike in her parents’ garage on Christmas morning.
While we were turning it over, my dad contacted the owner without telling me, and he and my mom decided to purchase a Bunch for our family as a surprise Christmas present! They somehow hid it in their garage for weeks. I had literally walked past it hundreds of times and didn’t know!
I burst into tears the minute I laid eyes on it Christmas morning. Our first ride as a family is one of my favorite memories.
Having this bike has changed our world. We are more active. It's super easy to get on the bike for school pick-up. We ride several times a week, all year round.
Fresh air, freedom, and family time
When I feel a meltdown brewing, we hop in the bike and it helps so much. My kids request to go on bike rides - sometimes Grayson will just say "BIKE" and within minutes he's in the garage sitting in the cargo box, waiting for me. It has drastically improved our quality of life.
See how other families with special needs use the bike to head off meltdowns.
My husband Mike also has an e-bike so when he can, he rides with us - or sometimes he will take the kids for a ride in the Bunch just the four of them. It’s definitely a different skill of parenting to discipline your children while simultaneously riding a bike!
Regaining my confidence on the bike
The Smith family enjoying a family outing on wheels!
When Mike and I were dating, we went for a family bike ride with my parents, my brother and his wife. I was terribly out of shape and hadn't been on a bike in years. I suffered from heat exhaustion and almost passed out on the bike trail. I was mortified.
When I started looking at Bunch Bikes, I hadn't been back on a bike since that experience. I am NOT a risk-taker, and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to maneuver the bike, that I couldn’t make it up the hills, or just that I would look conspicuous or silly. But none of that matters.
I was able to pick up riding quickly. I really LOVE the electric pedal assist – the hills are usually no issue if the tires are sufficiently inflated. We do get stopped a lot with people asking questions or complimenting us on the bike, but mostly they are enjoying my adorable kids!
We have been able to spread a lot of autism awareness! We can share a little bit about our family experience to anyone who asks - and maybe some who didn't ask! ;) It's been very rewarding.
Advice for new Bunch families
For new Bunch families, I would suggest to do a couple of very short bike rides as practice runs just to get used to the bike. Really read that owner's manual! Go slow, at least at first. The pedal assist can make you really pick up speed, but you don’t want to let the bike get out of control, especially if your kids can be unpredictable with their movements. And make sure your tires are pumped up!
What the bike means to our family
Family Bunch Bike fun and ice cream!
I asked Easton how he feels about riding the cargo bike. He said, "I LOVE IT. I love when we go down to the Hippo Park, when we go to the lake (the Sandusky River), when we go to the island (our local reservoir)!"
For me, the bike means freedom – to get the kids outdoors and moving on my own, or to be together as a family.