A couple weeks ago, my husband and I took Thing One (so named because he arrived on the scene two minutes before his brother, Thing Two, and I don’t use their real names on here) up to Roanoke, VA for a quick overnight trip. It can be tough to find things to do with Thing One; he has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and some low muscle tone, along with vestibular and motor skills difficulties, so while he is able to do the same things most everyone else can, social situations are tough, he gets tired fairly quickly, and he can’t do things like amusement park rides or riding a bike.
You can imagine, then, how excited we were to come across UnderDog Bikes in downtown Roanoke. Not only do they fix and sell bikes, they also rent them out–including giant, adult-sized Big Wheels. Yes, Big Wheels, exactly like you used to ride when you were a fearless little kid, tearing up the neighborhood on your three-wheeled, low-slung, BadassMobile, only bigger and built of sturdier materials. Beloved and I were hit with a wave of giddy childhood nostalgia, but I was even more excited about the fact that this was something Thing One could do. The bikes sit very low to the ground and have a wide rear wheel base, so I knew he would feel safe and secure, unlike when he’s tried to ride a regular two-wheeled bike. We knew we could ride the Big Wheels down a quiet greenway that runs along the river, so he wouldn’t be in the middle of the downtown noise, and wouldn’t have to interact much with strangers. This sounded like the perfect outing for us, and it turned out even better than we expected.
We were greeted at the door by the resident UnderDog, a sweet and friendly pup who escorted us inside the shop. The owner of the shop, Christopher Heslin, was the perfect balance of helpful, knowledgeable, and laid-back as he went over the pricing (super-reasonable), safety information, and recommended routes. It’s clear that he knows his stuff, and genuinely wants to help people have fun on wheels.
We rented the Big Wheels for an hour, and had a blast riding up and down the greenway. It winds through a pretty residential area and past a small park with a playground, and the waters of the adjacent river are absolutely beautiful. The greenway is flat and paved, making for a ride that can be as easy or as challenging as you want to make it. We alternated between lazy pedaling and speeding up the path, and the grin on Thing One’s face as he passed us, hair flying in the wind, was about the most awesome thing I’ve seen in a long time.
UnderDog Bikes doesn’t market themselves a service for kids with ASD, but for older kids with vestibular issues who want to have fun outdoors, it’s a spectacular place to go. Actually, for anyone who wants to relive those carefree days of childhood for an afternoon, it’s a spectacular place to go. We can’t wait to go back.
UnderDog Bikes is located at 1113 Piedmont St. SE in Roanoke, Virginia. They’re open 10 AM to 7 PM Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 10 AM to 6 PM Saturday and Sunday, and closed on Tuesdays. Give them a call at 540-204-4276 or visit their web site for more information, and be sure to show them some love over on their Facebook page.