For 22-year-old Geordi Berlingieri of Plymouth, learning to ride a bike didn’t come naturally growing up. Geordi suffers from an intellectual disability that makes it difficult for him to keep his balance on a bicycle.
“We had gone to physical therapy, occupational therapy, bike-riding clinics and so on, and he just couldn’t ride,” recalls Geordi’s mom, Colleen Berlingieri. “So we stumbled upon this product on the internet, Fatwheels, which are kind of like regular training wheels on steroids.”
Fatwheels come in three sizes: Small, large and adult. They’re incredibly sturdy and can be affixed to various size bicycles. Not only did Fatwheels help Geordi learn to ride at age 10 – he was able to ride successfully on his very first try.
“We were tickled pink,” Colleen says. “We couldn’t believe that we just put them on and away he went.”
Realizing the potential Fatwheels could have in the special needs and physical therapy communities, Colleen later purchased Fatwheels with her husband, Tony, in 2013 from the company’s founder in North Carolina (it first debuted in 1997). The family, which also includes son Jacob, 11, hasn’t looked back.
Most recently, they’ve been working with parents/caregivers, hospitals, outpatient clinics and school programs country wide to get Fatwheels to children and adults who need them. They’ve also sponsored a group of advanced engineering students at the University of Michigan to help develop a new “quick disconnect” version of Fatwheels’s adult model.
It’s had a big impact on Geordi’s life, too. He doesn’t have a driver’s license, so Fatwheels help him independently get around his community.
“I know it’s just bike-riding, but it’s more than that,” Colleen says. “For a child, riding your bike around the neighborhood, I mean that’s a rite of passage, that’s inclusion.”
- Prices: $129.95/small (16-20-inch bikes; under 150-pound rider); $149.95/large (24-27-inch bikes; under 150-pound rider); $199.95/adult (24-27-inch bikes; up to 250-pound rider)
- Phone: 734-414-1999