Adaptive needs tricycles

I'm Jack Carlson from Saint Paul, Minnesota.  I have worked for Strauss Skates and Bicycles for 30 years, delivering on the service needs for kids and adults for bikes, trikes, and all things skating. For more than 10 years  now, I have focused on the special needs community and have rediscovered my passion for cycling through the eyes of these special kids.

I work regularly with Gillette Children's Hospital, Shriners, the Minneapolis VA, Variety of WI (a children's charity), Minneapolis School district DAPE program, and many others to provide tricycles and adaptive riding solutions to children in need. I come up with creative solutions by using materials we have around our bike shop. For instance, an old pair of roller blades can be shaved and mounted so that a child who has trouble keeping their feet on the pedals has an easier way to stay connected to the bike.

Each custom adaptive bicycle or tricycle costs roughly $1,800 - $2,000. Funding is always difficult, and while great contributions are made from the aforementioned organizations, often times the families still fall short. My goal is to make sure that money is not an obstacle and that we’re able to get as many children on bikes as possible.

All donations to my GoFundMe campaign will be spent on bridging the gap for families in need to cover the associated costs for these custom bikes. Need based support will be determined by me through relationships with all parties involved, including therapists, case workers, etc.  

I promise to make every dollar go as far as possible to our goal of helping every child have the freedom to ride!


Minneapolis Star Tribune article 
Jack Carlson fixes bikes with his hands, but he moves mountains with his heart. At Strauss Skates and Bikes in Maplewood, Carlson has made it his personal mission to remove barriers that keep kids with special needs from riding bikes.

“There’s nothing better than seeing a kid experience the freedom of riding a bike for the first time,” he said. Inspiration came a decade ago while he was working with a man whose daughter with special needs couldn’t ride a standard bicycle. As word spread throughout the community, he got more requests from customers with special needs, each presenting unique challenges and opportunities for solutions.

He was faced with the ultimate challenge when a young girl with 8-inch legs came to him with a dream of riding a bike. He made it happen. “Jack has never given up on anyone,” said owner Shaun Hastings. “He’s never said no to anyone.”

When a customer without arms wanted to ride a bike, Carlson pondered, puttered and pounded, piecing together a three-wheeled bike so the girl could perform all functions — pedaling, braking, turning, gear-shifting — with her legs. “If there’s a will, there’s a way,” he said. “The best part is making something happen for someone who never thought it was possible.”

In his 30 years of working at Strauss Skates and Bikes, Carlson, 56, has earned the reputation around the shop for being a jack-of-all-trades. He works quietly, shying away from the spotlight and unaware of his impact. In the local special-needs community, he’s simply called “Jack the bike guy.”

In a Facebook forum for Minnesota parents of special-needs children, one mother said Jack “saved me $2,000. … he truly seems to care.” Another mom said, “We will never forget Jack.” That reputation sends customers from around the state to his door. Heather Kainz drove from Virginia, Minn., to get her 4-year-old son, Parker, a bike that would provide adequate support. Parker uses a wheelchair and a walker for mobility, but wanted a bike to cruise around with his older sisters and cousins.

“A bike is something every single child should be able to experience, regardless of ability,” Kainz said. Individually adapted bicycles, like the kind Parker needs, come with a hefty price tag, often more than $3,500. “Figuring how to adapt a bike isn’t the biggest challenge,” Carlson said. “Funding is.”

He works with several distributors of adaptive bikes, but when cost makes getting a new bike prohibitive, he comes up with creative low-cost solutions. It’s not unusual for him to use parts from used bikes in the shop to create a custom bike. Instead of ordering new foot pedal attachments for one customer, he cut down a pair of plastic Rollerblade boots to bolt to the pedals.

“All it takes a little creativity,” he said. “Every kid should be able to ride a bike without it costing a fortune.”

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Jacob Carlson
St. Paul, MN

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