Adaptive Cycles: Bikes for People With Disabilities and Mobility Issues

For two out of three cyclists with disabilities, riding a bike is easier than walking, since it facilitates better balance, alleviates joint strain, and relieves breathing difficulties.

Although some cyclists with disabilities are able to use a regular two-wheel bike, adaptive cycles can make biking accessible to anyone regardless of their unique needs and challenges.

Tricycles, wheelchair cycles, and hand-powered cycles, in particular, are some helpful options allowing people with a range of disabilities and mobility issues to enjoy cycling and improve their wellbeing and quality of life.

Tricycles (With Stabilizers or Footplates)

Sporting just three wheels, tricycles eliminate the need for the rider to be able to balance. As such, tricycles are a great choice for people with disabilities and disorders like dyspraxia and vertigo, as well as people recovering from a stroke.

Footplates can also be installed on the tricycle to help riders move the pedals more easily.

Moreover, stabilizers can simply be placed on a regular two-wheel bike to transform it into a tricycle, which is a more cost-effective option.

Tricycles are usually available with either upright or recumbent (horizontal) seating positions, the latter placing less strain on the knees, abs, back, and arms.

Wheelchair Cycles

Depending on their individual disability, some people won’t be able to find an adaptive cycle that suits their unique needs, but can instead benefit from a wheelchair cycle. For example, a cerebral palsy is a common group of neurological disorders that usually always affects mobility.

In particular, children with cerebral palsy may experience problematic joint contractures, resulting in inflamed joints, loss of mobility, and/or abnormal movements. Fortunately, regular joint mobilization and stretching with a physical therapist can help prevent this condition.

When it comes to cycling, people with advanced cerebral palsy and other disabilities or mobility issues (including complete paralysis) may also enjoy using wheelchair cycles.


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    These clever cycles can provide a rider in a wheelchair with that same feeling of propulsion without the need for them to actually pedal or steer.

    For example, a person in a wheelchair can be positioned within a front trailer that hooks up to a bike that’s ridden by someone else (or, they may instead be able to sit at the front of the bike). In most cases, wheelchair cycles come with extra power assist to provide a helpful boost.

    Hand-Powered Cycles

    Hand-powered cycles are similar to regular cycles, except they’re powered by the arms rather than the legs. They’re a popular option for people with either limited or no lower body function (for example, due to joint issues like arthritis, paraplegia, or leg amputations).

    Moreover, hand-powered cycles are also a valuable option for people looking to strengthen their upper body (such as is required during stroke recovery). On this type of bike, handles replace the pedals in order to let the rider steer by using their arms to power the chain and wheels.

    You’ll find most hand-powered cycles feature a three-wheel design, although some models have four wheels. Four-wheel handcycles also sometimes feature a power assist option (as an alternative to turning handles), or they may be gravity-powered and designed for downhill travel.

    If you use a wheelchair, look for a “clip-on” handcycle that’s able to connect to your wheelchair for greater convenience.

    There’s no need to let a disability or mobility issue get in the way of cycling. Tricycles, wheelchair cycles, and hand-powered cycles are just some adaptive bike options that allow people with disabilities and mobility issues to enjoy cycling and improve their health and wellbeing.


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    Adaptive Cycles: Bikes for People With Disabilities and Mobility Issues — Bike Hacks