Live without Limits Blog > January 2019 > How to take part in adapted cycling

How to take part in adapted cycling



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Cycling UK continues to enthusiastically encourage all forms of cycling. They hope and aim to inspire people of all backgrounds, ages and abilities to feel that they can get involved, hop on board and maybe, along the way, discover the joys of cycling for themselves.  

It is possible to modify standard bikes to suit individual needs. Two ways that this can be done is by adding a foot plate to a pedal, or raising the handlebars. Bikes can be tailored in numerous different ways to fit personal needs, but it is worth noting that a lot of problems can be solved with relatively simple modifications to standard bicycles. 

Adapted cycles make cycling accessible for all, and there are a wide range of cycles which can suit people living with a variety of physical and learning disabilities. There are also wheelchair cycles available which you can ride with a non-disabled friend. Some cycles also utilise hand cranks so that you don’t need to use your legs to get involved in cycling.  

There are some inclusive cycling centres which keep small fleets of adapted bikes which people can try out at a number of public events held by different organisations around the UK. Such events aim to highlight the benefits of cycling to both lifestyle and general health and fitness for everyone.

Inclusive Cycling and Inclusive Cycling Centres

Wheels for Wellbeing, a long running campaign group to promote more inclusive cycling, held their Guide to Inclusive Cycling conference in London in October 2017. Wheels for Wellbeing aims to raise the awareness and visibility of cyclists with disabilities and thereby provide a framework for a more inclusive cycling culture across the UK.  

The guide splits concerns about inclusive cycling into three main sections. The guide sets out some ideas on how to make cycling more inclusive in each of the following ways.

  • Cycling infustructure
  • Cycling facilities
  • Recognition

It is hoped that local authorities will gradually adopt the principles, outlined in the guide and will start to put them into practise, for example, simple measure such as spacing out bollards more could give easier access to those using adapted bikes. Chief among the principles in the guide, is striving to provide an equality of opportunity, and raising awareness of just how many people in the UK live with a disability. According to the guide, this is 1 in 5 people living in the UK.

Cycling UK has helped support over forty inclusive cycling centres across England in partnership with Cycling Projects. In this way Cycling UK launched a network of centres which gifted thousands of people the opportunity to experience cycling, many for the first time. Each cycling centre specialises in helping a particular group of people, anything from helping those with physical disabilities, mental disabilities, the elderly, or those who may be lacking in confidence.


Types of Adapted Cycles.

There are many different types of adapted cycles available. These include the following.

Tricycles —These have three wheels, which means those with poor balance would be more able to ride these.  These cycles can therefore be ridden by people who may be recovering from illness, or have mental disabilities like dyspraxia, or physical disabilities like cerebral palsy. Prices range from £500-£3000.

Tandems — These can have between two and four wheels and are made for two people to ride together. Riders can be positioned side-by-side, or one in front of the other. These cycles are useful for people with visual impairments, or when there is a need for help with pedalling or steering. There is also the option of a tag-along bike with two wheels, more typically used with children riding with adults. Prices fall between £500- £6000.

Hand Cycles — These work under the same principle as foot powered cycles. The pedals are replaced with handles that can steer and drive the chain and wheels. Some may have power assist for going uphill rather than self-turning handles. Hand cycles can have an upright, or recumbent (low down) seating position, as can be seen in some of the hand cycles designed by Quickie for sport activities, such as the Shark RT and Shark RS. These are very useful for people with limited mobility, or those who want to build-up upper body strength. Basic hand cycles start from around £500 up to £6,000 for more professional models.

Recumbent Cycles — These low-down cycles are great for people who may have problems with their posture and may prefer to have a lower centre of gravity when riding. These start from around £100 to over £600.

Wheelchair Cycles — Some hand cycles are designed to be clipped directly on to the frame of a wheelchair, for example, the Quickie Attitude which is available as a manual, powered and hybrid version. Prices for add-on wheelchair bikes start from around £2,400 for a manual version.

There are also cycles available that allow a wheelchair user to transfer into the front seat of a cycle, with someone in a seat behind them pedalling and steering. Another form of wheelchair cycle allows for a wheelchair to be loaded onto a front-facing trailer which is attached to a cycle. These can be handy for people with severe physical disabilities or paralysis

Low-Step Bicycles — These are useful for people who may have limited mobility, which is restricted to one limb. It may be that someone has limited flexibility and therefore it is easier for them to get onto a low-step bike. This could be helped with a swing crank. Weakness or impairment of an arm may be aided by a careful choice of gear and braking systems. Prices for these can vary widely, anything from around £200 to over £1000.

If you intend to purchase an adapted cycle and you are registered as having a disability, it may be that you would qualify for a VAT exemption on the price of an adapted cycle. So always check with your supplier to see if you qualify.  

Getting Involved

To get involved in adapted cycling, start by contacting your local inclusive cycling centre or group to try out some cycles. There are also over fifty Wheels for All centres across England and Wales with people; staff, volunteers, fund-raisers and local councils, carers and occupational therapists working on making it possible for everybody to cycle in a sociable environment. 

An event and open day was held at the Redline Indoor Karting Centre in Caernarfon, Wales in spring 2017, which gave children and adults with disabilities the chance to ride a range of adapted cycles around the karting track. In order to discover or perhaps even help organise events like this you can contact a Wheels for All centre near you, or find out about your local inclusive cycling centre.  As was showcased at Redline, you can never know what might happen if you do get involved, but it might be surprisingly fun to find out.