If you’ve ever fancied having a go at cycling but thought a physical disability would stop you there has been a lot of innovation over the last decade and it might not be the case any more. There are a number of different types of bikes which can work for different people with different abilities.
Trikes usually have three wheels with two at the back trikes and are excellent for those with poor balance but with leg strength. They can also have the two wheels at the front which increases the stability further but can also increase the level of effort required to cycle. Trikes are often a smoother ride than you would expect, can have a cargo capacity and can be electric assisted.
Recumbent bikes let the driver sit in a seat rather than a saddle and usually have three wheels with the two often at the front. This seat gives a very comfortable supported position, albeit one which can be difficult to get in and out of. If you plan to use them on the road be aware they usually have poor visibility both for the rider and other road users.
Steer from the rear tandems
Steer from the rears allow an able bodied rider and those with a disability to ride on the same bike with the driver providing the propulsion and steering and the passenger getting a ride. They are available in two-wheel and three wheel versions.
One Up One Downs
One up one Downs are essentially steer from the rears with a seat rather than a saddle on the front. This seat is lowered so the driver can see and usually also provide pedals for the passenger to help provide power as well. They can also usually be fitted with electric assists.
Side by Side Cycles
Side by Side Cycles essentially take two standard bikes and and put them next to each other, sometimes with 1 front wheel, sometimes with two. They are stable, steer easily and can can have a good carrying capacity. They can be fitted with electric assist but the law does not allow the four wheel versions on public roads.
If you need to stay in a wheelchair you have two main options. Most non-folding manual wheelchairs can have the rear half of a bike attached to them as a propulsion unit. This can be added or removed as required to swap between a wheelchair and a wheelchair bike mix.
The second option is a transporter. This is a bike with a platform on the front which a wheelchair can be wheeled onto giving the best of both worlds. Their disadvantage is the weight and overall lack of manoeuvrability but they are particularly successful when used for children.
Overall there is not a best option for everyone – your level and type of issues will make the choice as to which is appropriate. Adapted bikes are also quite expensive because they are a niche item and take up a lot of time and engineering. Charitable grants are available that can help make them more affordable and an increasing number of country parks in England are making them available for hire. Always get a demonstration and test drive before you consider buying and check if there is a cycle hire scheme that include adapted bicycles in your local area.