Adaptive cycling or amputee biking is not a new topic here at Amputee Store. We have talked about biking as the perfect summer sport to get some sunshine and low-impact cardio. We covered Ottobock's C-Leg 4, a prosthetic knee that is popular among beginner adaptive above-knee cyclists. And we briefly outlined some of the things you can do to get started.
However, we also understand that adaptive cycling can be intimidating to complete beginners, especially when you're not sure where to start. In this article, we break down the preparation process further to minimize the barriers to participating and enjoying the sport.
Find the proper pedals
If you're a lower-limb amputee, you may encounter an issue with keeping your prosthetic foot on the bike's pedals. You can solve this by purchasing a toe clip. If you want a DIY solution, you can get Velcro strips. Simply put the strip on the pedal and wrap another strip around your foot. The pieces will adhere to each other once the strip on your foot comes into contact with the pedal. The best part about toe clips and Velcro strips is both can secure your foot to the pedal, while also allowing for easy removal if you suddenly need to stop.
Once you're ready to upgrade from your toe clips or Velcro strips, you may install clip-in pedals. This contraption significantly improves your riding power and efficiency because the foot is locked onto the pedal. However, keep in mind that unlocking your foot from the clip-in pedals can take some getting used to and is not recommended for above-knee riders.
If you need to adjust the pedal's length or create a more comfortable pedaling motion, you may use crank shorteners. This low-cost mechanism comes in various lengths and sizes, so you can alter your pedals' position and match the alignment of your bike and body.
Modify your handlebars
If you're an upper-limb amputee, focus your modifications on gear shifting and braking. Brakes can be re-cabled so that you can operate both brakes from one control.
You can have your bike modified to feature a thumb- or finger-trigger mechanism so you can operate the front and back gears independently. Integrated gear shifters that combine the back and front controls into one package are also available.
Another option is a steering damper, which can reduce your bike's hair-trigger responsiveness and simplify braking, one-hand steering, and shifting.
You need to anticipate all possible hazards. Preparedness can give you an extra few moments to react, which can be critical.
When you're on the road, minimize the volume on your earbuds, or you may prefer not to listen to any music while riding. This frees you up to better hear oncoming traffic behind or beside you.
We also recommend mounting a rear flashing light to your bicycle, which can also be activated during the day. This measure is essential and can quickly get a driver's attention and alert them to your presence.
Be kind to yourself
Learning how to ride a modified bike takes time, and therefore requires your patience. You may need to spend weeks working on your balance, regaining your confidence in the saddle, and practicing simple maneuvers. Focus on working up gradually, and remember always to be kind to yourself.Is adaptive biking something that you want to do? Have you started training, or are you still hesitating? What's stopping you?