Prosthetic Categories

Want to Learn a New Sport This Summer? Try Adaptive Cycling

    Summer is the perfect time to get active and spend time outdoors. If you’re looking for new activities to try during this season, you might want to consider learning a new adaptive sport, like adaptive cycling or biking. 

    A bilateral above knee amputee learning to ride a hand cycle.

    Why cycling? 

    Whether you’ve spent a good part of your childhood riding bikes with nary a care in the world or this would be your first time, biking has always been known for inducing feel-good hormones. This is because cycling boosts our mood in the same way that all physical exercise makes you happy

    Physical activity influences the release and uptake of chemicals in your brain that makes you feel good and thus, reduce stress. These feel-good hormones are known as endorphins. 

    What is adaptive cycling?  

    Adaptive cycling or para-cycling is perfect for those who love to cycle but who have various disabilities and may not be able to ride the typical bike. Cyclists use adaptive cycles which are specifically designed to meet the unique needs of the rider. 

    Because of the sport’s ability to cater to people of different levels, adaptive cycling is considered to be one of the most popular adaptive sports. It’s also one of the best workouts as it’s deemed to be low-impact while also improving balance, coordination, and strength. 

    Types of adaptive cycles  

    Various iterations of the bicycle are developed to cater to adaptive cyclists. One is the handcycle, which is preferred by riders who are lower limb amputees. Handcycles usually come with three wheels so riders can keep their balance while they pedal with the hands and arms. 

    Most handcycles look similar to a wheelchair, but it sits higher. Meanwhile, competitive hand cyclists prefer a ride that sits lower to the ground as these are considered to be more efficient. 

    Meanwhile, arm amputees prefer the foot cycle, which comes in different styles. A tadpole style foot cycle features two wheels in the front and one in the back. This is best for balancing. Another is the delta, which has two wheels in the back and one in the front. 

    If you’re not sure what bike to choose, you can consult Disabled Sports USA (DSUSA) local chapters as well as adaptive cycling organizations in your area. 

    Modifying the ride  

    Adaptive cycles are designed to be personalized, so amputees have the option to tweak their rides to fit their specific needs. Single-leg amputees can opt to have the crank arm on the side of their residual limb removed. While single-arm amputees can have the brake levers and shifters on the handlebars relocated on the sound side.  

    Getting started  

    Consult your primary care doctor before starting any workout regimen or sport so they can help prepare your body for the activity’s physical demands. For example, your doctor can draw up an exercise plan to strengthen and prepare your body to ride a bike. 

    Then, get the proper gear. Get yourself a helmet, eye protection, cycling gloves, and even padded cycling shorts. Wear clothes that are designed to wick away sweat and moisture, so you feel comfortable. Also, before heading out to cycle, make sure to fuel up with nutritious food and bring a bottle of water with you.   

    If you’re new to adaptive cycling, it’s best to attend a program or consult adaptive cycling organizations as well as local DSUSA chapters. If you intend to wear your prosthesis while cycling, ask your prosthetist to verify whether your prosthesis is in good shape. Also, ask your prosthetist for tips on how to protect your prosthesis from harmful elements, such as sand, sun, and water. 

    Have you tried adaptive cycling? What do you usually do to prepare for a ride? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.