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The summer is a great time to think about sports. Last month’s Clinical Corner article focused on wheelchair tennis. If you missed that article, click here: Wheelchair Tennis. This month, let’s look at handcycling.

Handcycling is as its name describes – using the hands, rather than the legs, to power a bike. In handcycling, the “bicycles” are 3 wheeled.

There are different types of handcycles, including recumbent models and add-on devices that attach to wheelchairs. The recumbent handcycle, pictured to the left below, illustrates the cranks and bicycle gears that are used to drive the front wheel. Steering is done while holding the cranks, which allows the rider to continue to crank while steering the handcycle. When powering a handcycle, the upper extremities act in unison, which is different than riding a two-wheeled bicycle, where the feet are in opposite positions.

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Photographs are copyright Sunrise Medical, Inc.

The add-on handcycle is pictured below. It attaches quickly to an existing wheelchair to turn it into a handcycle for an individual. Rather than using the pushrims on the rear wheels, the rider uses the cranks and gears of the add-on device to propel the chair/cycle. When the device is added to a wheelchair, the front casters are lifted from the ground, allowing the centre wheel to become the wheel for steering and navigating over terrain, as the picture to the right, below, illustrates.

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Photographs are copyright Sunrise Medical, Inc.

There are many reasons why an individual may choose one type of handcycle device over another. Cost may be a factor. It may be less expensive to have an add-on device rather than purchasing a recumbent handcycle unit. Transfers may be another reason. Transferring into a recumbent handcycle may take more time and effort due to the lower seat to floor height; whereas, some add-on devices can be affixed to a wheelchair in less than 10 seconds. Some add-on cycle devices have an optional power or hybrid version to provide more choices of where and how the wheelchair/cycle is used. Another reason for selecting one version of handcycle over another is the degree to which the rider wishes to participate in handcycling recreationally or competitively. While the add-on type of handcycles tend to be used for recreational purposes, there are many different models of recumbent bikes, designed for use ranging from leisure to the professional athlete level.

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