Best Handcycle Bikes for Disabled Users

Best handcycles for disabled users
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Having a disability that limits your mobility should certainly not mean that you are exempt from leading an active and healthy lifestyle. One of the excellent advantages for those with disabilities in this modern age is that there is a wealth of equipment options that can help you get out and get moving.

One such piece of equipment is the handcycle which provides disabled users with an easy and efficient way of staying active, which can be beneficial for both the body and the mind.

In this guide, we are going to be looking at every important aspect of the recumbent handcycle giving you an excellent introduction to these nifty exercise aids. We will also be sharing with you some of our favorite recumbent handcycles so you can find the right model to get you out on the go.

Contents

Best Handcycle Bikes Comparison Chart

Here’s a handy reference list of our reviewed handcycle bikes. Further below is a more comprehensive comparison and review guide.

Invacare Top End Excelerator Handcycle Invacare Top End Excelerator XLT Handcycle Invacare Li'l Excelerator Handcycle Invacare Top End Force G Handcycle
Weight Capacity 350 lbs 250 lbs 250 lbs 250 lbs
Seat Width 15" – 20" 14" – 18" 14" 14" – 18"
Seat Depth 15" 15" 14" 14" – 17"
Back Height 14" – 18" 20" 11" – 14" 20" – 24"
Seat to Floor Height 20" 13" 17.5" 8"
Overall Length 65" 72" 56" 86"
Frame Tubing Ovalized carbon steel Aluminum Ovalized carbon steel Aluminum
Wheels Size 24" (front & rear) 26" (front & rear) 20" (front & rear) 26" (front & rear)
Number of Gears Shimano 7-speed Shimano 7-speed Shimano 7-speed 27-speed
Product Weight 50 lbs 30 lbs – 35 lbs 45 lbs 35 lbs
Price Check Price Check Price Check Price Check Price

What is a Handcycle/Tricycle?

Handcycles for limited mobility users

Unlike a regular cycle, one of the first things you will notice about a recumbent handcycle is that it features three wheels. For this reason, many people also refer to the equipment as a tricycle.

These exercise aids for those with limited mobility provide an excellent way of staying fit and healthy, despite not being able to exercise in the traditional fashion.

You will also notice that, as opposed to foot pedals which are featured on regular cycles, the recumbent handcycle features hand controls. This is ideal for users who do not have use of their legs or whose legs are perhaps not as strong as their upper body.

For the most part these tricycles have one wheel at the front and two at the back, this serves as a good way to balance the cycle and make it easier to mount.

One of the best things about these cycles is that since they can work for a wide variety of people, including those who simply find a traditional upright cycle uncomfortable, there is a wide range of options when it comes to choosing a model to suit your needs.

What are the Benefits of a Handcycle?

Using a recumbent handcycle to get about or to engage in exercise has many advantages, one of the most obvious being that they serve as a useful aid to those who are unable to use a more traditional type of cycle. For patients who have suffered a spinal cord injury, a recumbent handcycle makes an excellent choice but they may also be used for many other types of user, for example:

  • People with MS
  • People with Cerebral Palsy
  • People who have had an amputation of one or both of the lower limbs.
  • People who have suffered a stroke
  • People who suffer from paralysis

However, the use of these handcycles is not limited to these conditions and can be taken advantage of by anyone who feels more comfortable using this method of cycling.

One of the great benefits of a tricycle is that it provides much greater balance for the user than a two-wheeled option which can be difficult to mount or keep stable if you have issues with lower body strength. Furthermore, a recumbent handcycle gives the opportunity to exercise to those who cannot use their lower body, thanks to the addition of the hand crank.

When riding a traditional cycle, it is not uncommon for there to be a lot of pressure on the knee and hip joints which can be uncomfortable at the best of times, never mind if you have a disability. Therefore, riding a tricycle can be preferable since these do not put anywhere near as much pressure on these joints making them more comfortable to use.

Speaking of comfort, thanks to the back support and the way the posture is laid out when using a recumbent handcycle, the user gets a much more enjoyable experience with far less strain on the back.

Being able to get outdoors into the fresh air and take part in exercise is something that many people take for granted. When you have a disability, we appreciate how challenging this task can be but a recumbent handcycle provides you with easy access to exercise and getting out and about. This is truly one of the greatest benefits to owning this type of equipment and it is important to remember that exercise itself comes with a whole set of benefits such as improved mental health and maintaining a healthy weight.

Is a Handcycle Suitable for Users with Disabilities?

When we consider that disability comes in many forms, it isn’t surprising to learn that there is a lot of equipment that can help meet the needs of disabled people. This is demonstrated in the fact the recumbent handcycles can be freely used by those with disabilities – providing that they have use of the hands.

For people who have limited or zero leg sensation, a traditional cycle is not a viable option but thanks to the design of the tricycle which features a hand crank control rather than foot pedals, this is a form of exercise that is available to all.

Furthermore, since the tricycle offers a much better balance, it does not require the strength of the legs to stay upright making this an even more accessible choice for users with limited use of their legs.

Types of Handcycles Bikes

Since the needs of each user will vary so greatly, manufacturers have given us a good choice when it comes to types of recumbent handcycles. Your needs and abilities will play a big role in the type of handcycle you select but knowing a little more about each of them can give you an advantage when making a choice.

Tadpole Handcycle

The tadpole recumbent handcycle features two front wheels and one at the back, this can make steering the bike a lot easier and many people have compared the steering to that of a race car – we’d say that was pretty impressive.

What’s more, these handcycles are usually much quicker than other types and are much lower to the ground. However, it is worth considering that with these advantages does come a higher price.

Delta Handcycle

In contrast, the Delta handcycle has two wheels at the back and a single front wheel. These bikes are preferred by those who need something easier to mount since they are higher from the ground and they tend to ride at a much slower pace.

The disadvantage of this type of cycle is that due to their heavier and bulkier design, they can be a little more challenging to transport.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Handcycle

Aside from a choice in the type of handcycle that you are going to purchase, there are also a lot of things to consider where its features are concerned. For the most part, handcycles will come well equipped to meet the needs of disabled users but it is important to check these before committing to a purchase.

Wheel Width

The width of the wheels will play an important role in the stability of the cycle so this is an important factor to consider. The wider the wheels, the better balance the cycle will have. However, for handcycles that feature a single front wheel, something more slimline can help with turning and steering.

Gears

One of the great features of the recumbent handcycle is that it has various gears which are designed to amplify the effort you put in and can also be great for tackling sloped or hilly terrain.

It is important, however, to check how many gears the cycle has – did you know that in some cases, these tricycles can have as many as 72 gears?

Seat & Seat Back

Your needs will determine the type of seat that will be most comfortable for you and the good news is that recumbent handcycles do come with a range of options.

Some handcycles feature a seat in which the user kneels and leans forward, however, more commonly, these tricycles have seats that recline the user back slightly and the legs are stretched out in front.  Kneeling seats are generally a better option for people who have greater balance and stability whereas the alternative is perfect for those whose balance is not as good.

You will also need to consider the inclination and height of the seatback, again your personal needs will play a role in this, and if you’re looking for full back support, a higher seat back may be preferable.

Steering

Being able to easily steer your handcycle is extremely important for both safety and ease of use. For the easiest ride, when steering a recumbent handcycle, the user will be required to lean in the direction that they wish to turn. This is excellent since it takes away the need to operate any further controls whilst the hands are busy ‘pedaling’ the cycle.

However, a more traditional option for steering is the fork steer handcycle which features a fork that turns independently from the frame of the cycle. The type of steering you opt for will highly depend on your level of ability and your personal preference.

In addition to this, the wheel formation plays a vital role in how easy the cycle is to steer. For example, tricycles that feature two front wheels may be easier to steer and control when compared to those with a single wheel at the front.

Best Handcycles for Users with Disabilities

There are many excellent handcycles in the modern day market and the choices are vast when it comes to meeting the needs of a variety of disabilities. We have hand-picked what we believe to be some of the very best options for recumbent handcycles, so let’s take a look at these in a little more detail.

1. Invacare Top End Excelerator Handcycle

Best Overall Handcycle

Key Features

  • Weight capacity: 350 lbs
  • Seat width: 15" – 20"
  • Seat depth: 15"
  • Seat to floor height: 20"
  • Overall length: 65"
  • Frame tubing: Ovalized carbon steel
  • Wheel size: 24" (front & rear)
  • Number of gears: Shimano 7-speed
  • Product weight: 50 lbs

One of the first things that grabs your attention when it comes to this handcycle is that there is a vast selection of color choices and whilst we are aware that aesthetics aren’t everything, it certainly is an advantage to be able to choose a cycle that suits your personality.

When it comes to performance, there is a lot to praise about this cycle, take for example, the carbon steel frame which is lightweight, making this cycle very easy to transport. Furthermore, there are many customization options such as the type of hand pedals you would like, the tire type and the safety belt positioning. This really is an adaptable choice and since it is hand built to order, you know you’re getting something that is perfectly suited to you.

The seat can be adjusted using the handy sliding mechanism so you can always be 100% comfortable when riding.

The gears and brakes do not require hand operation, so your hands are always on the pedals which adds to the safety of the cycle and thanks to the impressive safety belts and high-traction tires, you’re getting nothing short of the safest ride possible.

This cycle is perfect for anyone who needs something that can adjust to your day to day needs, considering the adjustable seat back and height. But it is also great for larger people since it has a weight capacity of 350 lbs, excluding nobody from getting in on the action.

2. Invacare Top End Excelerator XLT Handcycle

Best Handcycle for Stability and Maneuverability

Key Features

  • Weight capacity: 250 lbs
  • Seat width: 14" – 18"
  • Seat depth: 15"
  • Seat to floor height: 13"
  • Overall length: 72"
  • Frame tubing: Aluminum
  • Wheel size: 26" (front & rear)
  • Number of gears: Shimano 7-speed
  • Product weight: 30 lbs – 35 lbs

This is a great choice for people who want to go off road and out into nature, since it comes with an option for mountain use, if you are willing to part with a little extra cash.

What’s more, this handcycle also comes in an impressive range of colors so that you can show off your personality whilst enjoying the cycle.

As far as functionality is concerned, the XLT handcycle has a lot to boast about including the lightweight aluminum frame which makes this a cinch to transport. Furthermore, the cycle features fork steering which is ideal for anyone who wants greater stability when tackling corners and thanks to the sturdy design, your safety will never be compromised.

For anyone who wants something a little speedier, this is a great choice since the cycle can go up to 30mph and the standard 7 speeds give you great diversity.

Getting on and off your handcycle may be challenging if you have certain limitations but one thing that you can rely on with this model is that it offers easy transfers that are stable and hassle free.

The footrest and seat can be fully adjusted so you’re always going to be in a position that offers you ultimate comfort and this can be altered day to day should your needs change.

For anyone who has no leg sensation, there is an optional leg guard which offers further safety alongside the impressive standard safety straps that are featured on this model.

The only downside, as far as we can see with this one is that the weight capacity is slightly lower at 250 lbs so this wouldn’t be a good choice for larger people.

3. Invacare Li'l Excelerator Handcycle

Best Children’s Handcycle

Key Features

  • Weight capacity: 250 lbs
  • Seat width: 14"
  • Seat depth: 14"
  • Seat to floor height: 17.5"
  • Overall length: 56"
  • Frame tubing: Ovalized carbon steel
  • Wheel size: 20" (front & rear)
  • Number of gears: Shimano 7-speed
  • Product weight: 45 lbs

There is no reason that younger people shouldn’t benefit from all the advantages that a recumbent handcycle can offer and for this reason Invacare have created this incredible pediatric cycle.

The nifty little cycle offers users a choice of handles – oval or horizontal padded, although for the latter you will need to pay an additional fee, but it really isn’t very much. What’s more, there is a great range of optional extras so that you can fully customize the handcycle to your needs. For example, there is an option for a drinks holder, crutch holder or an included helmet, amongst other things.

The seat comes with a cushion for additional comfort whilst riding and a hook and loop belt to ensure that your safety remains the main priority.

The lightweight carbon steel frame is perfect for transporting the cycle so that you are free to pop it in the car and head off into the great outdoors without limitation.

This is a very good choice for anyone who needs a super stable cycle that doesn’t compromise on ease of maneuvering – ideal for children who need a little extra help with operation.

Thanks to the rear drum brake and Shimano 7 speed hub, the child will always be able to have their hands on the controls making this not only super easy to use but also very safe.

This cycle is ideal for children with a height that measures between three and half and five feet and has a weight capacity of 250 lbs which is very generous for a children’s cycle.

4. Invacare Top End Force G Handcycle

Best Handcycle for Performance

Key Features

  • Weight capacity: 250 lbs
  • Seat width: 14" – 18"
  • Seat depth: 14" – 17"
  • Seat to floor height: 8"
  • Overall length: 86"
  • Frame tubing: Aluminum
  • Wheel size: 26" (front & rear)
  • Number of gears: 27-speed
  • Product weight: 35 lbs

Featuring one sturdy front wheel and two rear wheels, this tricycle offers excellent stability and is perfect for people who need something that is effortless to control The handcycle boasts an easy to use aluminum hand crank and a variety of braking and shifting options so that you can customize the cycle to suit your needs and abilities

The unique design of this cycle which has a very strong internal structure means that it offers one of the greatest stabilities on the market so is ideal for anyone who needs superior balance when mounting and dismounting the cycle, as well as whilst riding.

The backrest can be adjusted between 50º and 90º so it suits a wide range of needs where comfort and support are concerned. Furthermore, the seat and footrest can be fully adjusted giving you even more options when it comes to how you want to sit in the cycle.

You get an excellent range of optional extras such as helmets, safety lights and repair kits which can be added for quite a reasonable price.

This one is very low to the ground, so this is worth considering if you find it challenging to get down low. This may also not be suitable for larger people due to the lower weight capacity of 250 lbs.

Conclusion

A recumbent handcycle provides a realistic way for those with limited mobility to take part in an effective exercise routine. These cycles come with a range of features that can easily cater to any disability and provide a viable way to work out to those who have limited or no use of their legs.

Whilst there are two main types of handcycle – the tadpole and the delta, each will come with its own range of perks and finding the right one for you means looking at your needs and abilities.

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Jackie

Jackie

Jackie is a passionate advocate for keeping people with all types of mobility problems active. After suffering complications after a knee replacement she knew that she wanted to remain as active as before her numerous operations. Her passion is to advise others on how to be able to lead a fulfilling and independent life no matter what disability they may have.

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