Start Your Spin Cycle!

There’s more than one way to spin a cycle these days and one of the most popular ways is handcycling.  This adaptive sport provides a great aerobic workout that builds your upper body strength and improves your cardiovascular health.  Even though it’s a global hit with the racing crowd, the majority of handcycles are actually purchased by recreational athletes.  These hand-powered bikes make it possible for everyone to get out and take a spin with family and friends.1

Benefits and cool features

The beauty of a handcycle is it’s easily adjusted, simple to operate, and very easy to transfer in and out of.  They usually have hand cranks on either side of the handle to help propel the bike forward, are made out of light-weight components and have cool features like high pressure tires, seating options that allow the rider to lean back or forward and superior steering systems for optimal handling.  The steering options include the popular fork-steer or lean-to-steer, which allows you to use your whole body to steer the bike.1,2

Handcycling or Para-cycling?2, 3

You may see handcycling referred to as Para-cycling but there is a difference between them. Para-cycling is a multi-event cycling competition for athletes with physical disabilities. Handcycling is one of four events in the competition. The equipment that the racers use defines the other events.

  • Tandem: Racers who have visual impairments race on a tandem bicycle with a sighted partner.
  • Tricycle: Racers who have a brain injury and need more stability use a three-wheeled cycle to compete.
  • Adapted bicycle: Racers who have neurological disorders, decreased muscle strength or an amputation, use a standard two-wheeled bicycle that is adapted based on their needs.

If you’d like more information on Para-cycling you can get a free 50-page booklet filled with information on equipment, training tips and schedules, nutrition for athletes, and many other resources by going to:

Cutting corners

One of the most important skills you’ll need to learn in handcycling is cornering.  Unless you plan to race on a long straight track, eventually you’ll need to turn a few corners.  In racing, knowing how to go around a corner in the safest, most efficient, and fastest way the key to winning or at least finishing safely. This requires a combination of speed control, steering, body mechanics and gear selection.  When you sign up for a race, be sure to arrive early enough to ride the course for a pre-race warm-up.  Use your time on the course to try taking a few corners so you can gauge how fast you can take them without ending up in the medical tent!  To keep your risk of that to a minimum, pay attention to your speed before you begin to steer into the corner.  The sure-fire way to crash is taking a corner at a high speed, steering madly and hitting your brakes.4

Ready to try handcycling? Check out these resources!

Handcycling is offered at the following Disabled Sports USA chapters:

  • Adaptive Adventures (Illinois)
  • Adaptive Sports Center Of Crested Butte (Colorado)
  • Adaptive Sports Program – Helen Hayes Hospital (New York)
  • Bridge II Sports (North Carolina)
  • Challenge Alaska (Alaska)
  • Challenged Athletes of West Virginia (West Virginia)
  • Courage Center (Minnesota)
  • Dare2Tri (Illinois)
  • Northeast Disabled Athletic Association (Vermont)
  • Operation Comfort (Texas) (Military Only)
  • Oregon Adaptive Sports
  • Sports Association of Gaylord Hospital (Connecticut)
  • Three Trackers of Ohio (Ohio)
  • US Handcycling (Colorado)
  • Wheelchair Sports, Inc. (Kansas)

Ready to buy a handcycle?

Brand new handcycles range in cost from $1,500-$4,0001, so if you’re ready to make the investment consider applying for a grant from an organization like the Challenged Athletes Foundation to help with the cost.


  2. Handcycling PDF, Page 4
  3., Video: Introduction to Para cycling

The opinions and experiences presented herein are for informational use only. Individual results may vary depending on your condition. Always consult with your health care professional. 1501-07