Wide range of handcycles

There's a fascinating array of products, which provide the means to participation in handcycling. Here our energetic Product Shootout expert, Caroline Rule, finds and describes just some of the options that are available. In the bottom page panel, Hilary Lewis writes about the sport itself.

This is the reaction of many people in South Africa, as very little is known about this sport by the general public or by the disabled public. Few people are aware of this wonderful sport, and even fewer participate. Unfortunately, its popularity is dampened by the cost of the equipment, however the locally made handcycles are a lot more affordable than the imported ones.

Benefits of handcycling:

Handcycling is a very versatile sport – it can be done competitively, recreationally or used as a means of transport. It has great cardiovascular benefits due to the excellent workout that it gives, as a result of lifting the heart rate to a level that not many other wheelchair sports can do. The push-pull action of the cycling motion develops all the groups of muscles around the shoulder girdle. This is particularly important for wheelchair users as the normal action of pushing a wheelchair, over-develops one particular group of muscles, which leads to an imbalance of the muscles around the shoulder girdle.

Besides the physical benefits of this sport, most of the athletes who participate in it do so for the sheer pleasure of the freedom and the independence that it gives. The use of gears reduces the effort required, compared with pushing a wheelchair. The result is that exhilarating speeds can be achieved and distances can be covered with comparative ease.

Many handcyclists are able to achieve speeds comparable with normal cyclists. This enables them to get out there with their friends and family and participate in a fun sport, just as any able-bodied person would.

Handcycles are not limited to the road. The off-road versions have been found to be very effective in moderately rough terrain, and are the ideal tool to use for hiking trails and for covering distances in rural areas, where a normal wheelchair is unsuitable.

The Durban beachfront is a great place to go for a gentle cruise with the family, and the handcycle turns the effort into a pleasure. With the versatility of the clip-on handcycle, should the person want to go into a shop or restaurant, the hand cycle attachment can be clipped off and they then continue in their normal wheelchair.

Handcycling has recently been introduced as a Paralympic sport and the present world champion is 54 years old.

Features of handcycles

There are many different designs of handcycles on the market, but in general they fall into either the recumbent or the upright category. Most of the recumbents have a rigid frame, which reduces play in the frame and thus enhances the efficiency of the cycle.

The cyclist is positioned low to the ground resulting in a low centre of gravity, this improves stability on corners and at speed. There are two steering options available, a conventional pivot system where the front wheel turns to each side while the frame stays upright. This may result in spasms, and it also raises the knee which then gets caught on the crank handle as it reaches its lowest position. The conventional steering may result in the person being unable to peddle when turning sharp corners. The second is a lean-steering system where the cyclist leans to the side they want to turn to, and the whole front wheel leans with them.


Invacare Top End XLT Gold

Supplier: Medop 0118275893
Description: Competitive, lightweight, recumbent handcycle, with trunk powered position.
Price: on request
Special features: 26” high performance, off-road or cruiser wheels/tyres, Shimano 27 speed components, dual braking, aluminium frame, chrome-moly forks. Adjustable crank assembly, seat position, backrest angle and footrest. 12 – 14 kg. Many options available.

Invacare Top End Excelerator XLT PRO

Supplier: Medop
Description: Lightweight recumbent handcycle for the beginner to the professional. Stable and manoeuvrable. Ideal for people with no use of their trunk.
Price: on request
Special features: 26” high performance, off-road or cruiser wheels/tyres, 27 speed Shimano Ultegra-XT components, dual braking system, aluminium frame, chrome-moly forks. Adjustable crank assembly, seat position, backrest angle and footrest. Conventional pivot steering. 12 – 14 kg. Optional quad hand pedals available. Performance upgrades available.

Invacare Top End Excelerator XLT and XLT Junior

Supplier: Medop
Description: Recreational recumbent handcycle, also has junior version available for children.
Price: on request
Special features: 26” performance, off-road or cruiser wheels/tyres, Shimano 7 speed internal hub with reversing drum brakes, aluminium frame, chrome-moly forks. Adjustable crank assembly, seat position, backrest angle and footrest. Conventional pivot steering. 13 – 15,5 kg. Optional quad hand pedals available.

Invacare Top End Excelerator

Supplier: Medop
Description: Recreational upright for a fun way to get exercise or to cross-train. Stable and manoeuvrable
Price: on request
Special features: 24” cruiser wheels/tyres, optional knobby tyres, Shimano 7 speed Nexus hub with reversing drum brakes, mountain drive option gives 7 low gears. Carbon-steel frame. Adjustable tension seat upholstery, seat position, backrest height and footrests. Conventional pivot steering. 22 kg.

Sunrise Medical Kidzbike

Supplier: CE Mobility
Description: Recreational upright, ideal for kids to have fun with their friends.
Price: on request
Special features: Conventional pivot steering, single or 3 speed models available, flip-up footrests and sliding seat for easier transfers, adjustable seat depth to accommodate growth, and adjustable backrest angle, 16.5 kg, quad handles available. .

Sunrise Medical Quikie Shark and Shark S

Supplier: CE Mobility
Description: Recreational and competitive recumbent
Price: from R30 000
Special features: Can be folded for ease of transport and handling, frame and fork can be separated. Conventional pivot steering. Ergonomic backrest for improved positioning, height adjustable crank and multi-adjustable seat, 7 gear hub change or 27 gear option, 14 kg, brake plus parking brake.

Able ATW (All Terrain Wheelchair)

Manufacturer: Able Wheelchairs, Bloemfontein
Supplier: Able Wheelchairs
Description: Upright, recreational handcycle, ideal for transport in rural areas.
Price: from R3000
Special features: Steel, rigid frame – light weight frame optional (16 – 22 kg). Removable wheels and fork, mountain bike wheels or standard racing wheels 1 or 3 gears, conventional pivot steering 2 brakes, back pedal braking system optional, fixed seat, adjustable footrests, carrier for parcels / wood / passenger etc.

Able Thunder

Manufacturer: Able Wheelchairs, Bloemfontein
Supplier: Able Wheelchairs
Description: Recumbent racing handcycle
Price: from R12 000
Special features: Rigid aluminium frame, low COG, conventional pivot steering, Shimano 18 – 21 gears with rapid shifters, 16 kgs, racing or off-road wheels, adjustable seat and footrests


Manufacturer and supplier: Eugene Steyn
Description: Recumbent, racing and recreational. Hand crafted frame with the flexibility to built it according to customers' needs.
Price: From R8900
Special features: Rigid frame, conventional steering, (lean steering being developed), 14 or 12 – 16 kgs depending on components, 27” wheels all round, quad fittings available as required, adjustable footrests and seat. Carbon fibre rear wheels, light weight 45 degree crank, lightweight frame and components available

Rollability JAG Clip-on Handcycle

Manufacturer: Rollability
Supplier: CE Mobility
Description: Upright, clip–on handcycle that fits onto the Rollability JAG wheelchair. It converts your rigid frame wheelchair into a 3 wheeler recreational handcycle.
Price: from R5000
Special features: Easy to use, quick release docking system, 21 Shimano easy fire gear shift, front wheel 20”, 10 – 11 kg, fully adjustable frame, optional quad handles, optional 2nd brake.

Tony Williams in Cape Town is presently developing two recumbent racing handcycles. The “Toni MK II” is a revolutionary 2 wheeler, and the “Toni MK III” is a 3 wheeler. These should be available from early 2005. For more information please contact Tony on 0844006173.

The chance to “Try before you buy”
A Cycle Clinic will be held in Sandton in April 2005. It will give anyone interested an opportunity to try out the various different handcycles that are on the market, and to get advice from experienced handcyclists. Come and try it and see if you like it!

Date: 3 April 2005
Time: 2 pm to 5 pm
Place: CycleLab, Nicol Grove, Sandton
The road is a closed loop of about 900m and will be virtually traffic free.
Contact: Hilary

A growing sport, exciting pastime

Handcycles have been around in one form or another since the 1980’s, but the sport of handcycling really took off in the mid-1990’s as models available became more affordable and easier to ride, and a set of standards started to emerge.

In SA there are not many marathons that allow any wheeled vehicle to participate, so handcycles tend to join in cycle fun rides and races, often completing the shorter distances that are available for fun riders, although in some areas marathon organisers are welcoming handcycles.

In 2004, handcycling was included in the Paralympics – as a first, there was a road race (RR) and a Time Trial (TT) for men only, having been a demonstration event at Sydney, and handcycling will be fully integrated as a full medal sport in Beijing in 2008. However, for that to happen more countries need to hold their own regional and national championships and produce qualifying handcyclists.

In South Africa handcycling has had a slow beginning. In the first handcycle and wheelchair race was staged in George – the Outeniqua Chair Challenge, or OCC as it is fondly known. The OCC has become the race to attend if you’re a handcyclist in South Africa. In 2004 the OCC took place on 2 October in George, attracting handcyclists and wheelchair racers from every corner of SA.

Currently there are about 25 handcyclists throughout SA dotted about in various provinces and the number is growing. There are also a number of enterprising individuals starting to locally produce competitively priced handcycles, which should boost the sport considerably. In an effort to consolidate the sport and get to know all the riders current and would-be handcyclists can contact Hilary  they are trying to set up a local Handcycling Association in SA.

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