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US Pro Handcycling: Closeup Look at Arm-Powered Bicycle

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While we were at the US Pro Cycling Championships in Greenville a couple weeks ago, we also chatted with one of the handcycling racers while they got ready to race.  This  bike belongs to Todd Richardson, a CAT2 racer.

We watched the first half of their race, too, and these guys FLY!!  While I’m certainly pleased to have full use of my legs, it looks really fun, and I definitely want to ride one of these sometime.  For now, though, I’ll share with you all the marvel of the machinery.

Hit ‘more’ to see details, weight and costs

(SIDE NOTE: That’s Little Miss Bikerumor in the photo…ain’t she cute?)


It was hard to hold it steady enough for the Park Scale to lock in a weight, but it hovered from 35lb 12oz to 36lb 1oz…basically 36 pounds.  Richardson said it cost about $9,500 as-is, and that “entry level” handcycles started around $4,500.  He said this creates a real barrier to entry, saying “imagine if a normal bike started at $4,500 and you’d see a lot fewer cyclists.”


The components are a blend of road and mountain bike bits…most of the bikes we looked at had MTB cassettes, shifter and derailleurs with road wheels.  Another thing the owner mentioned is that most (all?) handcycles are custom built for their owners.


The rider is pushing both cranks in sync to keep from wobbling the bike back and forth, but has to also steer by pulling them one way or another.  The Handcycles varied dramatically in design, especially based on whether the rider was an amputee or had their legs.  If I overheard correctly, some have more use of their legs than others, which provides an advantage in stability…sort of like cyclists with strong cores have a stronger base from which to deliver the power.  But, amputees have a major weight advantage.


The rear Zipp wheels (actually front wheels) had the standard hub internals pulled and modded so they could be bolted on.

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Doc Bradshaw
Doc Bradshaw
14 years ago

This guy, Todd Richardson, is fast. He holds the record for his category at the Carolina Time Trial Association’s Series at Lowes Motor Speedway, with an average speed for the 10-mile event of 22.39 mph. That’s awesome.

14 years ago

Just one technical question: the cleverly inverted gear change-a-flopper near the front wheel – is that still a REAR derailleur, or is it now a FRONT derailleur?

13 years ago

to Uglyyeti… it’s technically a rear derailleur mounted in the front with the front derailleur mounted just below the chainrings, in the rear, I am a handcyclist but I removed my rear unit and simply chain rings with my thumb when necessary because of chain drag on the rear mounted unit below the rings.

Mark Drake
Mark Drake
2 years ago

Handcycles drive trains are inverted bicycle components. They work well and are reliable cycling in most environments.
That being said, the durability of control cables, those mounted on the crank arms are usually in constant motion when riding. This does shorten their durability and should be inspected regularly.
Most Handcycles use a disc brake on the front hub which is very reliable. Most also have a side pull brake on the front wheel that is used as a parking brake.

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