The sport of handcycling is little known inside mainstream cycling circles, not surprising when it only really established itself 5 years ago, but is a unique endurance sport that is taking the disabled sports world by storm. It is becoming the fastest growing sport for disabled athletes, and this year it has its Paralympic debut at Athens.
Handcycles are propelled with the arms, shoulders, chest, back and sometimes torso depending on the level and nature of the riders disability.
There are two basic forms of handcycle, one that attaches to a wheelchair and the other a standalone recumbent bike. The wheelchair clip-ons, as they are known, are useful as recreational and mobility aids but the recumbent bikes have now evolved into dynamic racing machines that can travel between 20-25mph on flat road race circuits.
The racing handcycles have 3 wheels, the wheel in the front is the propulsion wheel, the two in the back keep the handcycle balanced. They combine elements of MTB and racing bike technology with the design of racing wheelchairs.
Two Examples of racing handcycles:
Top End GOLD
Schmicking S1 Overdrive
Relationships have developed between British Cycling and the Hand Cycling Association (UKHCA) to enable this section of Disability Cycle Sport to become fully integrated within the activities of British Cycling. Handcyclists have already formed part of the GB Team when riding Internationally, though sadly there will not be any GB handcyclists on the line in the 2004 Paralympic Games.
Last September, handcyclists took part in the British Time Trial Championships for the first time and were given full BC Championship status at this event. Room has been made to include handcyclists in all those events listed in the BC & CTT calendar for those with a Disability. British Cycling's future inclusion of handcycling as an activity for more severely disabled cyclists looks very promising for all involved.
The focal point of British handcycling is the annual Grand Prix Series combining a number of races around the country including time trials and road races. There are three classification divisions for men (A, B & C) and a combined class for women.
Division A - tetraplegics
Division B - paraplegics up to T 9/10
Division C - paraplegics from T11 to L4, amputees, able bodied etc.
Handbiking is a very young sport and is still evolving. It made sense to create a European platform to further develop and structure this new sport.
Since 2001 a series of well-known international handbike races have been held in Europe; the series is known as the European Handcycling Circuit (EHC) and this has become the cornerstone of the development of the sport. These races regularly see fields in excess of 150 riders competing.
The EHC is an international non-profitable organisation based in Belgium. The EHC currently consists of representatives from seven countries. It is hoped that Britain will soon have a race on the EHC. The EHCs remit is not to be an association purely for disabled cyclists. Their intention is to integrate the sport on a high level and to target a reduction of existing barriers within Europe among able-bodied and disabled people.
|Handycling in the UK is being overseen by the United Kingdom Handcycling Association (UKHCA). The organisation oversees all aspects of handcycling from racing, recreational riding, to access legalities on cycle networks.|
|Many of the UK riders are ex-cyclists who have been paralysed after accidents. David Abrutat, one of the UK co-ordinators for the sport was an active cyclist & duathlete prior to a car crash 4 years ago. In 2002, he handcycled the 3500 miles around the coast of Great Britain, to raise awareness of giving blood, and to raise money for the Poppy Appeal|
. ' The sport of handcycling as far as I am concerned is the best sport there is for disabled athletes. It combines speed, high-level competition, stamina, endurance and the vagaries and dedication that comes with constant training. For me it's the next best thing to traditional cycling.'
An elite team of riders competes regularly all over the world for the semi-pro TEAM SPECIALIZED-BLOC. This team is the foundation for the GB squad, which has narrowly missed out on competing at Athens 2004, the inaugural showpiece for the sport. However, the team is now in preparation for the World Championships in Switzerland, which will see riders compete in a 107 mile road race around Lac Leman.
Handcycling is disability sport at its toughest and most visually stunning.
For more information contact:
or visit the UKHCA website: www.ukhandcycling.com