The cycling world abounds in ways and means of reconfiguring wheels, pedals and seats so that almost anyone can ride. Special cycles can be tailored to an individual's needs, but most problems have readymade solutions.
Thanks to handcranks, you don't even need legs! Thanks to wheelchair cycles, all you need is an ablebodied friend. These machines and gadgets are, unfortunately, produced in small quantities, so they're expensive and hard to find, but a number of agencies keep fleets of adapted cycles and hold events at which people have the opportunity to try them out - and learn how cycling can enhance their independence and wellbeing.
Sometimes all it takes is one of the less common configurations of mass-produced cycle:
- Tricycles suit those who have balance difficulties;
- Tandems enable the visually impaired to enjoy cycling with a sighted partner or friend;
- Recumbent cycles solve many of the problems most people may sooner or later experience - in the neck, back, posterior or arms and hands - with the conventional upright, but more or less forward leaning, riding position.
- A low-step bicycle makes life easier for people who are unable or unwilling to throw their leg over a saddle.
Other difficulties affecting only one limb may be solved by fitting a special component to any normal bike. Loss of flexibility in a knee is helped by a swing crank, which maximises the contribution from the affected limb by allowing it to straighten to its full extent, whilst only flexing as much as it comfortably can.
An impaired arm or hand can be accommodated by careful choice of gear and braking systems: typically a wide-range internal hub-gear in combination with a back-pedal rear brake, so that only one hand is needed for shifting and controlling the front brake. Also, if the hub-gear does not give enough range, an additional gearbox can be fitted in the bottom-bracket that is shifted with the feet!