Why are non-standard/adaptive cycles so expensive?

The high price of non-standard or adaptive cycles can be a barrier to the people who need them most being able to get hold of one, here we examine why they are so expensive

In recent years, the cycle market has witnessed a surge in demand for non-standard and adaptive cycles, designed to accommodate individuals with diverse physical needs.

These specialised cycles, ranging from trikes to tandems, handcycles to wheelchair cycles and even e-bikes, offer innovative solutions for diverse mobility challenges.

However, one aspect often catches the eye of prospective buyers: their hefty price tags. Why are non-standard/adaptive cycles so expensive?

Engineering expertise and customisation

One of the primary reasons behind the high cost of non-standard/adaptive cycles lies in their engineering complexity and customisation requirements.

Unlike normal cycles, which can be mass produced with standardised components, each adaptive cycle often requires intricate design adjustments tailored to the specific needs of the rider.

For instance, cycles customised for individuals with physical disabilities may incorporate features such as specialised seating arrangements, adaptive pedals or custom handlebar configurations.

These adaptations require advanced engineering expertise, extensive research and careful craftsmanship, which ultimately contribute to the overall expense of the cycle.


Specialised materials and components

Another factor driving up the cost of non-standard or adaptive cycles is the use of specialised materials and components.

To ensure durability, comfort and safety, manufacturers often opt for high-quality materials such as lightweight alloys, carbon fibre or reinforced steel, which come at a premium price compared to standard cycle materials.

In addition, sourcing specialised components tailored to accommodate unique design requirements adds to the production costs. From custom-built frames to adaptive braking systems and ergonomic accessories, every element of these cycles is carefully selected and sometimes even fabricated from scratch to meet the specific needs of the rider.

WheelNess Open Day

Limited market demand and economies of scale

Unlike mainstream cycles, which benefit from economies of scale due to high demand and mass production, non-standard or adaptive cycles cater to a niche market with relatively lower demand.

The limited customer base leads to lower production volumes, which in turn leads to higher per-unit manufacturing costs as there are less cycles for manufacturers to help spread their costs across. This then leads to higher individual prices for each adaptive cycle as manufacturers try to make back as much money as possible on the small number of cycles available.

WheelNess Open Day

Buying an adapted cycle

While the price may pose a barrier for some prospective buyers, it’s essential to recognise the invaluable benefits these specialised cycles offer in terms of accessibility, mobility and quality of life for individuals with diverse physical needs.

Cycling has been shown to help improve mental health and it’s important that everyone, regardless of physical ability, gets to experience the joys of cycling.

As technology advances, there’s potential for economies of scale to drive down costs and make adaptive cycles more affordable in the future.

People with disabilities may also be eligible for VAT exemption on the price of buying a non-standard cycle. You will need to complete a declaration of eligibility for VAT relief form and you should always check with the supplier before you make your purchase. People in work and wanting to use their cycle for commuting should check out the Cycle to Work scheme.

For further information on specific cycles, see Get Cycling’s guide.

Loaning an adapted cycle

Our exciting new programme the Inclusive Cycling Experience, which is funded by the Motability Foundation, will support disabled communities in Greater Manchester and Inverness to start cycling by allowing them to try and loan non-standard cycles.

The ability for people to use these cycles without the need to purchase them will enable them to consider cycling as an active travel option for everyday journeys.

To try out different adapted cycles in Greater Manchester or Inverness contact the Inclusive Cycling Experience.