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Adaptive cycles for all

Updated: Apr 28, 2021

Adapted cycles make cycling accessible to all, whatever your personal challenges.

Here’s an overview of what’s available.


Tandems can be perfect for people with a wide range of needs including visual impairment or a learning disability who lack the confidence to ride a solo bike and have challenges with strength and ability to balance.

A standard tandem is reliant on having a relatively confident able-bodied front rider (or pilot) who is in control of the bike and deals with the steering, gear changing and braking.

They share the pedalling with the back rider (or stoker).

Tandems can be hired free of charge through C4AS volunteer Ray Hughes.

Tandem tricycles

A three or four wheeled version of the standard tandem providing additional stability. Cycling in pairs is such great fun! The front rider can provide an extra pair of eyes (if experiencing sight loss), an extra pair of legs etc. Great to develop teamwork skills.

Wheelchair tandems

The wheelchair tandem enables one rider to remain seated in their wheelchair, securely fastened to a platform at the front of the cycle.

They are ideal for those with more profound disabilities and conditions that would otherwise prevent them from cycling.

These bikes rely on having a back rider (a pilot - usually a friend, support worker or volunteer) to do the pedalling while the front rider enjoys a front-row view of the ride.

These heavy bikes often have a power-assist option to provide a bit of support to the pilot.

Side by Side Cycles

On this kind of cycle, two riders sit side-by-side and both pedal. There is good back support, low pressure on knees and hips and no need to balance. Have fun and chat and cycle!


Tricycles have three wheels, which means that the rider does not need to be able to balance. This is particularly useful for people with learning disabilities, such as dyspraxia, and those recovering from illnesses (strokes, for example).

Tricycles can be fitted with foot plates to make it easier for riders to rotate the pedals and they come in upright or recumbent (horizontal sitting position). For adults and children with balance issues, stabilisers can also be fitted to standard bikes, which makes them more like tricycles.

Trikes are ideal for people whose disabilities cause balance issues or for those who lack the confidence to ride on two wheels.

The basic version of a trike can be adapted to suit most disabilities by adding extra features including backrests, lumbar support, seatbelts and parent control.

As with most bikes, trikes can be fitted with an electric motor.

Recumbent cycles and tricycles

Recumbent cycles help those who may sooner or later experience difficulties with the conventional upright and forward leaning cycle position – issues with neck, back, posterior or arms and hands and balance issues.

They are comfy for the back, low pressure on knee or hip joints, no worries with balance and there are sizes to suit all ages.

They can come in two-wheel versions but more commonly have three wheels helping with balance and stability.

Tag a longs and Trailers

Another option for partnered riding is a tag a long which consists of half a bike that bolts onto a standard 2 – wheel bike. These are more commonly used for children. Another variation suitable for children is a Weehoo trailer. Both are available for hire via Charlottes Tandems.


Designed for those who have lower limb disabilities or with limited or no lower body mobility e.g. because of paraplegia, leg amputations and with joint problems such as arthritis, handcycles rely on upper body strength. Hand cycles are also useful for rebuilding upper body strength e.g. by those recovering from a stroke.

Most handcycles are in tricycle form, with two fixed rear wheels and one steerable front wheel.

Handcycles tend to be in an upright position, but some are available with a low stance and recumbent position.

There are also attachments for wheelchairs to turn them into a handcycle, which allows the user to adapt the way they propel themselves along using their chair.

Low step cycles

A bicycle with a low – step through frame makes life easier for people who have limited ability to lift their leg. A number of manufacturers make such bikes and the popular Brompton folding bike also has such a frame. As with most bikes, these can also be fitted with an electric motor.


The rise in e-bikes and the ability to add a battery to most adapted bikes means that more people can ride with less physical effort and for longer. They may also ride along paths they wouldn't normally be able to access. E-bikes also enable older people to cycle beyond the age they might normally be able to.


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