Unlike a bicycle, a handcycle has three wheels and is powered by the arms. The front wheel steers as the two back wheels coast. Handcycles were developed in the 1980’s as a vehicle fueled by human energy. The wheelchair community has embraced the handcycle for recreational purposes and as a sport. Handcycles are great for a ride through parks or neighborhood streets with friends. Handcycle athletes competing in races are growing in number.
Seth McBride, an athlete with quadriplegia, has ignited an interest in handcycling for many wheelchair using athletes. A broken neck from a skiing accident rendered Seth paralyzed in 2001. The five time gold medal winner and American Paralympic Rugby Wheelchair Team player handcycled 10,000 miles from Portland, Oregon to Patagonia accompanied by his traveling companion and fiancée, Kelly Schwan.
Will Groulx, a former sailor and member of the American Paralympic Rugby Wheelchair Team, has taken up handcycle racing. For six years, he served on a submarine as a nuclear trained technician. An injury to his spinal cord from a motorcycle accident ended his career. Groulx qualified for his first international race by entering a national competition in Greenville in 2013. In the 2013 World Championships, he was awarded a silver and a bronze medal. Groulx is now in the top 10 of the men’s H2 world rankings.
Adaptive cycling clinics sponsored by the Paralyzed Veterans of America are held annually in various cities. The adaptive cycling clinics are open to veterans and the entire wheelchair using community. Vendors share information about mechanical and technical upgrades. Handcyclists meet other athletes with the same interest. A new handcycle was raffled off in 2014 at one of the events.
The future for the sport of handcycling is bright. Friendly handcycle events are scheduled in California, Florida, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, North Carolina and many other states. The TCS New York City Marathon has added a men’s and women’s handcycle category. The Marine Corp Marathon now has a handcycling category.
*Photo courtesy of Paralyzed Veterans of America Handcycling Clinic c by Paralyzed Veterans of America at Flickr’s Creative Commons.