Adaptive Mountain Biking for Wheelchair Users

If you are looking to get into a sport, there are a few things you need to consider. One question you may consider asking yourself is: would you prefer getting involved in a team sport or a more individualized sport? Once you decide what you prefer, there are a variety of sports you can choose from that have been adapted for people of all abilities. If you enjoy a more independent sport and you like being outside, you may consider mountain biking. There are different ways to mountain bike and types of mountain bikes that accommodate riders who cannot ride a standard mountain bike, and require adapted equipment tailored to their physical, intellectual, neurological and sensory abilities.

Different Types of Adaptive Mountain Biking

Cross country mountain biking is one style of mountain biking, which is best suited for riders who enjoy a more scenic ride at a slower pace. A variety of off-road handcycles are used by riders to explore trails, mountain bases, and technical singletracks. The terrain involved is not as extreme as in other types of mountain biking, but the rider usually experiences a variety of twists and turns, hills, and occasional small jumps or rock drops.

Another popular type of mountain biking is for riders who prefer to ride at a high-speed pace and are looking for an adrenaline rush. According to Disabled Sports USA, in downhill mountain biking, the rider gets to the top of a mountain or ski hill, transfers to a four-cross mountain bike and proceeds to careen down to the bottom.

When it comes to mountain biking, there are different levels of trails, allowing you to either go fast or slow. Like other sports that have been adapted, such as water skiing, speed sailing and softball, this sport is open to people with a variety of disabilities, including amputees and people who are quadriplegic. For riders with quadriplegia, they can use a modified version of the brakes that are flipped backward towards the driver. There are additional adjustments that can be made to different types of mountain bikes so that many individuals of all abilities can ride.

Different Types of Adaptive Mountain Bikes

Riders that enjoy cross country mountain biking use off-road handcycles. There are multiple types, such as the recumbent handcycle, which allows the rider to be seated in a position where they are leaning back with their legs held forward. The legs are typically held by supporting leg brackets. There are two rear wheels and one front wheel. The front wheel acts as both the steering and drive wheel. Since the rider is leaning back, the backrest that provides support allows them to strap themselves with belts according to their ability and comfort level. The handcycle is driven using hand cranks, which are positioned around the chest.

Another type of handcycle is the kneeling handcycle, which has a design opposite of the recumbent handcycle. In contrast to the recumbent handcycle, there are two wheels at the front and one at the rear. Rather than leaning back, the rider is positioned on their knees and sitting on a bucket seat.

For downhill mountain biking, four-cross downhill bikes are used. These bikes are full-suspension, gravity-driven and use traditional mountain bike handlebars and hydraulic disc brakes and can be used by most individuals with good upper body strength and hand and arm strength. Because their tires are bigger than road cycle tires, they help absorb the bumps encountered on unpaved terrain. These bikes have bucket seats and a tray for the rider’s feet to rest on. The rider sits in an athletic position, elbows bent, while grasping both grips of the handlebar.

Since there are many types of mountain bikes, how do you know which one is right for you? If you join a mountain biking program, staff will help you find which option best suits you and which fit is right for you. What are you waiting for? Start your mountain biking adventure today!

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