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A handcycle is a tricycle that is powered by the rider's arms, not by their legs.

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an upright style. Note lap-belt and foot straps, and an extremely laid-back head tube angle.

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An aggressively aero setup. Clearly see the upside-down drivetrain.

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Note these handcycles have the rider's legs folded up underneath. They're essentially kneeling on knees, putting minimal pressure on regular contact points.

Clearly one can ride these while still having functional legs.

QUESTION: What makes for a strong hand-cyclist?

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  • I’m voting to close this question because Funny-day is over.
    – Criggie
    Apr 2, 2023 at 21:12
  • 1
    While not the most usual cycles, hand cycles and hand cycling should be taken serious on a cycle site as this.
    – Willeke
    yesterday
  • @Willeke Concur - hand cycles are serious bikes. If a real question were posted, we'd likely attempt to answer it to the best of our abilities. Hand-cyclists deserve no-less of an effort than any other question.
    – Criggie
    5 hours ago

3 Answers 3

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A fast hand cyclist is made by a lot of training.
A fast hand cycle is made like any fast vehicle/bike by design and materials, the competition winners are out of carbon and designed on the person racing it.

There are several kinds of hand and foot combined cycles, as well as hand cycles where the hands move in opposite movements as the pedals/feet on the standard bicycle/trike.

I happen to have got to know several people who came into hand cycling for different reasons, worked up the muscles needed to the level they needed.
One trains with hand cycle athletes because he thinks it is fun, he collects bikes and (push) trikes and found the hand bike for a very nice price. When he owned it he found it fun to ride and worked out he did quite well in speed. He has/had several reports on his personal website as well as on a Dutch language recumbent cycling forum.
The other guy came to hand cycling because of a leg injury and the need to be active in his recovery period. He sold his hand cycle when his leg was working again (and I have seen more hand cycles for sale on a second hand site with this argument.)

The position on the hand cycle (which is mostly a three wheeler but it can also be a two wheeled bike for people with some leg action left) depends on what you want from it. The kneeling trikes are athlete competition ones, which are brothers to the extreme fast wheelchairs they use in competitions.
The laid back ones, like most recumbent bikes and trikes, are more relaxed but can still give a lot of speed. I believe they are in different sections of the bigger competitions but the kneel and laid back versions can also compete at the same time.
The sit up hand bike as the one in the Question allows for a more 'up with the traffic' ride for people who want to move at all rather than move fast.

The most common version I see on the roads here is a clip on bicycle part to a normal wheelchair. Those are sit up chairs, so also sit up hand cycles.

The clip on cycles and the recumbent kind of dedicated hand cycles I have seen as E-assist and even as fully E-powered, so the person cycling it can put in as much muscle power as needed or wanted.

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There are several points about a handcycle that are different to any other bike.

  • A handcycle has no pedals. Instead it has hand-grips. There may be platforms to support feet/legs but they're not part of the transmission.
  • All handcycles are trikes (well I haven't found anything else outside of stationary exercise equipment) therefore balance is not an issue.
  • There is no alternating left-right motion. A handcycle has both arms working in the same part of the crank rotation. (aside, handcycle music would be best in a 2/2 time not 4/4)

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source: Citation: International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance 17, 3; 10.1123/ijspp.2021-0458
Full article available here

But in summary, one's upper arms do almost all the work, with the forearms a lesser contributor.

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That means big shoulders and upper arms will contribute the most to power, along with a solid core and high grip strength to hold onto the handles and transmit that power.

Therefore the best physique for handcycling is Popeye

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From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Popeye

but with his arms upside down.

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Additionally, Spinich/silverbeet is not a proscribed drug and does not fall into the category of Enhancements.

Downsides, Popeye is a pipe smoker which will have a negative effect on his VO2 max, and will also present a bad image to the global population. On the flip side, Eddie Merckx was a chain smoker as well (in the tobacco sense) and he did okay.

Another downside, Popeye has thick legs and large feet which bring an aero disadvantage and no net benefits. However pointy toed shoes and a good position will minimise the aero tax.


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NOTE: This answer is intented as an April fool's one.

Making a strong hand-cyclist is such a breeze. I mean, all you have to do is wave your magic wand and voila, you have a world-class hand-cyclist on your hands.

Firstly, let's start with the obvious. Get yourself a pair of hands. Because, let's face it, you're not going to be able to cycle with your feet, unless you're some sort of mutant.

Next, find yourself a bicycle. Any old bike will do. Just make sure it has wheels and handlebars. You could also try finding a unicorn and riding that instead, but good luck with that.

Once you have a bike, it's time to start training. But don't bother with any fancy training programs or coaches. Just ride your bike as fast as you can, for as long as you can, every day. Oh, and don't forget to eat lots of cake and ice cream. That's what all the top athletes do, right?

Now, here's the key to making a strong hand-cyclist: Practice. A lot. Just keep riding and riding, until your hands feel like they're about to fall off. And then ride some more. Because nothing builds strength like sheer brute force and repetition.

And finally, the most important step of all: Believe in yourself. Believe that you can be the best hand-cyclist in the world, even if everyone else thinks you're crazy. Because if you believe it, it must be true, right?

So there you have it. Follow these simple steps, and you'll be well on your way to becoming a world-class hand-cyclist. Or, you know, you could just skip all of this and go watch Netflix instead. Your call.

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    Ok, I admit it, it's a ChatGPT answer, but I liked it and thought it was acceptable to share it, given the circumstances. The query was: "Explain how to make a strong hand-cyclist but be sarcastic"
    – Renaud
    Apr 1, 2023 at 15:45

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