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If someone likes the challenge of racing but finds it impossible to ride a traditional bicycle, can they ride in organised races?

And if yes, how can they find when and where to race?

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  • Is this an actual question?
    – ojs
    Commented Jun 22 at 14:29
  • 4
    Yes, it is a question I get asked when people see I ride a non-standard cycle.
    – Willeke
    Commented Jun 22 at 15:57
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    Also informative: bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/55896/…
    – Weiwen Ng
    Commented Jun 22 at 16:36
  • Worth reading. uci.org/discipline/para-cycling/…
    – mattnz
    Commented Jun 23 at 0:19
  • I forgot to write into the question and it might disqualify answers now, those that do like to race on non-standard cycles can usually just join, no disability needed.
    – Willeke
    Commented Jun 23 at 5:18

4 Answers 4

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There are races for many kinds of non-standard cycles. You don't have to be disabled but if you happen to be nobody will worry about it.

To name a few, hand cycles, recumbent bikes, recumbent trikes, velomobiles.

There will not be as many races as for road bikes, but still enough for those who want to be well trained.

How do you find these races?

For hand cycles, there might well be an organization in your country or area that trains and selects for the Paralympics. They should be able to help you find a group on the level you are or al least tell you whom to ask.

For recumbents and velomobiles look for the human powered vehicles organisation. There is a world wide one as well as several national ones.

This weekend there are the national recumbent races in Amsterdam, (so for the Netherlands) but there has been a series of smaller race (though in number of participants they can be as big) spread over different locations in the country.

In Summer there will be an international competition, in 2024 in the UK. Betteshanger Park, Kent, UK, 16 - 18 August.

Join the BHPC and other HPV riders of all types from across Europe and beyond at the spectacular Betteshanger Park on the east Kent coast, for three days of closed track racing and camaraderie at the 2024 World Human Powered Vehicle Championships. From the 16th-18th August meet racers, modders and home-builders – put your ride to the test against some of fastest human powered vehicles around, in a place where new ideas and new riders are always welcomed.

From a comment to the question by mattnz a link to an organization that does hand cycling.

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  • Adding as a comment rather than an edit, speeds on recumbent races do compete for the open bikes, but the velomobiles do have better times. This is a link to the results of the competition I mentioned sporthive.com/sessions/9198998#byclass
    – Willeke
    Commented Jun 24 at 18:29
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Most races will be limited to standard bicycles in or to promote fairness, but also safety. For instance, it wouldn't be safe to have recumbent bikes, low to the ground, in a big peloton mixed in with other riders.

There are races that cater to people with various disabilities though. You haven't been clear with what your particular issue is with not being able to ride a standard bicycle, and maybe you don't feel comfortable explaining, which is your prerogative. But maybe you can get in contact with your local paralympic affiliated association to see what kind of competitions might be available near to your specific needs.

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  • My question was mostly to help those that would be looking for races mostly aimed at non-standard cycles, as those do exist but are not well known by those that ride diamond frames.
    – Willeke
    Commented Jun 23 at 5:08
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I hope you do find some space where there are organized recumbent races, or races (especially time trials) implement or can be convinced to implement a recumbent category. In addition to sanctioned racing (i.e. under the auspices of a formal governing body, e.g. USA Cycling), there are a couple of alternatives.

One is the individual endurance challenge. I know this concept took off a bit among pros during COVID, with many of them trying to set fastest known times (FKTs) on major courses. You can also try this. Imagine showing up at a town 50 miles from where you live to get some food, and they ask where you're cycling from. That's the external approbation for you.

The other is that you can find non-racing organized events, like century rides and Gran Fondos, and use that as a personal challenge. Some of the more organized Gran Fondos - the ones where the front of the pack take it about as seriously as a race - may disallow recumbents explicitly, like the US Gran Fondo National Series. Some GFs may explicitly allow recumbents, like Levi's GF - although they only allow two-wheeled recumbents.

If you do this, you need to obtain experience handling your bike safely among other bikes. This is a non-trivial skill for any rider to learn. I am not familiar with recumbents, but I assume a skilled rider could ride close enough to others. I also assume that situational awareness is or can be similar to upright bikes - if you can't easily turn your head, for example, you should take steps to address that like mounting a mirror. And I am assuming you're riding with a flag for others to see you.

If you can keep up with very fast upright cyclists, you are likely to attract more scrutiny. Some of that may be fair, and some of it may be unfair. I am not sure how to deal with that.

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  • Almost non of the racing recumbents have a flag, that is unwanted drag but also annoying the people around you while riding. Only those with very low bikes or trikes who feel the need of a flag in normal traffic might keep it while racing. Lines on the road are well below the level of our bikes/trikes and can still be seen.
    – Willeke
    Commented Jun 23 at 5:06
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If someone likes the challenge of racing but finds it impossible to ride a traditional bicycle, can they ride in organised races?

Everything can be raced.

Even Brompton folding bicycles are raced, although you have to dress accordingly and that doesn't mean sports clothes.

However, the only challenge is finding a suitable organized race. Recumbents for example are not allowed in traditional road cycling, because allowing them would make the sport an entirely different sport, something that's won by clever ways to reduce air resistance on the flats, and at the same time hill climbing speeds would suffer.

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    I strongly disapprove of the riders who are cheating by wearing short trousers. No appropriately dressed man would go to work in those - youtube.com/watch?v=dpsj6hNB9EM
    – Richard
    Commented Jun 22 at 20:01
  • Juist, this question is to help people find the specialized races as most general races are not general at all, there are special races, no need to be negative about them. (Unless you can not handle other people being faster than you without mechanical help or drag from group members.)
    – Willeke
    Commented Jun 24 at 18:46

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