What is a Hand Bike?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Hand bikes are three-wheeled devices configured with a pedaling system that is operated using the hands and arms rather than the legs and feet. Pedals are located directly in front of the rider, more or less occupying the position of handlebars on a standard bicycle. Some models of the hand cycle utilize a onfiguration featuring one wheel in the front and two in the back. However, other designs call for two wheels in the front paired with one rear wheel.

Boy playing with a ball
Boy playing with a ball

The hand bike places all the necessary equipment for operation within easy reach of the hands and arms. The braking system may be incorporated into the pedals or to the side of the rider. Gears systems and steering functions are also located within easy reach.

From a practical standpoint, a hand bike is an excellent means of conveyance for anyone who is unable to operate a standard bicycle. The bike does require a fair amount of upper body and arm strength to manage effectively, making it a great way to exercise as well as providing the individual with the ability to enjoy a degree of mobility. For this reason, a hand bike is often a great alternative for people who have little to no use of their legs.

There are several basic models of the hand bike in use today. A fork steer cycle adapts easy to a variety of situations, with adjustable seats, footrests, and the angle of the seat. The gear system can also be reset according to the needs of the rider. As a good quality all-purpose conveyance, this type of bike is great for general recreation, handcycling competitions, or just biking around town.

The lean steer bike is not quite as versatile, and often takes longer to master. The name for this type of hand bike is derived from the fact that in order to make turns properly, the rider has to lean into the turn in a more pronounced manner than with the fork steer design. A lean steer bike is better suited for traveling at modest speeds, since the ability to steer and turn is less effective at high speeds.

Along with bikes designed for transportation, there are also stationary models that are great for exercising around the home or office. The bikes can help develop the muscles of the lower and upper arms, the shoulders, and the upper portion of the chest. This makes the stationary hand bike an excellent piece of exercise equipment for anyone who wants to increase his or her upper body strength.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


I have been riding a Freedom Ryder lean and steer for 12 years and find that handling is superb. It corners and feels more like riding a bicycle as the rider leans into the turns. The use of an adjustable steering dampener, as many motorcycles use greatly improves stability.

I rode bicycles until 20 years ago, and motorcycles until six years ago. I also mono -ski and ride an Explorer II off road hand bike. The best design for a handcycle would be two wheels in front and one in the rear as most off road hand bikes use.

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