Bikes for Boomers

TV host sits on RANS recumbent bikeMSN is carrying video of a segment from the May 25, 2008 episode of The Today Show. The segment is all about bikes for baby boomers – comfort bikes!

All of the bikes featured are stock bikes with no modifications whatsoever. If you’re getting on in years and finding that cycling is just a bit too painful, one of the featured bikes is bound to be great for you.

The bikes featured were:

  • Electra Townie Balloon 8 ($750)
  • Trek Lime ($850)
  • Sun EZ Sport AX ($1350)
  • Biria EX Board Top 3 ($440)
  • Dahon Ciao 8 ($790)

Under Construction is still getting underway, so please excuse the lack of content and the sometimes shifting layout.  We have a number of tasks ahead of us:

  1. Improving the accessibility of the design – some items are in place already, but we will improve our accessibility for visitors with screen readers
  2. Generating more content – there are a lot of topics we want to cover, but it will take us time to put it all together
  3. Finalizing a look and feel – we’re working with several logo designers to come up with the final BikeAble brand.  Once that process is complete, we’ll tune the site to match it.

In the meantime, keep an eye out for new articles here.  We’re starting slowly, but sometimes, that’s the best way to begin.

Dealing in Adaptations

The following recumbent dealers have a history of working to adapt bikes and trikes for riders with limitations. If you’re looking for modifications to standard recumbent equipment, give a call to the dealer nearest you.

RBR Recumbent Bike Riders
State College, PA

Utah Trikes
Spanish Fork, UT

Note for dealers: If you would like to be added to this list, please use the BikeAble contact form to submit your information.

Trike for triple amputee

RBR has recently constructed a Catrike Road for a 12 year old who has had both legs below the knee and his right hand amputated.

The goal of the build was to provide this individual a means of cycling that enabled his use of a trike while downplaying the obviousness of his handicap.

Using prosthetics, the rider will be able to strap into clipped pedals. This will be a step up from the method used with his last bike: duct taping himself to the pedals. He specifically requested that calf supports not be used as they gave away his disability from a distance.

The primary challenge for this build was adapting what is normally the right hand grip of the Catrike Road. Rob Gentry of RBR hit upon some inspiration from a spare carbon fiber bottle cage he had in the shop. Removing the grip entirely, he mounted the bottle cage to the steering arm of the Catrike, lined it with padded material, and added a velcro enclosure to allow the rider to adjust tension as necessary. This provides a secure resting area for the rider’s right limb.

Removing that grip of course meant that the right brake lever had to be relocated. To address this, the left brake lever was made to control both left and right disc brakes simultaneously. On typical tadpole trikes, brakes are present only on the front wheels. For this build, a third coaster brake was added to the rear tire so the rider could engage the brakes with his feet. In this case, the rear brake serves as a backup should the front brakes fail or not be enough stopping power.

This particular rider also has some limitations in his left hand as he has lost several digits. There is enough strength to control steering and a remaining digit for braking but not enough to engage a grip shifter. To address this, RBR mounted a plastic protrusion to the grip shift so that it could be pushed forward and pulled back to go through the range of gears on the Sram Spectro P5 five speed hub.

What’s your story?

Have you gone through the process of adapting cycling to your needs?  If so, tell us how!

Every story you share is another opportunity to provide others with your experience.  We all learn when we share.

So please use our contact form to get in touch with BikeAble.  We’ll work with you to put your story here where the world can benefit from your knowledge.

Trike for Four – Part 1

It is often said that tandem bicycles will either make or break a relationship. They place two riders in close proximity for long periods of time for an activity in which the contributions and goals of both riders must align in order to keep moving forward.

The captain, the person that sets direction, relies upon the stoker, the person who acts as the engine, to provide propulsion. Should either the captain or the stoker find annoyance with the other rider, the outing will almost certainly end in misery. Conversely, a pair in harmony will have a ride to remember (though it can be said that miserable rides are also quite memorable).

What do two people do when a ride devolves into misery? They ride separate bikes. They get their distance. They ride four lengths apart from each other.

But what if they didn’t have that choice? What if one of the riders was absolutely dependent on the other for all riding, tandem or not? That is the case for a rider we’ll call “Tim”.

Tim was a college graduate before deciding to enlist in the military following graduation. His enlistment eventually led to his deployment as part of the latter Iraq war. During a confrontation, shrapnel from incoming mortar fire ripped through Tim’s eye severing his optic nerve and causing significant brain trauma. As a result, Tim is now completely blind.

And Tim wants to ride a bike.

As he has no other physical limitations, it is entirely possible for Tim to ride an upright tandem bicycle. In fact, he has done so on a number of occasions having clocked a 35 mile ride at one point. There is, unfortunately, an inherent danger in doing so. Due to the delicate nature of the cranial reconstruction he received following the shrapnel damage, Tim is unlikely to fully recover should he fall from the height of an upright bike and sustain a head injury.

After a good deal of research, Tim and his family determined that a recumbent tandem trike would be the best overall fit to get him back to pedaling. It allows Tim to contribute power while the captain guides the ride. It is also built very low to the ground and on a much more stable three wheels to sharply reduce the possibility of dangerous falls.

With a rider as capable as Tim, this would perhaps mark the end of the story, but there is a unique facet here: multiple captains. Tim will always be the stoker due to his visual impairment. There are no issues with that since the seat and stoker crank will never require adjustment. Tim is the only person who will stoke his trike. However, there are no fewer than three potential captains: Tim’s father, mother, and girlfriend.

For those not familiar with typical recumbent configurations, recumbents are tuned to their riders. On an upright bike, differing rider leg lengths are accommodated through a simple adjustment of seat height. For proper fit, there is also handle adjustment, but most riders need only to adjust the seat up or down to reach the pedals properly. Recumbent bikes normally feature a fixed seat – it does not move back or forth,up or down. The adjustments for leg length (referred to as external seam or x-seam) all happen through movement of the pedals closer to the rider or farther away. Moving the pedals means changing the chain length, a painful process. This is why people trying out a recumbent for the first time often feel that the bike doesn’t fit them well – it doesn’t.

Three captains means three different x-seams. The trike needs to be able to quickly adjust for each captain and not require the dirty process of removing or inserting quicklinks to change chain length. Fortunately, Tim and his family decided on a Greenspeed tandem trike. Greenspeed is known both for their build quality and their customer service. When asked how multiple captains could be accommodated, the answer from Greenspeed was quick: chain tensioner. Greenspeed suggested installing a chain tensioner much like the one they sell with their Anura delta trike. This device automatically releases slack and takes it up when the front boom is adjusted, allowing for a flexible range of x-seams.

Had Greenspeed not offered this solution, Tim would be limited to a single captain and would have his riding limited by the availability of that lone sighted partner. Once constructed, Tim’s trike will be open to nearly anyone who wants to take the front grips.

The measurements are taken. The colors are chosen. The options are selected. Now the wait begins for Tim and his many captains as his trike is being built.

Hase revises the Trets trailerbike

Hase Spezialrader has offered the Hase Trets trailerbike for some time. The utility of the Trets was that it was a recumbent trailerbike into which a child with limited trunk support could be strapped and still have access to his/her own set of pedals. It also employed a 7 speed shifter and a freewheel to allow the child to determine his/her level of work while pedaling. The one main requirement, however, was that it be hitched to a lead bike that would provide it with direction.

Not any more. Hase has modified the Trets so that it can now accept a front fork, turning the Trets into an independent delta trike.

The Hase Trets Trailerbike with delta trike fork accessory

The Trets is largely unchanged aside from the fork modification, though it should be noted that the shifter remains in the lower position (by the seat) even with the addition of the handle bars. If a child needs help keeping their hands in place on the grips, they will likely be unable to move their hands to change gears.

The downside to these revisions is, as usual, the cost. The Trets originally sold for around $1,350. The price with the trike revision, according to BentRider Online, is now $2,490. That puts it well within range of adapted trikes from the likes of Adaptivemall. The main question becomes one of positioning – is your child able to pedal from a recumbent position or does he/she require a more upright stance?

It’s always good to have alternatives, and the nice thing about the Trets is that when your child tires of pedaling, you can convert it back into a trailer to just bring them along for the ride.

Recumbent trike on the cheap

Looking to get somebody on a bike but don’t want to spend multiple thousands of dollars for high end equipment? If your child is able to perform gross motor arm movements (move each arm forward and back) and can pedal, this might be worth a look:

The Triton delta trike in pink
The Triton is meant to be a toy trike, but even many toy trikes tip the scales at $3-400. The Triton can be had for $200 from Toys ‘R Us! Those local to State College, PA can see the Triton at RBR who sells it for $279, but that includes assembly and shipping to the store.

The features of this trike are pretty neat because of the flexibility they afford. First up, it’s a direct drive trike, which means no gears. This is not a hill climber, commuter, long trail rider, et cetera. This is parks, driveways, neighborhoods, and parking lots material – just like any other standard trike. The cranks do have a freewheel, so don’t worry about having to keep the feet moving with the wheel when the rider is tired. The pedals would need to be modified/supplemented for any children unable to keep their feet on the platforms.

In the illustration above, you can see that the boom is adjustable. This trike suits kids up to 5’8″ in height and 220lbs in weight. This is a trike that should definitely be able to grow with any child. Adjusting the length takes less than a minute, so it is even suitable in environments where multiple children might want to use the trike.

Steering is achieved via handles on either side of the seat. The handles are linked to the rear wheels and pivot the rear for directional control. The rear wheels are connected via tie rod to ensure they maintain alignment. The steering mechanism itself is such that pushing forward on one direction requires pulling back on the other – but again, the tie rod makes it so that the two are connected in order to keep the wheels from turning in opposite directions. Rear wheel steering, however, has its downsides. At high rates of speed, steering force from the rear can whip the trike around pretty hard. Anybody riding will want to be careful they don’t roll the trike in a hard turn.

The Triton uses a caliper brake mounted to the front tire. In the time I spent inspecting the Triton, I didn’t think to ask if there was another braking mechanism should a child not have enough hand strength to manage the brake lever.

So how’s adaptability? As mentioned before, the pedals can always be fitted to suit the needs of the rider. The seat is obviously the big question. The seat frame is such that it should be trivial to mount a harness system that suits your child.

My main concern would be for any child that requires a lap restraint (especially any children that like to scoot down and out of seats). A lap belt could certainly be mounted to the frame under the bottom pad of the seat. My concern stems only from the fact that the seat itself isn’t that deep – about 8″. That might not leave enough wiggle room for some.

The frame under the seat is suitable for anyone who wishes to fabricate a custom seat if the rider requires hip stabilization. There’s definitely room on the Triton frame for improvisation and innovation.

Having said all that, here’s the quick rundown on the Triton:

  • Child must be able to pedal and move steering arms
  • Braking might be an issue for children lacking grip
  • Seat frame is open for necessary modification
  • Trike grows with your child
  • $200-$280 based on shipping and assembly

Since I don’t know anyone who has actually used the Triton, my observations here are just from looking it over and playing with the floor model at RBR. As always, do some research and ask plenty of questions before trying the Triton with your child. But at less than $300, it’s less of a gamble than just about any other adaptive equipment purchase you’re likely to make.