For people with MS, symptoms such as fatigue, iffy balance, weakness, and muscle spasticity can make traditional bike riding seem difficult or impossible. There are a variety of adaptations now available, so that someone who wants to ride, might just find wheels that will work.
Where to begin
The most popular types of accessible bikes are:
Recumbent bicycles are comfortable, easy to ride and they are popular among people with and without disabilities. If you’ve never seen one, imagine a sort of stretched-out tricycle with a seatback like you’ll find in a director’s chair. You sit all the way back into the seat, with your legs outstretched, cranking the pedals. The handlebars are like “normal” handlebars, but are easily graspable from a relaxed, sitting-back position. Recumbents.com includes general information and tons of links to other recumbent-related Web sites.
At Cycle Electric International Consulting Group’s “Electric Bikes,” you’ll find an overview of the electric bike, including everything from power-driven two-wheelers to “personal activity vehicles.” These are elaborate tricycles that include not only a motor, so you can rest your legs in between pedaling, but a high back seat and optional fold-down armrests, so you can relax the rest of your body as well. There are numerous other e-bike manufacturers and dealers out there, so definitely compare features and prices.
Visit bike-on.com for a quick but thorough overview of new and used handcycles, including descriptions and photographs of everything from the Top End XLT jr (a handcycle for children) to the Quikie Sopur Spirit 470, an aerodynamically designed adult handcycle. Another helpful place is Family Village, which includes a comprehensive handcycle link list. From there you can link to resource sites such as the United States Handcycling Federation, or to manufacturers’ sites, such as Varna Innovation & Research Corporation. Varna makes, among other things, a “hybrid tandem handcycle.” (In English, a two-person bike with a leg-powered two-wheeler for the front rider and a hand- cranked three-wheeler for the person in the rear.)
Handcycles are typically front-wheel drive, but One-Off Handcycles offers a rear-wheel-driven model, which gives extra traction for climbing steep grades. A low-to-the-ground, three-wheeled bike, One-Off’s 24-speed handcycle can go almost everywhere a typical mountain bike can go. It offers a very tight nine-foot turning radius to boot.
You can also ask your physical therapist about adaptive equipment to transform standard and alternative bikes. Backrests with padded straps, leg and shoulder harnesses, even hip pads, provide added support and can help the cyclist maintain balance. Footrests with leg guides help position and retain foot placement on pedals.