Monday Memo 9/3/18

The Monday Memo

September 3, 2018                                                                           PITT DPT STUDENTS

Handcycle 101


Recently, some Pitt DPT students have had the opportunity to work with athletes that participate in the sport of handcycling. These athletes have tremendous endurance and conquer unbelievable physical feats such as completing marathons in sub 2 hour times. Below is some background on the sport for anyone interested in learning more about handcycling.


Types of Handcycles


  1. An upright handcycle is an entry-level bike for those who are new to the sport, who just want exercise or recreation, or who don’t want to ride very long distances or go very fast. Because of their higher center of gravity, upright handcycles aren’t suitable for speeds higher than 15 mph. 
  2. recumbent handcycle, borrowed from the cycling industry, usually come in a choice of three or seven speeds, which naturally limits the speed to less than 15 mph. They are easy to transfer in and out of from a wheelchair, and have a natural, fork-type steering system.

Recumbent handcycles come in a few different variations. There are two steering options: fork-steer and lean-to-steer, and two seating options: one where the rider reclines and the other, a “trunk-power” version, where the rider leans forward. They usually come with 27-gear drivetrains, although they can be purchased with three- or seven-gear drivetrains.

  1. The trunk-power handcycle doesn’t have much of a seatback. The cranks are low to the ground and far away from the rider. With this arrangement, riders are able to put the weight of their trunks behind each stroke, allowing them to go faster for longer. The limitation to this type of handcycle, Lawless said, is that the athlete must have control of most or all of his abdominal muscles.

With the other seating option, the rider sits in a seat with a reclined back. The cranks are higher and closer, allowing the rider to use the seatback for leverage to rotate the cranks.

Hand Cycling Classifications

  1. H-1
    1. The most severe of this class grouping, H1 is reserved for the most severe quadriplegics and those who have impairments with equivalent limitations. These athletes compete in a recumbent (reclined) position.
    2. Lesion/impairment: C6
    3. Cycle used: AP2, AP3
  2. H-2
    1. H2 is for quadriplegic (and equivalent) athletes with more arm power than those in H1. These athletes compete in a recumbent (reclined) position.
    2. Lesion/impairment: C7-T3
    3. Cycle used: AP2, AP3
  3. H-3
    1. H3 is for athletes with varying impairments, including paraplegia, triplegia and hemiplegia. These athletes compete in a recumbent (reclined) position.
    2. Lesion/impairment: T4-T10
    3. Cycle used: AP2, AP3, ATP2
  4. H-4
    1. H4 athletes may have impairments, such as paraplegia, similar to but more moderate than athletes in H3. These athletes have full or almost full trunk control, and they compete in a recumbent (reclined) position. These athletes might also compete with a trunk propelled hand cycle.
    2. Lesion/impairment: T11 down, and amputees unable to knee
    3. Cycle used: AP2, AP3, ATP2
  5. H-5
    1. H5 is for athletes who can compete kneeling. These athletes usually have severe impairments of the legs, such as paraplegia or amputations, but have almost full control over their arms and trunk. These athletes compete in recumbent or trunk propelled hand cycle. Athletes with milder full-body disorders such as athetosis, but limited use of their legs, may also compete in H5.
    2. Lesion/impairment: T11 down(ability to kneel), and amputees with the ability to kneel
    3. Cycle used: kneeling
Type Specification
AP2 Reclined to 30 degrees
AP3 Reclined at 10 degrees
ATP 2 Long sit position
  • Bobby Jesmer, SPT
  • Jim Tersak, SPT, CSCS


September 3, 2018 |

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