Arm bikes, known in the industry as handcycles, offer a variety of benefits besides cardiovascular exercise for disabled persons, low-mobility persons and those requiring physiotherapy. Handcycle racing is a growing sport offering disabled athletes an outlet for competition and camaraderie, according to non-profit handcycle race organisation U.S. Handcycling. Handcycles move the pedal placement of a traditional bicycle within reach of the hands while maintaining traditional hand braking and shifting.
Persons with Disabilities
Handcycles benefit the wheelchair bound as well as persons suffering from decreased lower extremity mobility. Many disabled athletes or persons seeking increased exercise, increased mobility or alternative transportation use handcycles designed for riding on the road, but stationary handcycles also exist that offer indoor exercise with variable resistance levels simulating outdoor riding. U.S. Handcycling promotes and hosts races, bringing the burgeoning sport of handcycling and handcyclists together for local and national ranked race events, such as the Tour de Nez, a handcycling race in Reno, Nevada. Handcycle companies build inexpensive machines that allow disabled persons to take light-duty rides to the grocery store. High-quality lightweight aerodynamic race machines also allow disabled athletes to achieve fast speeds equivalent to those achieved with traditional racing bicycles.
According to a report in the Journal of the American Physical Therapy Association, arm bikes caused significant improvements in peak power outputs, peak oxygen uptake and mechanical efficiency. The group tested patients suffering from tetraplegia, a condition commonly called quadriplegia, in which all arm and leg mobility is damaged or lost during a spinal cord injury. Patients improved physical capacity without reporting arm pain or discomfort. Arm bike rehabilitation is a growing physiotherapy tool across the U.S. as arm bike machines become more affordble.
Much like traditional cycling does, regular use of arm bikes positively benefits a handcyclist's cardiovascular system. According to online cycling exercise professionals Cycling Performance Tips, regular exercise stimulates positive changes in the cardiovascular system, resulting in the increased work capacity of muscle and vascular systems for both endurance and burst activities. Cardiovascular-benefiting activities such as handcycling increase the amount of blood the heart pumps per minute, the amount of oxygen the lungs exchange for carbon dioxide per minute and the amount of oxygen the muscles utilise for cell metabolism and energy production per minute. Increased blood and oxygen in the cardiovascular system translates to improved health and exercise endurance for arm bike users.