There is no reason why individuals with a disability cannot enjoy cycling. And thousands of them are already doing just that.
Thanks to the efforts of local authorities and government investment in improved facilities, together with initiatives from specialist bodies such as British Cycling and the civil engineering charity Sustrans, thousands more will be able to enjoy both the physical and social benefits of the sport.
The most important task is to publicise as widely as possible the opportunities that are available in order that not only are those with a disability made aware of the opportunities, but also that their friends and family are, too, opening up a wealth of leisure time activities.
Let’s start with the basics, namely the types of bike that are available to individuals with a disability. Riders who suffer from a visual impairment can make use of their partner’s sight by opting for a tandem.
However, such an arrangement doesn’t mean simply taking a back seat because there is still the matter of putting in the legwork, to cover the miles on either indoor or outdoor course.
Wheelchair users can hit the road using a handcycle which, as the name suggests, involves the rider using the strength of their arms to get the machine moving.
Handcycles can be single-use or side-by-side models, the latter aimed at those who prefer a little company on their ride.
If an individual has difficulties with their balance, it may be that a tricycle is the right choice. A good starting point for getting the basics is to contact your local authority, many of whom run courses either indoors or outdoors that offer an introduction for people with a disability.
Routes Free From Traffic
These taster sessions can be a great way to meet people and discover opportunities for making the most of cycling. It may be that you will begin cycling in the relative safety of a sports hall, but the incentive is the miles and miles of outdoor track that has been developed in the UK by Sustrans.
The organisation has been a major player in the initiative known as the National Cycle Network, providing routes free from traffic and, therefore, safe for both walkers and cyclists.
If you are hesitant about finding out more because you think accessibility maybe a problem, Sustrans calculates that 75% of the UK population lives within two miles of a cycle network route, so there is no reason why you can’t take full advantage of the scheme.
For those individuals with a disability who are after more of an adrenalin fix, there is always the competitive environment offered by racing at levels up to and including Olympic standard. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet.
Perhaps it is best to start at the site of British Cycling where you’ll find contact details for finding out more about getting involved, an events calendar, as well as an explanation of the categories by which riders are classified for competing in events.
Cyclists with a disability can enjoy all the aspects of the sport, whether that be the chance to test themselves against others in a competitive environment, or just benefit from the aerobic workout that a leisurely ride on a cycle track or country route offers.
At heart, though, it’s all about having fun. So find the right saddle to suit you, and get moving.