Adaptive Mountain Biking: Push the Boundaries

Kneeling Hand Cycle. Image - The Loam Wolf.
Kneeling Hand Cycle. Image - The Loam Wolf.

Adaptive Mountain Biking

Mountain biking is an adventure sport, enjoyed by many across the globe. It is exhilarating, technical and a great way to get back to nature, and that is why people love it. Even better, technological advances in bike mechanics enable adaptive bikers to participate in so many ways. I was fascinated by the innovation and adaptability of mountain bikes. So, I have chosen just a few of the most common adapted mountain bikes to share and I hope they inspire you.

Recumbent Hand Cycle

The recumbent hand cycle is one of the most common adaptive cycles. The recumbent hand cycle seats the rider in a laid back position. The rider’s legs are extended forward and strapped in. The rider moves the bike by pushing and steering with the hand cranks. The positives to this bike is that it can be adapted for on-road use and it requires less truck stability due to the supportive seating stucture. The negatives to this bike is that it has a wider turning circle. It can also be difficult for transfers as it is low to the ground and the two back wheels may reduce access to the seat.


Recumbend Hand Cycle in Action. Image- Break the Boundary.

Kneeling Hand Cycle

The kneeling hand cycle allows the rider to ride the bike in a kneeling position. There is often a chest plate to support the torso, allowing the rider to lean forward. The rider moves the bike with hand cranks located at the front of the bike, under the bike handles. This type of bike requires great trunk and arm stability to lean forward, as there is no back support. The positives to this bike is that they can be more stable when riding over rocks and bumps. The negatives to this bike is that there is higher trunk function requried as the rider leans forward. Whilst there is a chest plate for stabilising, there is higher impact on the chest and neck. This bike can also be difficult to transfer into, as the rider must transfer into the kneeling position.

Kneeling Hand Cycle. Image - Break the Boundary.

Upright Hand Cycle

The upright hand cycle is similar to the kneeling bike, however the rider is seated in an upright position. There are dual wheels at the front utilised for steering and one wheel at the back. The rider steers and propels the bike using the hand cranks, whilst their legs are extended forward and strapped in. The positives to this bike includes having back support provided by the seat, creating less trunk stability requirements. The rider’s legs are positioned straight and there is more direct access to the seat due to having only one wheel at the rear of the bike, making wheelchair transfers easier. The negatives to this bike is that it can be top-heavy as the rider is seated up-right and the bike has a high ground clearance. This is something to be aware of, to avoid tipping of the bike.

Upright Hand Cycle. Image - Break the Boundary.

What I loved learning about adaptive mountain biking is that there are many options for adaptive mountain bikes to suit most abilities. The options presented here can be used by people who have reduced mobility resulting from physical, intellectual or neurological challenges. I discovered that a common challenge among the use of these bikes was transfer access. Furthermore, transporting these bikes can present a challenge as they are larger and wider than a typical bicycle.

As a young person who has grown up playing team sport, I began to reflect on how I would feel if the sense of belonging, achievement and enjoyment was taken away from me. I realised that this is the reality for many. I also realised the potential for technology to transform and push the boundaries of sports participation. Like all large pieces of adaptive equipment, the cost to purchase a mountain bike, plus protective gear, adds up, making it difficult for many to access. Throughout my research I noticed that information about this assistive technology was overwhelming and sometimes hard to come by. I think it is extremely important to promote the possibilities and increase conversations around technologies that can support adaptive athletes to increase participation, belonging and enjoyment in leisure activities.

Find Out More


I was able to come across a few manufacturers and stockists of adaptive mountain bikes in Australia and across the globe. An initiative called Break the Boundary is based in Western Australia, encouraging adaptive mountain biking participation and paving the way for more opportunities in adaptive mountain biking, nation-wide. I believe the best way to trial bikes would be to get in contact with the manufacturers to discuss any options or trials. You can learn more about various stockists based in Australia and around the globe on the Break the Boundary website.