Cycle adaptations

Bikes can be adapted to better suit you.

These adaptations can be fitted to cycles, with the help of a competent mechanic or engineer. Sometimes the adaptation can be fitted temporarily and easily removed for another cyclist, or it can be more permanent.

Seats, Supports and Belts

  • Cycles normally have saddles to allow free leg movement in pedaling. These are not comfortable for everybody, although there is a range of shapes, designs and padding or gel inserts to choose from.
  • Recumbents and companion cycles are more likely to have a padded L-shaped or bucket seats, giving more support to the back.
  • A range of back and arm supports and seat belts are available to help a rider to stay on a cycle saddle.

Foot restraints

  • There are different types of restraint to help keep feet on pedals. Pedals can be permanently fitted with restraints, or have quick release mechanisms so they can be replaced for riders who don’t need restraints.
  • Mountain bike cleats are an option for riders who can manage them safely. The cleat clips into the pedal, preventing the foot from slipping. The cleat can be released by twisting the ankle outwards.
  • Pedals and shoes required for the cleats are widely available in cycle shops. These cleats do not interfere with walking as they do not protrude below the sole of the shoe (unlike racing cleats).

Dropped Cranks

  • For someone who has one knee or leg that will not bend as easily as the other, a dropped crank adaptation lowers the position of the pedal on one side of the cycle, making it easier to pedal.
  • They can also be used to shorten or lengthen the crank length for legs with different levels of strength, making it easier to pedal smoothly.

Ratchet Cranks

  • A cyclist with one leg or a leg stronger than the other could benefit from a ratchet that allows the pedal to be used repeatedly in the down/power stroke, without doing a full circle.
  • The foot is held on the pedal in order to pull it up.

Oval chainrings

  • The chainring is the large sprocket driven by the pedals and driving the chain to the rear wheel. Some cyclists use oval chainrings instead of round ones to make it easier to pedal smoothly, especially uphill.
  • This can also be helpful if you find it difficult to pedal past the position where your pedal cranks are straight up and down.
  • Oval chainrings are more expensive than round ones. They come in various configurations. Please seek advice from a good bike shop if you are thinking of trying these.

One-handed Braking

  • For legal and safety reasons there must be an independent brake on each wheel, so a back-pedal brake may be the best solution.
  • Riders may also use a tandem or companion cycle where somebody else controls braking and steering.


  • Hub gears are built into the hub of the wheel and are managed from a lever mounted on the handlebars. They may be easier to manage for some disabled cyclists because they can be adjusted to a lower gear when the cycle is stationary.
  • Derailleur gears have the chain moving across a series of sprockets by a cage carrying two jockey wheels. Derailleur gears can be managed from levers built into the brake levers.
  • Racing cyclists are developing servo-assisted gears which are changed by pressing a button and could be useful for some disabled cyclists. There are no specific gearing adaptations for disabled cyclists, although it may be possible to fit a cycle with lower gears to make it easier (but slower) to propel.
  • Electronic gears, although not a common feature on road bikes among the masses they are among the pros. In terms of a disabled cyclist, they would benefit  someone who may have limited movement in a hand to turn a twist gear shifter, use a finger and thumb on a trigger shifter, or to push a gear lever sideways, as on a drop handlebar dual brake/gear shifter.

Steering adaptations

  • Some children’s tricycles can be partly controlled by an adult walking behind with a rod attached to the back of the cycle. ‘Child-front’ tandems are available where the steering and braking is controlled from an adult sitting behind.
  • Companion cycles are frequently controlled by the rear rider.

Bespoke adaptations

  • There are engineers who can work on one-off adaptations.