With the ever increasing cost of motoring and the desire to lead healthier, more active lives, cycling is becoming increasingly popular with society as a whole, be it for commuting or leisure and holidays.
Being disabled should not be a barrier to enjoying cycling and there are a number of options available to suit many types of disability including those with learning difficulties and people suffering with arthritis. These can include: bicycles fitted with stabilisers, to give riders that extra bit of confidence; tricycles, that have the option of a supported or recumbent seat; handcycles, where the rider is able to power the front wheel by hand, bicycles made for two, which allows side by side cycling.
Studies have shown that regular physical activity is absent from the lives of many disabled people. This is most noticeable in people with learning disabilities or who live in residential care. A cycling involves the rhythmic contraction of large limb muscles, it is an ideal aerobic exercise and there is no pressure on joints or muscles when compared with weight bearing exercises.
Cycling is also available to people who are blind or visually impaired, thanks to tandems. To be successful the front rider, usually known as the pilot, needs to have good vision, agility and patience. The rider who sits behind, usually known as the stoker, is required to have energy, a sense of adventure and trust.
Mounting a bicycle for the first time can be tricky for a blind rider. A good way to assist is for the pilot to stand over the crossbars with their feet on the ground and a good, firm hold on the handlebars. This helps steady the bike for the stoker. When the stoker feels comfortable, and have let the pilot know that they are ready to go, the pilot will then push off and ride as if on a single bicycle. Once in motion the pilot will pass verbal information to the stoker regarding the route ahead. This can include the rising and dropping gradient of any approaching hills, if there are any speed bumps in the road, when they are approaching a bend and it’s severity along with when to slow down and when to stop.
Regardless of your disability there are a number of things to consider when out riding. If you suffer from neck, back or knee pain, saddle sores, or hand or foot numbness, your bicycle probably does not fit you properly. A good bike seat should be level, so it is able to support your full body weight, and allow you to move around on the seat if need be. If your saddle is tilted too far back this can cause pressure points and too much forward tilt may make you slide forward putting pressure on you arms, hands and knees.
Other common cycling complaints include neck pain, often the result of riding a bicycle that is too long or handlebars that are too low, hand pain or numbness, this can be tackled by using padded cycling gloves and by riding with your elbows slightly bent as straight elbows take direct blows from bumps and any uneven road surface.
It is also important to ensure that you have a comfortable saddle if you are to get the most enjoyment from cycling. These are available in a number of different material types and women only saddles, that take into account the wider pelvis, are also available.