Ask an Expert - Handcycles
- How do I figure out which is the best handcycle for me?
The first question to ask yourself is “Why do I want one? Is it for recreation or am I more serious and plan to race or go on long distance rides?” If recreation is your goal, the Excelerator and XLT are great models as they feature a low maintenance 7 speed hub with reverse hands-on braking. For racing, long distances or hilly terrain your best ride are the handcycles in the Top End Force Series or XLT PRO.
- What are the main differences between the Top End Force, Force G and XLT PRO?
The Top End Force is an arm-powered, super-reclined, lay down, low to the ground, aerodynamic handycle that compares to what everyone in Europe is using. The XLT PRO offers a reclined position but a higher seat height than the Force. The Force G is primarily a trunk powered unit and best for those with great trunk control.
- I want to go the distance, possibly race. Which seating position should I choose?
This really depends on your goals and your disability. There are three different positions: the recumbent position, the trunk powered position and the kneeling position. • The recumbent style is when you are reclined in a semi-lying position using mostly arm, shoulder and chest muscles. It is relaxed and very aerodynamic. This position is preferred by paraplegics (T10 level and above) and quadriplegics. • The trunk-powered position is a position where you sit up straighter utilizing a rocking motion that applies your whole upper body including your trunk. For this position you need good balance. • The third position is the kneeling or amputee position and this requires excellent balance. You sit flat or angled downhill and then lean forward to generate power.
- How fast will I go?
Speed depends on your seating position, fitness level and disability. Top speed of over 30 MPH are possible. I train with other riders, (even able bodied ones) plus use a cordless speedometer and heart rate monitor to help me get faster.
- What crank width is best?
Crank width is dependant on shoulder width and leg clearance requirements. A good rule of thumb would be to measure shoulder width and add a couple of inches.
- How do I determine the best crank length and width?
The crank length is not necessarily determined by the length of the cycler's arms. Most competitive racers in Force handcycles are using shorter (170mm - 185mm) and narrower (14" - 16") crank arms and spinning rather than muscling the gears. The crank height and back placement are positioned to make sure the cranks don't hit the legs or chest rather than the crank length being compromised for this situation. A strong cycler may want to have longer cranks to increase the leverage he/she is able to generate into the crank but the longer crank arms could wear down a newer or weaker cycler. Making smaller crank circles does not cause the cycler to exert as much energy. The crank width is more determined by the chest and leg widths. This is especially true with the Force G handcycle when the cycler's torso is used to crank and is sometimes positioned slightly over the crank assembly and the S cranks are used to clear the chest and legs. Generally speaking, it is best for a new handcycle owner to choose the standard lengths and widths listed on the order form. The crank arms are easily replaceable and after the cycler has used them for some time, he/she will be able to make a better decision about these dimensions.
- What crank length should I choose?
The cranks should complement your sitting position and body size. At the end of your peddle stroke your arms should be slightly bent and not fully extended. The more you move your body the longer the crank can be. Most people in the reclined position use crank lengths between 170-200 mm. Top End crank arms are designed so that they can be changed easily to try a different length.