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Bicycle / Pedal Power
Alternative Technology





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Bicycling is not just for the super athlete.  For a start, various cycle technologies are used by people from two years old to more than one-hundred and two years old.  More and more cycle technologies are being develop to get differently abled people on bikes, over more kinds of terrain, in more types of whether, and more of the time. Here is information about the diversity of cutting edge of human-powered cycle technology.

Arm Powered Folding Bicycles Recumbent
Tandem, Triples & Quads Tricycle Quadracycle
Cargo Bike & Trailer People Trailers Third Wheel/Trailer Cycles
 Electric-Assisted Pedal Power Innovations / Applications

Arm Powered

These vehicles are exciting because they give polio and land mine victims, paraplegic and others with limited or no function in their lower limbs increased mobility and access. Generally, these machines are in a tricycle configuration.

For links to equipment providers go to our manufacturers section, also check "innovations/applications".

Folding Bicycles (Folders)

Folding bikes are often preferable for mixed-modal travel -- trips the combine a bike ride / tour with a bus, train, boat or airplane segment and for people with limited storage space (boat and apartment dwellers) and people needing to park their bike in their work space.  By folding, these bikes can often avoid surcharges applied to bicycles on planes, boats, buses and trains.  The various models folding bikes demonstrate great diversity, which generates endless debate among aficionados about relative attributes; such as weight, stiffness, speed of assembly, compactness, number of gears, wheel size, price, etc.  Invariably, with the strength of one attribute there is a compromise in another category.  Folding bikes often entail some kind of compromise (weight, stiffness, wheelbase, wheel size, handling, etc.) to what you would get from a standard bike.  If you plan to use the bicycle for long distances or ride over varied terrain you will want a bike with a wide gear range -- not standard on most folders. For the best of the folding bicycle the compromises can be negligible and far outweighed by the benefits, especially if you do a lot of mixed-mode travel or have limited space.  In the end the best mix of attributes is very personal to the user and how they plan to use the bike.  Despite what you might be told by others, we have not found a model where "one-size-fits-all". But don't misconstrue this, we believing that the technology, in all its diversity, is a great asset in facilitating additional non-motorized transportation and one of these bikes might be right for you.

For links to equipment providers go to our manufacturers section.

Recumbent Bicycle

Recumbent means to recline. Recumbents have their advocate just because they are recumbent, but they also significant because they provide back support and a different body positions which can be very helpful for people with various conditions that make riding traditional bicycles difficult -- back and neck pain and carpal tunnel syndrome. There are roughly five styles of recumbents, each with its own pros and cons:

  • Short Wheelbase (wheelbase of 50 inches or less): these are the sports car of the group.
  • Compact Long Wheelbase (wheelbase of 50 to 60 inches): these tend to be easy handling.
  • Long Wheelbase (wheelbase of 60 or more inches): these are the Cadillac or the group.
  • Lowracers/Quasi-Lowracers (seats less than 18 inches from the ground): similar to short wheelbase, these can be the most aerodynamic and fastest.
  • Highracers (similar to short wheelbase, but with full size wheels): the large wheels and laidback seat make vaguely like a standard bike with the crank out front.

These machine can be single seat or tandems and they are manufactured in bicycle and tricycle configurations.

The issues we have heard about usually start with price, reinforced with the bicycles can be harder to store, harder to transport, not as maneuverable in traffic, less visibility, etc.  None of this is to say that they aren't a good ride and the people who use them love them.

For links to equipment providers go to our manufacturers section, also check "innovations/applications".

Tandem, Triple and Quad Bicycle

Tandems (two-person), triples (three-person) and quads (four-person) are great because they provide a cycling opportunity for the visually impaired and cyclist of very different abilities, for example adults and children. For differently-abled teams, they offer the benefit of getting everyone to the destination at the same time without taxing anyone's patience.   The are also great fun for cyclist who have similarly abilities and who can adjust to each others style -- stories of tandems nearly breaking up marriages are legendary.  To accommodate children on an adult tandem you will need a child stoker kits  (a.k.a kidback, kid-back or kid kit) -- a movable bottom bracket, with cranks and pedals, which attaches to the seat tube so that small riders can reach the pedals.

On a conventional tandem both cyclists have to pedal together, unless they take their feet off the pedals.  This constraint has been eliminated by an "Independent Coasting System" which frees the riders from having to pedal in unisons and has other benefits.

For links to equipment providers go to our manufacturers section, also check "innovations/applications".

Tricycle: Single and Tandem

Tricycles (three-wheels) are generally much more stable than traditional bikes (except going fast around a corner) which is great for those who can't maintain their balance on a traditional bike. Generally these also have a recumbent seating position so they also have those advantages (see above).

For links to equipment providers go to our manufacturers section, also check "innovations/applications" and Murray's Trike Links and Disabilities and Cycling.


Quadracycles (four-wheels) are similarly to a tricycle, but generally even more stable. Some models can carry up to a half-dozen people.  Generally, these machines are not designed for speed and they have a large footprint, so they have limited on-street practicality.

For links to equipment providers go to our manufacturers section, also check "innovations/applications".

Cargo Bike and Trailer

By increasing the load carrying capacity of your cycle you can increase your versatility and productiveness with non-motorized transportation.

Other ideas for getting more work out of you bike can be found at Pedal Power Applications.

Photo Source: PlanetSave

For links to equipment providers go to our manufacturers section, also check "innovations/applications".

People Trailers and Related Issues

For a discussion on child trailers go to Carrying Infants: Child Seats vs. Trailers.

For links to equipment providers go to our manufacturers section.

Child Third-Wheel / Trailer Cycles

Child third-wheel cycles or trailer cycles are attachments for regular bikes designed to carry children.  The are essentially a bars which extend from the seat post or rear rack of a regular bicycle, which have handlebars, a seat and a rear wheel assembly.  Generally they are rated for a maximum load of about 35 kg or 80 lbs.  The usually attach and detach fairly easily so the base bicycle can easily go back to its regular function.  They come in one to five speed models and some models fold for easier transport.  In all cases the child can pedal (or not) at a rate independent of the bicycle.

For links to equipment providers go to our manufacturers section.

Electric-Assisted Bicycle or E-bikes

Electric power assisted bikes are increasingly popular, especially in Japan and Europe.  These vehicles have fully operative pedals for human propulsion and an electric motor which can add torque to the wheels by chain drive, through hub motors or by a capstan against the tire.   Generally, there are legal limitations like maximum speeds of  30 kph or 20 mph on level ground or maximum power output (i.e. 800 watts).  Operators and vehicles are not required to be licensed, though there may be age minimums for operators (often 16 years of age).  Depending upon the technology and the battery size the range of the electric assist varies.  Fifty kilometers (30 miles) is a common range between recharges.  It is worth noting that the pedal power works even if the battery is drained, but you will be pushing a heavier than normal bicycle.

For links to equipment providers go to our manufacturers section, also check "innovations/applications".

Innovations / Applications

More unique applications of wheels and human powered mobility: Innovations / Applications



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The International Bicycle Fund is an independent, non-profit organization. Its primary purpose is to promote bicycle transportation. Most IBF projects and activities fall into one of  four categories: planning and engineering, safety education, economic development assistance and promoting international understanding. IBF's objective is to create a sustainable, people-friendly environment by creating opportunities of the highest practicable quality for bicycle transportation. IBF is funded by private donation. Contributions are always welcome and are U.S. tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

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