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A bike that grows with kids

Most of us have fond childhood memories of tooling around the neighborhood on our bikes with friends. For children with physical disabilities, that experience is too often out of reach.

Like a lot of adapted sports equipment, hand cycles can be very expensive – about $2,500-$5,000. Children grow out of bikes at several stages of development, so the cost to keep a child in a properly fitting hand cycle is too much for most families. That’s why Tim Gattenby, a faculty member of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Kinesiology, approached us to design and build a hand cycle that can adjust to a child's growing body.

Design Concepts donated our time to the project and raised funds for materials through a successful Indiegogo campaign called Lend a Handcycle. Our Graphic Design and Marketing departments developed the logo and marketing/public relations materials for the campaign. We worked with Gattenby and his students to design and build a prototype that could be used at his No Limits Kids Fitness summer camp on the UW-Madison campus.

Our goal was to design a hand cycle that could accommodate everyone from a 10-year-old girl in the fifth percentile (50 pounds and 4’3” tall) to a 17-year-old boy in the 95th percentile (176 pounds, 6’1” tall). Our team explored several options for adjusting the seat’s vertical position and the angle of both the pan and the back.

The selected design uses a scissor-jack mechanism to adjust the seat. It’s like the car jack you carry in your trunk. Using a hand crank, a helper from No Limits Kids Fitness can easily adjust the height and seat angle while the child is sitting in the bike. The seat and its jack mechanism sits on a track that can be moved forward or back for even more flexibility.

The team built a prototype of the bike in our Model Shop. Our original plan was to modify an existing adult hand cycle, but reality turned out to be far more complicated. By the time we were finished building the prototype, only a few elements of the original bike remained. 

We delivered it to No Limits Kids Fitness just in time for some tough summer testing by campers. Gattenby is already in talks with bike manufacturers who are interested in producing more of the bikes. The ultimate goal is to find a company willing to manufacture the adjustable hand cycle so more families are able to share in the joy of cycling.  

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