Joe Tarver is the Founder of Cycle for Life and Rock and Roll Cycles in Lubbock Texas.
Disability, depending on the form, can greatly limit social interactions. This can result in negative impacts on a disabled individual’s mental health and sense of social belonging. Joe Tarver of Rock and Roll Cycles says that this is where therapeutic or adaptive bikes come into play.
Therapeutic bicycles open up an avenue for exercise and social activities previously inaccessible to disabled individuals. Exercise has long been known to boost mood, confidence, and reduce stress. This, combined with social inclusion proves that therapeutic bikes are highly beneficial.
Joe Tarver also explains that the benefits of cycling might be surprising to some. Simply providing alternate forms of bikes can open the door to those for whom cycling was only a dream.
Rock and Roll Cycles and Therapeutic Bikes
The label therapeutic or adaptive cycles describes a wide range of bikes, many of which are not bicycles, but tricycles explains Joe Tarver of Rock and Roll Cycles. These trike-bikes are designed with various disabilities in mind.
Some of these include spina bifida, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, and paralysis. These therapeutic bikes can be modified to assist with balance, provide alternative pedaling methods, and more.
Common Adaptive Bike Styles
Therapeutic or adaptive bikes come in many forms, and below Joe Tarver of Rock and Roll Cycles lists the most common:
- Recumbent bicycles & tricycles
- Tandem bikes
- Carrier bikes
Trikes and recumbent trikes provide great stability for riders, while recumbent versions of bikes and trikes provide better weight distribution. Trikes can come in various styles as well, with 2 back wheels and 1 front wheel (like many common tricycles) – or with the option to have 1 wheel in the back, with 2 in front explains Joe Tarver of Rock and Roll Cycles.
Handcycles allow riders to power the tricycle with their arms instead of their legs. These trikes are closest to recumbent trikes in style.
Tandem and carrier bikes are similar in that two people are on the same bike but different in method. Tandem bikes allow both riders to power the bike while one steers. Carrier bikes are designed for wheelchair users to ride along on the bike.
Psychological Benefits of Therapeutic Bikes
No matter the style, adaptive cycles can be great for the rider’s mental well-being. First, there are the physiological effects of exercise by cycling. Then, there are the effects on one’s psyche.
After any moderate exercise, there is an increase of brain activity. Adults may experience reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety. Adults, as well as children can benefit from improved cognitive function after exercise explains Joe Tarver of Cycle for Life.
This is on top of stress relief, better sleep, and reduced fatigue. Each of these can have enormous long-lasting boosts to overall health and well-being. Not to mention the reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and other health risks.
Less measurable are the effects on an individual’s psyche. For those who have always had difficulty with forms of mobility or have had reduced mobility due to their disability, gaining or regaining a method of mobility can be extremely freeing.
Therapeutic cycles can provide a sense of freedom, joy and increased self-confidence says Joe Tarver of Rock and Roll Cycles. The near-universal pleasure from riding around town or out in nature should not be understated.
Social Benefits of Therapeutic Bikes
In addition to the benefits to mental health, therapeutic bikes can provide another way for disabled individuals to connect with friends, family, and the community. Naturally, this can provide further boosts to mental health, a sense of self and belonging.
Joe Tarver of Rock and Roll Cycles says that with adaptive bikes, cycling is more accessible than many other activities for the disabled. Cycling can be a great way to spend time with others and can be used to grow closer with friends and family as a bonding activity.
In a wider community sense, cycling can be a way to meet new people. This can be through community rides, races, and other events. Outside of these events, cycling can become a topic of conversation. A new way to relate with others can only improve social situations.
While the psychosocial benefits of adaptive bikes are many, it is important to note that cycling may not be an option for everyone with a disability. The common types of adaptive bikes can only accommodate certain disabled functions currently. However, with future innovative ideas, patents and technology, more inclusive riding may become available in the near future.
Restrictions aside, cycling is a great way for disabled individuals to have more freedom, maintain physical health, and improve their mental well-being.