A brief history of the handcycle
A full field of handcycles (also known as handbikes) is truly an amazing sight, reminding the spectators of Formula 1 race cars as they weave around corners and speed down descents. While modern racing versions are constructed of carbon fibre and use much of the same technology as bicycles, the handcycle is actually among the oldest of human-powered vehicles. Called the 'manumotive cycle' in the 1800s, the term 'vélocimane' came to the fore in France in the early 1900s, possibly due to the popular Velociman model produced by Singer of Coventry, England.
Early designs included power delivery through both chain-drive cranks with a rowing style (also known as cyclorameurs), and were either tricycles or quadracycles. Most modern designs are tricycles, and usually consist of a single front wheel and two rear wheels (although the reverse is also seen), with power output and steering through the front wheel. While many upright designs exist, for racing an aerodynamic design is the most common, with the riders lying on their backs, legs on either side of the front wheel.
The hand crank system is chain-driven, but with one significant difference from the bicycle: both cranks are beside each other rather than 180 degrees out of phase. This allows the rider to use his/her torso to increase power output.
Racing handcycles are made of lightweight aluminium and carbon fibre, with carbon fibre aerodynamic wheels and electronic shifting. For H1 and H2 category athletes, there are elbow operated braking and shifting systems.