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one armed cyclist newbie needs help(20 posts)

one armed cyclist newbie needs helpJack H
May 14, 2002 3:35 AM
Hello - I've been loitering in silence here for a while.

I lost my left arm in an accident a few years ago - but have been bitten by the cycling bug. Lance Armstrong is amazing!

I need some tips and suggestions on how to ride (generally), corner, high speed downhills and climbing.

Shiting my front gear is impossible while I'm riding so I just stay on the smaller gear. I have to get off and adjust it to move it on to the big gear. Does anybody have a suggestions on how to fit a custom shifter that will meet my needs?

I fall quite a lot it seems - at least once every third ride but it's usually when I'm pulling away from a light so it's at pretty slow speeds. Even with the bruises and scrapes I'm really enjoying this sport.

thanks in advance for your help
re: one armed cyclist newbie needs helpda cyclist
May 14, 2002 3:48 AM
I've got a friend who is just now getting over a severely broken wrist that essentially has rendered him one-armed for the past few months. He rigged a special brace so that he could still ride his bike just using his left arm. Next time I see him, I'll ask him how he handled steering, shifting, and all that stuff.
I've seen a one-armed MTB racer...biknben
May 14, 2002 4:27 AM
I occasionally see a MTB racer with one arm. He has a prostetic (sp?) arm with a clamp on the end which holds the bar.

I haven't looked closely at his setup but I've heard he has both brakes and shifter mounted on one side. Keep in mind this is a flat handlebar not a road bar. Both brakes are mounted on top of each other so he grabs both at once. One shifter is mounted under the bar while the other is above.

I can't imagine how you'd set someting up like that with a drop bar. Might not be a bad idea to install a flat bar and mimic this setup until you find some more radical method.

Good luck.
May 14, 2002 4:36 AM
I assume that you are witout your left arm. Suggest that to change the front derail, you fit a downtube style shifter, but on top of the bars, near the stem (rather like Lance on his climbing rig!). That way you can do both with the one hand, and should be able to shift the derail without totally letting go of the bars.

Or possibly, a shifter on the down tube could be rigged with a "side paddle" so that you can change it with your left knee? Whichever you would find easier.

There used to be lots of bikes with the shifters mounted thus, though they are less popular now - I'll see if I can find one on the web - anyone else know a supplier - rivendell?

Anyhow, good luck - you'll get the hand of the lights eventually.

Out of interest - how do you find climbing - I'd have thought that must be difficult?

Hope that helps.

re: one armed cyclist newbie needs helpSteveO
May 14, 2002 4:38 AM
I cant offer much on cornering, climbing, etc, as im mostly a trialist.

As far as your front gear...if you dont live in a very moutainous area... take it off!!!

flatlanders really dont *need* the extra front gear; most people would do fine with a single chainring which optimizes the rear cluster. I havent ridden a bike with a front chainring in a decade.

Good luck in your new pursuit!!
Courage.Len J
May 14, 2002 4:49 AM
I am awed that you would try this. Way to go!

I assume from your description that you don't have a prosthesis (sp?), If you did, I think that it would help with the stability.

The only other solution that I can think of, besides what already has been said, is an MTB gripshift type shifter. I'm not sure that is the right term, but I'm talking about the type that is a grip that you turn to shift. You could mount this on the right side. The other altenative would be a bar end shifter.

It seems like the best bar alternative might be a flat MTB bar. I suspect that you are unable to change hand positions anyway (since you only have one hand on the bars).

Once you work out a solution for the front shifting then climbing can be adressed through the use of a triple which would allow you to sit & spin up anything.

Bike handling, I think, is going to be a learning experience. As you get more adept at one handed riding, you will get better at this.

As far as starting at a light goes, My wife rides a recumbent which (obviously) prevents her from standing to start (similar to your problem I suspect). She has learned that she must downshift one or two gears prior to stopping in order to allow her to start easier. This prevents her from falling at the start. You may want to try this. The trade off is that you will start slower, but it is easier to stay upright.

Good luck & let us know how you make out.


PS Did I say how impressed I am with your effort?
How about a bar end to shift the front?Spoke Wrench
May 14, 2002 4:50 AM
You can shift a bar end with just your little finger so you never have to completely release your grip on the handlebar. You also have much better control of the bike with your hand on the end of the bar than with your hand near the stem.
Internal Hubdaniell
May 14, 2002 4:54 AM
I read somewhere that there is a German made internal hub that will give you 14 speed. I forgot the name of it, but I am sure someone here will know.

Another good idea.Spoke Wrench
May 14, 2002 5:16 AM
One of the nicest things about an internal hub is that you can shift it while you are stopped. It will let you pick an easier gear at the stop light and make starting easier. Maybe reduce the number of falls you were mentioning.

I think that Profile makes a gizmo that allows you to operate both brakes from one lever.

All it takes is money.

Good luck.
May 14, 2002 6:05 AM
it has range 514%?

the other alternatives are SRAM and SHimano 7sp Nexus here's more info:

most 7sp hubs have range 250%+ more then enough for road

BikePartsUSA has some, also check good luck
Internal HubShad
May 14, 2002 8:09 AM
Greg Herbold was showing off SRAM's new system last Thursday on OLN. It has only a single chain ring, three internal hub gears and 9 regular cog gears and is all controlled by the right hand. Don't think it would work with road bars though.
re: another suggestiondzrider
May 14, 2002 5:26 AM
For shifting the front derailleur, you could mount an old mountain bike shift lever on top of your handlebar between the brake hood and the stem. They are available from Loose Screws.

There was a guy with one arm here in CT who road in crits so keep at it. What's possible is defined more by one's imagination and willingness than by one's gifts or limitations.
E mail meDMoore
May 14, 2002 6:30 AM
There's a local racer, cat 3 I think, with an arm that was so badly injured in a motorcycle accident that it is badly atrophied. He straps it to his side when he rides, so functionally it's the same as if amputated. Awesome rider, routinely crushes lots of people in our local rides, including crits and mountains.

Contact me by e-mail, and I'll try to get you two in touch with each other.
re: one armed cyclist newbie needs helpjaybird
May 14, 2002 7:01 AM
I don't know of anyone with one arm but but if you still have all of your brain you are a couple steps ahead of most of us here...

FWIW, I know a guy with one leg that kicks ass. he is actually on the cover of the most recent REI/Novara bike catalog.

you could easily set up your bike with an sti lever for the rear and a bar end for the front der. Otherwise get a 10 speed setup and use a 45 or 47t front chainring and you will still have more gears than you need.

ride on...
Front shifter solution!Justride
May 14, 2002 7:34 AM
Very inspirational stuff!Reminds me of the one legged bike messenger profiled in some cycling mag a couple of years ago. Where there is a will there is a way.

You could use a device made by Tom Kelly at Kelly bikes called a Take Off to mount a front down tube shifter under your rear STI or Ergo lever. You could then shift both levers without taking your hand off the bar. I will include a JPEG and url so you can see what I am talking about. I hear Tom Kelly is a good guy so he might be able to advise you if you have problems. Good luck and keep riding!
Possibly a few more solutions...Gator
May 14, 2002 8:03 AM
First off, MAD props for getting out there and doing this, that takes some serious moxie, man.

Anyhow, I've seen some great suggestions. One possible suggestion might be Mavic's electronic shifting system. I don't know a) if it's still available b) if it works well or c) if it's now more reasonably priced, but this would seem ideal given your situation. I know Shimano also makes an air-activated shifting system for downhill bikes. There was also an article a few years back in Mountain Bike about a guy who lost his arm at the shoulder who had both shifters and brakes rigged on one side of the bar; I'll see if I can find it.

I might also suggest talking to Shimano and SRAM directly to describe your situation. These guys might be willing to help you out, or even build something for you; if nothing else, it would be great PR for them, you know?
I'm in similar situationWalter
May 14, 2002 8:25 AM
A motorcycle accident in 1993 left me without use of my left hand so I know where you're coming from. Over the last few years I have come up with a few workable solutions. Email me at and will be happy to send pictures and descriptions. The front shifter that JustRide posted is interesting and I have never seen it before. I use an older mtn bike thumbshifter to get the same result. Quality Bike Products sells a brake coupler that will allow you to work both brakes from one lever. With these modifications and either Campy Ergo or Shimano STI you can pretty well operate the entire bike from the right side of the bars. I'll be happy to talk about handling, etc but the primary thing is experience. Good luck.
Seen this one.....jim hubbard
May 14, 2002 11:14 AM
There is a guy who rides in my area that has also lost one oh is arms(can't remember which one). The solution is to shift the sti lever onto the otherside so that they are both together. This does work. The bastard beat me in a sprint when he got the jump on me(heh heh). He struggles with cornering as would be expected, not being able to lean into the bars on the side with no arm. Climbing can be resolved by using small gears so as to spin and not mash, that way there is minimal pulling on the bars. He went to the World disabled games in Switzerland last year and did well. Best of luck, and you are an inspiration yourself.
re: one armed cyclist newbie needs helpmikemca
May 14, 2002 3:22 PM
try mavic mektronic shifters
re: one armed cyclist newbie needs helphectolyte
May 14, 2002 8:46 PM
There is a mountainbike video "big rocks, hard knocks". Ask around at local bike shops, most of them will rent videos and a lot will have this one. There is a man who does some very skillful riding with a very custom prosthetic arm. He can tug on it and put weight on it to steer and it has a fox vanilla shock at the elbow. It looks really nice. Ask about him in the "passion" and "downhill" message boards on because I'm sure somebody over there knows how to get in touch with him if you want to ask that guy some questions.
keeping only one front gear is a good option. You are not limited to the gears that are on your current setup, you can get a front ring in any size you want, and you can get a mtb cassette(i think you can get something like 12-36) with a wide range of gears to give you more options.
If you want front gears, a bar end shifter is a good idea because it keeps the gears right near your hand, also you can mount a mtb shifter. They come in a variety of shifting styles, you should check out what they have at your lbs to see what you might be able to work.