There are 3 different types of manual wheelchair attachments for active user wheelchairs. Remember, we're focusing on powered add-ons for people personally operating their own wheelchair.
- Fully Electric Attachments
- Manual Handcycle Attachments
- Hybrid Electric-Assisted Handcycles
In this guide we will explore the benefits of the different attachment types. Let's get started!
FULLY ELECTRIC ATTACHMENTS
Fully electric attachments for manual wheelchair are battery-powered add-ons that turn your wheelchair into a sporty 3-wheeler. Most fully electric options have top speeds of 10 - 15 miles per hour with a range of 15 - 18 miles on a single charge.
Electric attachments are great for manual wheelchair users who don't have much arm strength or have joint pain that makes cycling with their arms difficult. Just snap the attachment in place and push the power throttle with your thumb to start your ride and regulate your speed. Most electric attachments also have a separate brake lever so you can slow down and stop safely on hills and corners.
MANUAL HANDCYCLE ATTACHMENTS
Like the name describes, manual handcycles work a lot like a bicycle where power comes from the user's physical effort. But with handycles, all of the energy comes from the user's arms. Most handcycles have a gear system (like a mountain bike) that improves the energy output from the user so you won't get tired quickly while pedaling. This is perfect for long rides and hills since you can shift gears for a comfortable drive.
Manual handcycles turn your wheelchair into a bicycle for your hands. The biggest advantage to handcycling is it's a GREAT form of of exercise for your arms, chest, and abdomen. You can also go a lot further with a handcycle than a manual wheelchair alone because you can coast on flat, paved surfaces with very little effort.
HYBRID ELECTRIC-ASSISTED HANDCYCLES
Electric-assisted handcycles are hybrid wheelchair attachments that let you pick between electric or manual power. Feeling tired after pedaling for a long time? Just switch over to electric power and let the battery do all the work. Want to get some exercise? Just grab the hand pedals and go to work!
Hybrid handcycles are popular for people who expect to use their manual wheelchair attachment a lot and want the option to switch between cycling with their arms and letting the battery do all the work. Hybrids really are the best of both worlds if you want to use your wheelchair attachment in all kinds of different settings.
WHAT MAKES A GOOD WHEELCHAIR ATTACHMENT?
The best manual wheelchair attachments are made with lightweight aluminum frames so you can transport your add-on easily in the back of a car or on a flight. High quality aluminum also reduces vibration for the user and is more durable so your attachment will last for many years without breaking down.
You also want to consider the comfortability of the attachment you choose... nobody wants to buy an expensive wheelchair add-on only to find it is too uncomfortable to use. The best attachments and handcycles have ergonomic handlebar grips and the ability to adjust the handlebar height so your wrists and forearms won't ache after a long day of cycling.
You also want to consider the amount of time it takes to attach and detach your wheelchair attachment when it's not in use. Wrestling with your wheelchair attachment for longer than a minute is super frustrating. A lot of high-quality wheelchair attachments actually have kickstands like a bike so you can stand them upright when you detach if you just need to wheel inside a store or up to a table for a meal but don't want to lay your attachment down on the ground.
If you're using a fully-electric or hybrid wheelchair attachment then you have to consider the battery longevity before you purchase. Do you expect to use your manual wheelchair attachment over distances longer than 10 miles? The last thing you want is to get stranded on a hillside with a dead battery. High-quality wheelchair attachments have specially-designed batteries that will carry you between 15 - 18 miles on a single charge. That's a long ride!
This should go without saying, but you should consider the average and top speed of the wheelchair attachment you are thinking about buying. The best electric wheelchair attachments have speed settings that allow you to turn down the power so you can coast along at a comfortable cruising speed or maneuver tight spaces. Then you can power up for a more sporty experience or if you just need to get to your destination quicker.
Yes, you speed demons - brakes matter too! Whenever you're dealing with higher speeds you want to make sure you have durable, trustworthy brakes that will work for a long time and won't wear out quickly. The best wheelchair attachments have brake levers near your hands so you can react quickly and stop on a dime.