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Knowing the  types of paralympic cycling requires considering a few factors:

  • the permitted equipment;
  • the tests taken;
  • the type and degree of disability of the athletes;

The combination of these criteria determines the Paralympic cycling disciplines in which each athlete will compete.

But don’t worry, below we’ve put together a simple guide to the types of paralympic cycling, their events and categories.

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Paralympic cycling events: variations in equipment

In paralympic cycling, the disciplines are adapted to allow athletes with different types of disabilities to compete on equal terms. In this scenario, there are four types of paralympic cycling:

  1. Races with adapted conventional bicycles
  2. Handbikes
  3. Tricycles
  4. Tandem

Adapted conventional bicycles

Conventional adapted bicycles are used by athletes who have a disability that allows them to use a two-wheeled bicycle, but which may require adaptations to optimize performance and safety;

In other words, the ordinary two-wheeled bicycle used in the Olympics is only adapted for the Paralympic events. There is no use of different equipment, just modifications to the bikes;

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Some examples of common adaptations in this form of Paralympic cycling include:

  • seat and positioning adaptations: in this case, the seat and pedaling position can be adjusted to better accommodate the rider’s physical needs..
  • Control adaptations: here, adaptations are made to the  brake and gearbox controls to facilitate use by athletes with mobility limitations.
  • pedals and supports: pedals can be adjusted or replaced with other devices that better suit the rider’s ability to pedal.

As you can imagine, this type of paralympic cycling is especially aimed at athletes with less physical impairment caused by disability.

We’ll see below that paralympic athletes are separated into classes according to their type of disability. Therefore, when an athlete chooses a type of paralympic cycling, they are usually in a specific class. Read on to find out more;


Handbikes are three-wheeled bicycles designed to be pedaled by hand

This type of paralympic cycling is suitable for athletes who have significant leg impairment  lack leg mobility;

In other words, we’re talking about athletes who can’t move their legs, so they have to “pedal” with their hands;

Unlike the first mode, this one will require different equipment from the traditional bike, as the adaptation is not enough.

tipos de ciclismo paralímpico
Types of paralympic cycling: handbike for “pedaling” with your hands.

Here are some characteristics of this type of paralympic cycling:

  • Specific design: the handbikes have an aerodynamic design and are equipped with a transmission system adapted to be operated manually.
  • Directional front wheels: the front wheels are directional to facilitate navigation and maneuverability.
  • Rider positioning: the rider is positioned lying down or semi-lying down, depending on the handbike model, to maximize aerodynamic efficiency and comfort.


Tricycles are used by athletes who need more stability than conventional bicycles can offer due to balance deficiencies or other physical limitations;

Here are some of the features of tricycles:

  • three wheels: tricycles have three wheels to provide additional stability, which is crucial for cyclists with balance difficulties.
  • seat and positioning: as with conventional bikes, the seat and positioning can be adjusted to suit the rider’s individual needs.
  • steering and control: the tricycle can have adaptations to the steering and control system to facilitate use by people with different types of disabilities.


The tandem is a bicycle designed for two people, with one rider at the front (pilot) and the other at the back (stoker);

This type of paralympic cycling meets the demands of visually impaired athletes who compete with a guide. Among the characteristics of tandems are:

  • Control and communication: the rider at the front controls direction and speed, while the stoker provides additional power. Communication between rider and stoker is essential for effective performance.
  • Visual adaptations: tandems can have visual adaptations, such as tactile or auditory signals, to help the guide inform the stoker of changes in speed, direction or strategy during the race.

Paralympic events: types of track and road cycling 

In the Paralympics there are three types of track cycling events:

  • counter-clock: speed races in which athletes have to travel around a 250m track, over distances of 500m or 1km from the starting position;
  • individual pursuit: paratriathletes compete over distances of 3km to 4km. The race takes place between two competitors, one next to the other. Whoever catches up with their opponent in the shortest time wins the competition;
  • Tandem or team sprint: in this cycling discipline, competitors must do three laps of the track and whoever does it fastest wins the race.

In the road cycling, the competitors all start together to complete 120 km and whoever crosses the finish line first wins;

Last but not least on the list of types of paralympic cycling is the three-athlete team relay. During the course, the athletes take turns to complete a route;

It’s also worth pointing out that cycling is part of the paralympic triathlon. In this case, it has its own classifications and disciplines;

Deepen your knowledge of the subject in the article, “Paralympic triathlon rules: everything you need to know!”. 

Paralympic cycling classes

Now that you know the types of paralympic cycling, you need to understand how paralympic athletes compete. The first stage is a classification that takes into account the athlete’s disability and its degree;

In the Paralympics, cyclists are divided into four classes: H, T, C and E. Each has its own subdivisions.

  • H1 to H5: athletes propel the bike with their arms (handbike) .
  • T1 and T2 (tricycle): cyclists with cerebral palsy whose disability prevents them from riding a conventional bicycle (they compete on tricycles).
  • C1 to C5: includes athletes competing on conventional and adapted bicycles, with physical-motor disabilities and amputees.
  • Tandem: class intended exclusively for  visually impaired people. The bikes are two-seaters and the rider in front, or “pilot”, can see normally.

Within each of these types of paralympic cycling there are further subdivisions. For example, among athletes in the H (handbike) class, athletes classified as H1, H2, H3 and H4 position themselves lying on the bike seat;

In the H5 category, they kneel and also use the strength of their torso to propel the bike.

In the case of the T class, T1 athletes are weaker than T2 athletes and both groups ride a tricycle;

In classes C1 to C5, in which paratriathletes ride conventional and adapted bikes, the lower the number, the more debilitated the athlete. In other words, a competitor classified as C1 has a greater degree of restricted movement than a C2, and so on.

All these divisions and types of Paralympic cycling allow the competitions to be even more fierce and really include people with disabilities, even the most severe ones;

So when you go to watch or take part in an event, remember to look at the types of paralympic cycling and appreciate the training of each of the athletes competing;

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