Up Close With Some Adaptive Bikes For Kids

Little Ding is doing a new round of physical therapy at the RIC (Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago) and while we were waiting to start his session the other night we decided to check out a couple of the Freedom Concepts adaptive trikes they keep around to use as part of therapy.  The RIC is a big building in downtown Chicago and there is plenty of room to do a few loops around the entire floor on a one of these bikes.

The first bike we looked at was one from the Discovery series (here’s a link to the spec/options sheet), and it was also configured with full rear-steering capabilities – meaning that someone can walk behind the rider and fully steer and stop the bike.

Freedom Concepts Adaptive Bike - Discovery Series

This particular bike is designed for children who have simple balance problems as well as those with more involved cases of cerebral palsy, spina bifida, downs syndrome, head injury, muscular dystrophy, and autism.  It has flat foot plates with heel bumps and straps,  and a full upright seatback with seatbelt and straps.  Interestingly, this bike would not work so well for Little Ding.  His Cerebral Palsy affects his legs primarily, and there is no way he could climb over that center bar un-assisted without a step or permanently flat pedals.  If you want to see what kind of bike he currently rides (and climbs on from the back) take a look at this post.

Freedom Concepts Discovery Series -showing the rear drive

You can see how the rear drive works from this photo – someone behind the rider can control steering, and there’s also a hand-brake for the front wheel. Little Ding was more interested in the footplates in the above picture, then he realized it had alternate steering options.

Freedom Concepts Discovery Series Adaptive Trike

The front stem is adjustable, and there is a stabilizer spring on the front wheel similar to the one on my Dutch bike. Very interesting stuff to a mechanically-minded 6 year-old.

Freedom Concepts Discovery Series Adaptive Trike

Of course, being the excellent cyclist that he is, Little Ding checked the tires and announced  “These tires need some air”!

Freedom Concepts Discovery Series Adaptive Trike

As Little Ding got to work on his own exercises, I went over and looked over the red Adventure series bike they also had (here’s a link to the spec sheet for this bike).  These bikes are designed for older kids, generally 14 years of age and up, who have simple balance problems as well as those with more involved cases of cerebral palsy, spina bifida, downs syndrome, head injury, muscular dystrophy, and autism.

Fredom Concepts Adventure Series

The rear -wheel drive is a little different on this bike, and it has disc brakes in the back as well as a caliper brake on the front wheel.

Freedom Concepts Adventure Series adaptive Trike

There is a much sturdier front fork on this bike, with larger tires, though not so knobby as those on the Discovery series bikes.  It too has the wheel stabilizer.

Freedom Concepts Adventure Series adaptive trike

I’ve watched a couple of kids who have challenges standing without assistance get big grins when it is time to get on one of these bikes and ride around the building – even if they know they’re getting a little help from mom or dad who is walking behind them. Unfortunately, these bikes are incredibly expensive – $3700 – $4500! This tells me that most kids probably don’t have one at home.  I know we couldn’t afford one! There are funding organizations, and insurance may cover part of the cost though I’ve not looked into that so I can’t say for sure.

The therapists tell me that they are going to be getting in another brand of adaptive trikes soon, made by AmTrikes.  They tell me they really like them and more importantly, they are much more affordable – I have requested a chance to check them out when they do come in.  They also are trying to get a bike-riding event together at the RIC – which they have promised to keep us up-to-date on.  This spring or summer I want to try to coordinate an adaptive bike riding family day, perhaps in conjunction with Kidical Mass.  I’d love to see some adaptive bike makers stop by and show off their bikes to the kids. Buddy Bikes did say they want to participate.  Anyone else? Do you have an adaptive rider in your family who wants to come out and ride with us or do you make adaptive bikes?

If you’re interested in information on other types of adaptive bikes for kids, check out my adaptive bikes resource page.

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