Motorcycle Trike Adaptations for Disabled Riders

Natalie Sieberichs Uncategorized Leave a Comment

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The first thing most people ask is “will I ever be able to ride again?” The answer is almost certainly YES, with due allowance for the nature of their disability. For instance, there has been at least one paraplegic that we know of that has successfully ridden a solo motorcycle, however, like the Knights of mediaeval times, it required a vast amount of money, and the assistance of several men and a small crane for him to mount the machine. No disrespect is intended by this: if you have the bottle (and the wallet) then it shows that the apparently impossible CAN be achieved. (If you don’t believe me, have a look at the links at the bottom of this page).

We’ll start with some basic information on the types of adaptation that can be done; more detailed information, and previous adaptations that have been featured in Open House, can be found in the menu on the left of the screen.

The range of adaptations is as broad as the imagination (and technology) will allow, including;

  • Thumb operated brake systems, to allow rear brakes to be operated by hand for people with leg amputations/disabilities. Also used extensively in ‘one handed’ controls for riders with an arm amputation, Brachial Plexus injury or any other disability that limits the use of a hand.
  • Twin lever units for motorcycles and trikes.
  • Hydraulic to cable conversion kits.
  • ‘Easy clutch’ kits for riders with reduced strength or mobility in their hands.
  • Electrically operated ‘push button’ gear-changers, for riders with leg amputation/disability.
  • Specialised sidecar units and ‘full hand control’ adaptations, for wheelchair users.
  • Specially built ‘full hand control’ trikes for wheelchair users and riders with ‘balance related’ disabilities.
  • Remotely operated side-stand adaptations, seating/back support adaptations, modified pillion seat adaptations, throttle adaptations and many more.
  • Ride from the wheelchair motorcycle/sidecar combination for wheelchair users who cannot transfer from wheelchair to a motorcycle or trike.

Right leg (Amputation or restricted strength/mobility):

This is usually a simple matter of transferring the rear brake control pedal to a handlebar-mounted lever. This can take the form of a thumb-operated lever or a more conventional lever mounted in tandem with the front brake lever or clutch lever.
Where the machine has a twin disc front braking system one of the callipers can be linked to the rear brake system (as on many Moto Guzzis) and the other front calliper used with a thumb-brake or tandem lever.
Another method of adapting the rear brake system is to use a linkage to transfer the brake pedal to the left side of the machine. This can be sited either alongside the gear pedal or directly behind it for heel operation.
1. Left or right hand twin levers
2. Left-hand thumb-brake (7/8″ bars only)
3. Crossover linkage to left side of bike

Left Leg (Amputation or restricted strength/mobility):

With the advent of the (Kliktronic) solenoid operated gear change system, adapting the gear change has been much simplified. The Kliktronic kit is an easy to fit mechanism, which operates the gear change by way of a pair of small push buttons mounted on the handlebars. This system operates off the bikes existing electrical set-up so you do not have the problems of recharging etc that are involved with pneumatic (air-shifter) systems. Though the Kliktronic is by far the most popular form of gear change adaption, there are other ways of doing it.
Using a mechanical linkage (either internal or external) the gear pedal can be re-sited to the right side of the machine (though this may reverse the operating direction).
Another method is to use a left-hand twist grip and twin cable system to operate a modified gear pedal (this does tend to require a lot of regular adjustment to compensate for cable stretch).
1. Electronic push button gear-changer (1″ and 7/8″ bars)
2. Crossover linkage to right side of bike
3. Twin cable twist grip on left side of bars

For any type of leg disability you may find it difficult to operate the side stand. This can usually be cured with the simply addition of a hand operated lever or moving it to the right side. There is an electric side stand adaptation available, but they are expensive.

Right arm (amputation, Brachial Plexus Lesion, reduced strength / mobility):

This is usually a simple matter of transferring the throttle and front brake lever to the left side handlebar. The front brake can then be operated by tandem or thumb lever and, in the case of a machine with a twin disc front brake, one calliper can be linked to the rear brake system for ease of use. Also the switch-gear would require adapting to suit left hand operation.
If the rider’s disability only involves difficulty with operating a twist grip throttle (i.e. fused or stiff wrist, tendonitis etc) the only requirement may be the use of a thumb operated throttle (as used on quads). Where it is a matter of reduced mobility or amputation of fingers it may be that a thumb operated brake lever will solve the problem.
1. Left-hand throttle
2. Left Thumb brake (7/8″ bars only)
3. Left-heel brake
4. Left-hand twin levers

Left arm (amputation, Brachial Plexus Lesion, reduced strength / mobility):

In most cases this is simply a matter of adapting the clutch operating lever and some minor modification to the left side switch-gear.
There are several ways to adapt the clutch lever depending on the severity of the riders’ disability. In the case of total loss of or loss of use of the left hand, the clutch lever must be re-sited elsewhere. Most commonly this is a matter of transferring the lever to the right handle bar either in tandem with the brake lever or by replacing the brake lever with the clutch lever and putting the brake on a thumb lever. This lever would have to be made by an engineer, as we do not have this as a kit yet.
Another option is a foot operated clutch although this tends to be less common and would probably require ‘forward’ controls, but can be used in conjunction with a Kliktronic push button gear changer.
A further option is to opt for one of the ‘automatic’ machines such as the Honda 400cc and 750cc auto models.
In the case of reduced mobility or strength in the left hand other options would be, an Easy Clutch kit or Hydraulic to cable kit, which makes the use of cable operated clutches much lighter, or a thumb operated clutch lever.
1. Right-hand thumb brake, using front brake lever as clutch
2. Right-hand twin levers
3. Left foot clutch with a push button gear changer on handlebars
4. Automatic gearbox

With all adaptations to suit riders with a hand or arm disability we strongly recommend the addition of a high quality steering damper and when necessary, Velcro glove to hand-bar grip

Wheelchair Users (bilateral amputation, paraplegia, MS, reduced mobility in legs, balance problems, etc):

With these types of disability one obvious problem is that of stability, which usually means the addition of a third road wheel whether this be in the form of a motorcycle/sidecar combo or a trike.
In the case of bike and sidecar combinations sometimes it is possible to utilise standard outfits when converted to ‘full hand controls’. But there are also manufacturers who make specialised sidecar outfits specifically for wheelchair users.
There is also a rev and go 3-wheeled scooter called a NIPPI that allows you to sit in the wheel chair and ride the machine, though these are only available up to 125cc.
In the case of trikes it is always preferable to have a trike manufactured to suit the individual rider. Where this is not possible, second hand machines can be modified to suit the needs of a disabled rider (i.e. full hand controls, stirrups, foot-plates, seating styles, automatic transmission, wheelchair carriers, etc).
There are ‘drop down’ stabiliser kits for motorcycles on the market but as yet we have not been able to fully test their viability for disabled riders. More information is available from Adaptive Motorcycles  1. Trike (Built to suit disability)
2. Bike and sidecar
3. Stabilisers (on a solo bike)

Some wheelchair users are concerned about difficulty in getting on or off their trike. A small clip from the Men and Motors program shows how this is done: – download (Windows Media Video, 230k)


The Kliktronic kits, Thumb-brake kits, and Hydraulic to Cable kits, can all be purchased at a discount price through the NABD grant system. For further info on prices see Grant Application Form or contact the Adaptations Officer.

(The NABD suggest that when using a thumb-brake, you use the thumb-brake to operate one front calliper and then link the other front calliper to the rear brake system)

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