TheraTryke combines upper and lower body exercise for paraplegics

After taking a look at the Jet Blade hydroplaning watercraft last week, we were alerted to another senior design project from Calvin College, Michigan. A different group of students has designed and prototyped a device they’re calling the TheraTryke. Aimed at those with MS, spinal cord injuries, or complete paraplegics, it lets riders use their hands, feet or a combination of both together to propel themselves forward.


The TheraTryke offers upper and lower body exercise in a fun mobility device for paraplegics. New Atlas

By Loz Blain, New Atlas May 25, 2015

Intended as both a therapeutic and recreational vehicle, the TheraTryke gives those with limited or no use of their legs a fun way to get outdoors and get some exercise and get both the upper and lower body moving. Even if the rider only uses their arms, the recumbent bike moves the lower body around and exercises legs that would otherwise spend most of their time motionless.

Many paraplegics and those with limited leg function try to find ways to continue exercising their lower body – exercise and stretching is said to help cut down on the spasm and muscle atrophy issues that tend to develop when limbs aren’t able to be moved. Also, if you’re hopeful that your paralysis may one day be cured, you can see how you might want to keep your legs in the best shape possible.

The TheraTryke is designed to help in this regard, diverting some of the power from its hand crank to pump the rider’s legs around in a cycling motion. It’s like a manually operated, outdoor exercise centric version of something like the RT300 rehab therapy system – although the RT300 also incorporates electric muscle stimulation to tone muscle.

The TheraTryke's hand crank moves the cycle, but also moves and stretches the rider's legs

The TheraTryke’s hand crank moves the cycle, but also moves and stretches the rider’s legs. New Atlas

Theratryke uses a Shimano Nexus 7 gearing system that enables continuous gearless ratio changes controlled by a hand dial. But the ratio of hand turns to leg turns appears to be fixed – one paraplegic we ran the idea past suggested that the trike might be more of an attractive option for her if it was possible to lock the legs when the going gets tough.

The Calvin College team will be taking their TheraTryke to a hospital in the Grand Rapids area for feedback on the design. For a fully detailed proposal on the TheraTryke, as well as engineering information and a business case, check out the Final Design Report below.

Similar combo-pedal bikes for able-bodied riders include the Varibike and the Raxibo.

Loz Blain
Loz has been one of our most versatile contributors since 2007, and has since proven himself as a photographer, videographer, presenter, producer and podcast engineer, as well as a senior features writer. Joining the team as a motorcycle specialist, he’s covered just about everything for New Atlas, concentrating lately on eVTOLs, hydrogen, energy, aviation, audiovisual, weird stuff and things that go fast.

Source New Atlas


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