One arm cycling


New Member
Hi All,
I've only just joined your forum as a result of searching for advice on the safe ways of cycling with the use of only one arm. I appologise if I am in the wrong thread but 'Know How' seemed appropriate.
It is 40 years since I last rode a cycle but am gaining confidence on my lady wife's folding bike. Brakes seem to be the big issue and I am investigating two different approaches:

  • find a safe way of using one hydraulic brake lever to operate both front and rear brakes or;
  • stick to normal front braking system and have a back-pedal hub brake installed on the rear wheel.
I would love to hear the (many?) pros and cons of either systems but mainly I want to be able to brake safely and with confidence.

Any thoughts would be listened to avidely.
Regards, birder56


New Member
you could just use a normal braking system - by joining two brake wires to one lever (used to be done in the old days on time trialing bikes)

for gears you could use a rapid fire gear lever and a gripshift lever on the same side of the bar or a rohloff 14 gear hub system

and if you only have one arm you could cut the bar in half ( a mate of mine did that once - made a lot of people look)


New Member
Thank you for your suggestions and some of the amusing comments in the various links. Recumbent bikes were considered along with various trikes but they are bulky and awkward to transport as the original concept was to carry around in a motor-home. For the moment I am persevering with the two wheeled variety.
Main reason for asking was to see if anyone had direct experience of the problem. I am told the brain accepts and compensates for holding the handlebar(s) off-centre and it sort of does but it still doesn't feel secure and it is difficult to hold a steady line while riding.
I'm following some of the other links given (thanks again) but the aim remains to stay cool and safe on a 'mountain' bike which I intend to achieve.
Any further links to a magician with hydraulics or the mysteries of hub brakes will be welcome.
The result and method of achieving it will be posted back for any future interested cyclist.


Post of The Year 2009 winner
Bromley, Kent
birder56 said:
Recumbent bikes were considered along with various trikes but they are bulky and awkward to transport as the original concept was to carry around in a motor-home. For the moment I am persevering with the two wheeled variety.

That's fair enough. London Recumbents have a fair amount of info about cycling with special requirements, and are normally pretty helpful. I note they have upright trikes (, and are able to advise on fitting single hand controls to a standard bike.

Bear in mind that the new season of recumbent trikes almost all fold, and that whilst probably more expensive (and potentially) unwieldy than an upright, the learning curve can be very short indeed.


Über Member
re: hydraulic brakes. the way I would have thought it could be done is to have a bias valve which limits the amount of fluid* going to the rear so applies the rear brakes much less than the front - done on race cars - and can be adjustable.

* not 100% sure that is the priniciple of operation but they do work.

you can also do the same by careful choice of brake piston diameter or have a much smaller disc on the rear, not uncommon.

downside would be that to operate 2 brakes from one lever is that the level travel would increase due to having to move more fluid.

good luck with your venture, sounds scary to me just thnking about it.


Well-Known Member
George Longstaff does a lot of stuff for people with various physical problems, they should be able to offer advice


Hello there

two stis on one side of the bars as seen here on russ white bike, he's on the GB paralympic squad so if it works for him...

he also has both shifters and brake levers on the left side of the bar on his mtb, but i can' t find a decent pic


New Member
I want to thank everyone who offered advice and give a brief description of the solutions currently being tried should there ever be anyone else who need to solve the same problem of riding a bike using just the one arm.

I was particularly impressed by the paralympic rider and figured that if he could do it then so could I but I had to adapt his technique for use on flat bars. As these photos show, I've settled for a Giant Talon1 bike as the starting point for a hydraulically disc braked bike. Hopefully the photos will show I am experimenting with both front and rear brake levers on the same side and this is working very well so far.
(Not sure I've sussed the photo uploading correctly!)
Having both front and rear gear changers together is a bit more awkward (mostly caused by the bulk of the twist grip changer used for the front gear set) but I'm gradually getting used to it. It is not conducive to fast gear changing when there is a rapid change in incline, particularly if I also need the brakes but it is early days on the learning curve.

It is still possible that I may opt for a 'coaster' rear brake with a good internal geared hub to simplify matters but I keep hearing iffy reports of the capability of 'coaster' braking.

If any East Kent riders ever land on this forum, I particularly wish to thank them for their face to face advice and apologize if I am the slow one in their way on the 'Crab & Winkle Way' or the 'Viking Trail' while I gradually get up to speed.

One last thing, I am so glad to finally get back into cycling after 40+ years of assuming it was not possible.


New Member
Athens, Greece
Looks like i'm a bit late to this party sorry.

I think you've pretty much figured out what i've found to be the best configuration, only thing i'd advice is to move the other gear shifter over as well.
Does it fit over the gripshift?

Pretty much identical but here's my current setup.




I've various other configurations, from combining both brakes (you really do need separate brake control) to having 2 bar ends configured so as i have a small section of bar running parallel with the handlebar (too long a reach).

One thing i found really helped was fitting a Hopey steering damper.
It's a pricey part, but it really helps keep the bike a LOT more stable.



Hope that helps



I am very impressed that someone with one arm rides a bike. Hats off. In terms of practical advice I can say that in the 80s a friend had a German bike with a coaster hub. It was very effective, so much so that as teenage boys we would spend our time skidding sideways on lanes, grass and gravel. If it can stand that kind of abuse (which it did, for several maintenance-free years) then it may well work for you. Enjoy your biking.


New Member
Well my thanks to Mark (cbr6fs), that is definitely worth a WOW! I had opted for the original shifter for the rear but a twist grip shifter for the front gears. Having seen your arrangement I will experiment to see if both will cohabit on the right hand side as it may prove less bulky than the current arrangement. I also played with some of the alternative philosophies (like dual braking with one lever, etc) but agree that present set up seems to work. Working out the exact configuration of all 4 components really is a 3 dimensional jigsaw puzzle isn't it. Very difficult to show in a photo.

Studied your photos at enhanced sizes but still need to ask if you could advise the exact sequence in which the clamps of each brake lever & shifter is attached to your bars starting from the inner one and working out? My guess is:
front shifter, front brake, rear shifter, rear brake. This is different to mine but I'll await your views.

I was not aware of the Hopey steering damper but that sounds like the answer to my main problem of holding a narrow line and giving time to scratch the nose without stopping (have to be a bit quick at the moment). Reviews of the Hopey seem very positive so I'll be ordering one tomorrow.

I am also curious regarding the make/model of holder you have installed your Garmin gps unit in?

Thanks also to 'battered' re experience with the 'coaster' brakes. I'm holding that in reserve for now as my engineering background just makes me more confident with hydraulic discs both front and rear until it becomes obvious that there is a reason for change. Appreciate the comment about riding with one arm, I merely regret that I thought it would be impossible for so long. Great fun now!
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