For children with high or low tone in the lower extremeties, the simple joy of bike riding can be hard to come by. There are some great organizations that help with adaptive bikes for people of all ages (we have had great experiences with Ambucs). For those families that are unable to get an adaptive bike for their little boy or girl, one helpful DIY project can get your child on an existing tricycle: footholds or strap-pedals. These add-on foot holds can be made in ANY size and can fit just about any standard tricycle pedal. I say tricycle because something like this would NOT be helpful on a regular bike as the rider’s feet are strapped in, thus making removal of the foot from the pedal to brake/stop/balance impossible. So again, these are for TRICYCLES of any size. Please also remember to ALWAYS wear a protective bike helmet regardless of age/skill level/bike stability. A seat belt of some sort is highly recommended. Working with your child’s physical therapist to best devise appropriate tricycle add-ons will be very helpful!
Towards the end of last school year, we had the opportunity at Colten’s EarlyOn preschool to put him on an adaptive bike. This was a hand-cycle and foot pedal tricycle. Having tons of bikes at home and wanting to encourage the pedaling motion in his legs/hips, we wanted to figure out a way to get him some pedal straps for our existing bikes so his feet could stay in place. While Colten has some strength to push with his legs, being able to keep them on the pedals seems to require more control throughout his lower extremities than he has right now. After talking with our EarlyOn physical therapist, she showed us what some families have used on their home tricycles… a custom made foot-hold that can go on any pedal. They had someone local make them a bin to share with the students, but were on their last two pairs. Knowing that I have a wonderful cousin who does amazing woodworking, I took a plethora of pictures of the original design and sent them to him. So hopefully with these pictures, you too can find someone (or DIY!) to recreate adaptive pedals for your child!
Depending on what size you are making yours, your supply needs may change slightly. The pieces are fairly basic and you can hopefully figure out how to adapt sizing to your needs.
- Bolts, washers, wing nuts (4 of each): the bolt needs to be long enough to go through 2 layers of the wood, plus the depth of the pedal, plus a little extra (too much extra and you may risk dragging the bolt on the ground while pedaling; so wood depth x2 + pedal depth + 1/2″ maybe)
- something to drill a hole through the wood that will accommodate the bolt; these holes will need to be counter-sunk
- sturdy wood piece, approximately 1/2″-3/4″ thick: you need enough wood to make two (2) foot plates that are about the size of your child’s foot – if you have a young child that’s growing fast, make the plates a big larger so they can grow into them
- something to cut wood with
- PVC cap or tube: this is for the heel hold so you need a width large enough for the foot to sit in
- something to cut PVC with
- screws and washers (6 of each; these are for attaching the PVC heel piece)
- dual-sided hook and loop (Velcro style) straps: we actually used (for something else but similar strapping need) hook and loop cable ties found in the AV section of a home improvement store; you should be able to find these types of straps in some form or another; you need enough to make 2 straps on each foot hold that will go over the shoe – extra length isn’t bad, you can always cut it
We don’t have progression photos because we did not build these ourselves. But hopefully our explanation of the pictures can help you to build a pair!
We did not get much use out of our pedals last year. Our son was unable to propel the bike with his legs; we just pushed him around. Without a handle on this tricycle, it got old, fast 🙂 This year, after he had some time on a hand-cycle with foot pedal tricycle, he asked to ride our tricycle at home. I put the footholds on and told him that this bike didn’t have hand pedals like the other bikes he rode – that he would need to use his legs. Expecting him to basically sit there and not go anywhere, imagine my surprise when he did this… [ watch video on YouTube ]
Good luck with your pedals, and happy and safe riding!