Introducing the Zwift Handcycle [2022]

@manda_F These look cool! I don’t ride a handcycle, but I just have one OCD tidbit to mention… shouldn’t the cranks be going in opposite directions? In all the pictures and the Zwift Insider videos the cranks are pointing the same way, but it seems like they should be opposite. At least, it seems a lot more efficient, especially on climbs. Same principle as having upright bikes’ cranks in opposite directions rather than one direction. On a steep climb, the circular motion of your arms/cranks would get stuck because it would be too hard to make a revolution(?).
Looking it up on google I get a lot of same-direction pictures, though.

That’s normal on handcycles. I had a service customer with a handcycle ask me to oppose the crankarms, and he quickly had me put it back because the pedals are used to steer the bike and he didn’t like how it handled with one arm forward and the other back.

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Interesting. Thanks!

There have been many studies on the effectiveness of riding handbikes. The result is that parallel cranking is the best. For many, many years, people have been riding this way. :slight_smile:


Cranks go in same direction otherwise the front wheel would be constantly steering back and forth

I’ve ridden & raced at an elite level on a handcycle since 2007, retiring in 2018. I can’t imagine any serious or competitive cyclist, conventional or adaptive, would use a Zwift GROUP RIDE to enhance their IRL performance in races. Zwift is great for programmed workouts & solo riding to improve performance and having the handcycle avatar as close to real life on those rides is practical. However I, & I imagine most adaptive Zwift users, tend to use a GROUP RIDE for recovery/socialisation/fun/easy riding. As pointed
Out in Aoi’s test, the handcycle avatar is at a distinct disadvantage when in a group on Zwift. Why have Zwift made it twice as hard (50% draft) for handcycles. It is like a step forward and two steps back. GIVE THE HANDCYCLE AVATAR EQUAL DRAFT CAPABILITIES AS CONVENTIONAL BIKE AVATARS! This will not disadvantage the adaptive rider in what Zwift advertise as a way to “make indoor training fun”.


The introduction of a handcycle is a good start from Zwift; albeit long overdue. That said, a lot more adaptive riders use recumbent trikes (tadpole or delta) than ride handcycles. What about blind riders and their pilots on tandems. @Zwift when are we going to see these in game?

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Draft is a major issue for hand cyclists trying to join a group ride. Our sub 2 last night had a hand cyclist doing 2.3 average and had to leave and change bikes after 20 minutes. A better solution could be to be able to toggle any bike in your garage to visually display as a hand bike (think April fools trike etc). Would just need a toggle button in the garage. Rider can choose best set up for their ride, then visually still be on a handbike, but with standard draft etc. Longer term the handbike displayed could include the selected wheels, Tron handbike, different handbikes based on aero and weight stars etc.


Yep, we know Chris. We’re looking into it.

I agree with Chris, we have a hand cyclist that we ride with in our group rides. He was so excited to have a more realistic avatar, and also we loved seeing the new hand cycle. That being said, it quickly became a problem, the watts he needed to push to just stay in the pack were to extreme. Zwift needs to rethink the hand cycle, it doesn’t need to be the same parameters as a real hand cycle. I am sure the Zwift concept isn’t the same as the “real” bike.


Tried it in my regular wednesday group ride yesterday. In that ride I usually have a blue graph with a lot of grey, yesterday I had a blue graph with a lot of green. And the camera angles are far too low, please give us the same perspective as the “ordinary” cyclists. This is a typical screenshot during a group ride:

I´m not keen to use it again if it stays this way.

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Looks like you’re in a fully faired recumbent HPV.

Sounds like if a group of similar power riders all towards the top end of their pen all picked the handcycle for a super flat course race, they would stand a decent chance of winning from a breakaway against riders on slippery road bikes.

My thanks to the Zwift team for the beginning stages of making handbikes happen. It’s a complicated issue, so also thanks for considering input.

As I see it, implementation is complicated for the following reasons:

  1. I’ve ridden with a dozen or more adaptive athletes on handbikes in the past, and only the very strongest are able to keep up with fast leg-cyclists. In part because leg>arm for power, but also because many adaptive athletes don’t even have full recruitment of arm and torso muscles (due to for example spinal cord injury). So IRL it’s difficult for a hand cyclist to join a group ride with leg-cyclists.
  2. Zwift is social, so we want hand cyclists to join our group rides. And I think maybe we even want it to be easier than it is IRL. I know hand cyclists who simply don’t do group rides with leg-cyclists because they have difficulty keeping up. I for one would love for Zwift to function as a place for them to join group rides.
  3. No one wants people using their legs to power a Zwift handcycle and get an undue advantage in racing.
  4. It’s problematic even for someone to regularly tear around Watopia putting out 700 watts using their legs and a handcycle avatar.
  5. I would guess that Zwift, and users, don’t want to have some sort of ‘proof of adaptive athlete status’ to use a handcycle in Zwift. (In part because, as was stated elsewhere, someone with no ‘need’ to use a handcycle could still buy and use a handcycle. It’s not about whether you ‘need’ one, it’s about whether you’re actually using your legs to power one in-game. If I buy a handcycle and hook it up to Zwift, seems like I should be able to use the avatar when I’m using the handcycle.

I’m not sure that all of these issues are able to be simultaneously addressed/solved. Sometimes things are like that. So it may come down to priorities. If we have to choose, is it more important to help increase inclusion in non-racing situations, or avoid cheating?

Or maybe they can all be solved. Is it possible to implement global differences in how handcycles operate in and out of racing? E.G. give the handcycle a wattage boost (and/or drafting changes) in group rides, pace groups, maybe even free riding, but not in racing? Make the non-racing wattage boost/drafting selectable/optional, so the rider can turn it on or off as wanted/needed?


I like this idea Chris. Something certainly needs to be improved for the handcyclists in Zwift. It is great to have the avatar in Zwift. I would hope that if the handcycle avatar is being used, it means that Zwifter is using their arms to power their bike and the representation of this in Zwift is awesome. Clearly there is an immediate disadvantage for handcyclist at the moment when riding with upright cyclists. Thus your toggle idea is great and easy fix to this. However when it comes to handcycle only events, there will need to be something built in to Zwift to eliminate that toggle capability, to bring all the handcyclists back to the even playing field within the handcycle arena in my opinion. I do hope that Zwift continues to build on this recent inclusion of handcycles and continue to work toward further inclusion of all the para-cycling community.