Down’s Syndrome is a congenital condition in which a person is born with an extra chromosome. This changes how the baby’s body and brain develops which leads to mental and physical challenges.
People with Down’s Syndrome are all affected differently. It can cause learning difficulties alongside some physical changes in the body.
Physical Activity with Down’s Syndrome
One of the common symptoms of Down’s Syndrome is poor muscle tone or loose joints. People with the condition can also have small hands and feet or be smaller than other adults or children their age.
However most people with Down’s Syndrome are able to enjoy exercise in some form and benefit hugely from physical activity.
Cycling for Down’s Syndrome
In cycling terms, building an ideal tricycle for children or adults with Down’s Syndrome is usually a straightforward process as people with Down’s syndrome are generally very physically able though they are often smaller in stature and may have lower tone. This is easily accommodated in the build process for customised trikes in the adjustability of the seat and pedal cranks.
A person with Down’s Syndrome will usually have a learning difficulty ranging from mild to moderate, and it is in the narrowness of that high ranging ability that the need for careful assessment comes.
It is almost always true that trike riders with moderate to severe learning difficulties will only be able to manage to pedal fluidly with a fixed drive. This is because when we push on a pedal the effective torque range is only between one o’clock and five o’clock. Thereafter, to get the pedal to move between five o’clock and seven o’clock ( when you can then push down on the other pedal), you need to drag the pedal backwards. Whilst most cyclists do this instinctively without really thinking about it, those with severe learning difficulties find this a challenge, so they need a fixed drive where the momentum of the trike rotates the pedals through the dead zone automatically.
Riders with more moderate learning difficulties often cope very well with a freewheel drive and this is particularly true when biking with Down’s syndrome. There are many advantages to a freewheel drive, mainly in reduced effort, so why pedal downhill if you can coast? The problem is that it does not necessarily follow that a rider who can cope with a single speed freewheel drive will automatically cope with a multi geared drive.
This is because a multi geared drive trike, typically with a Shimano Inter 8 Hub, can go fast – and the faster it goes, the more difficult it becomes to keep up with the pedals. It is therefore always necessary to physically check that a rider who is competent with a single speed freewheel, can also manage a multi geared drive if that is the preferred option.
As a company, we build and ship custom made trikes all over the world without ever seeing the end user and guarantee that the trike will work. We can achieve this using a clever online assessment tool, videos, photographs and cooperation with healthcare professionals, and so on – but whether a rider will cope with a multi speed trike is the one thing we cannot reliably predict and an assessment is always necessary.
Of course there are other things that then need to be taken into consideration such as braking ability and danger awareness, but these issues can be resolved with innovations such as our Carer Control and Carer Braking functions. The trike can be fully accessorised as required and additional enhancements such as Trailer Trike and electric drives are also available.