When riding my bike, I want a mix of secure grip, safe grip and a device that is functional for other stuff than just riding the bike.
If you look for more tips about modifying / using a bicycle with a below elbow amputation, check links regarding "bike" (LINK), "biking" (LINK), and "bike mods" (LINK). There is a longer article in German regarding bicycle modification (LINK).
Holding on to handle bar with prosthetic gripper
The key to holding on to the handle bar is first and foremost a grip that is so reliable that it is that: reliable. I do not want to have any other grip than one that actually works very, very reliably. With that, I can only advise you to focus on that aspect. Reliable grip is the first priority. If one wants to use a terminal device or gripper that is covered by insurance, a TRS Jaws, Toughware Equilux or TRS Prehensor may be considered; Freelock or Mert Hand are dedicated bicycle handle bar grippers that may not be covered by insurance as they may consider that "recreational".
As riding the bike does transmit significant forces, often when one sweats, the socket and suspension are a second relevant aspect. I believe that a good prosthetist should be able to achieve that. The requirements of a good socket alone are reasons enough for me to use a well built, standard issue prosthetic socket and not some extra, special, "3D-printed" or otherwise fancy socket that ends up abrading my stump skin or that ends up breaking. Currently I use Ohio Willowwood Alpha gel liners, wearing tubular gauze underneath (directly on skin), and a pin lock system.
A third priority for riding bicycles comfortably is the ability to re-position the gripper while riding. When I can not re-position myself on the bike, I get shoulder and back aches after 20-30 minutes. To re-position the gripper, I need to let go and grab the handle bar at a different location, so the gripper needs to be actuated, I need to be able to actively control it while riding. The Mert Hand and Freelock do not allow for that (see below); they have other advantages. A myoelectric prosthesis was not fond useful for my riding, as the electrodes crap out once I sweat - and that happens often when I ride a bike, What works really well is a body-powered prosthesis: there, sweat does not interfere with the control; I identified, so far, to be particularly useful, the TRS Jaws, Toughtware Equilux or TRS Prehensor. However, it is possible to also really ride well with a Becker Imperial hand or a Becker Lock Grip hand. For riding a road bike with a drop bar, using an active gripper to use the various positions is almost a must anyway.
This is a VO-only (Voluntary Opening) device that works very well for bicycle riding. Read more here.
But if you need to change position, ... I need to let go then ride single-handedly for a while then be fast to grab the handle bar again. Fast and then snug as shit.
The Toughware Equilux combines the reliability of a Trautmann shaped hook (that does not open by prying it open from the inside) when used with Voluntary Opening control, with the extreme power and subtle to forceful control of a Voluntary Closing hook. It is a preferred gripper for advanced biking because you can switch between VO and VC. Read more here.
Paved road riding
Two bumpier rides from a trail in a forest with tree roots running across.
The TRS prehensor range of grippers is a most useful, versatile but also powerful adapter also for bicycle riding. It is a voluntary closing (VC) device that closes when I lean back, push my back out, stretch my arm when riding the bike. It is the only bike usable terminal device that is both very secure in that I can maximize the grip force actively, and safe, in that it lets go the very moment I stop pulling. Read more here.
A Freelock hand allows to clip to a handle bar without prior installation of an adapter on the handle bar. Read more here.
The Mert hand is a ball and cup type adapter for the bicycle handle bar. Read more here.
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Modifying bike for left hand control / right arm prosthetic use
I will never want to leave the act of braking, stopping my bike, to chance. So both brakes need to be actuated by my (human, own) left hand. There is no way I will have any sort of contraption or "attempt" for my brakes that somehow should be "tried" by using my prosthetic arm. Also, gear switches must be accessible instantaneously.
A comprehensive overview of my experience with modifying bikes for left handed / right sided prosthetic arm use was typed up in German (link).
I modified a few bikes over the years:
- Mountainbike GIANT ATX, 26 inch wheels, rim brakes: LINK
- Mountainbike CUBE Limited 2011, 26 inch wheels, hydraulic disc brakes: LINK
- Road bike BMC Alpen Challenge AC01 SORA, 28 inch wheels, hydraulic disc brakes: LINK
- Road bike Gerber, 28 inch wheels, rim brakes, comprehensive updates: LINK
- Road bike Colnago, 28 inch wheels, rim brakes: LINK
- Mountain bike CUBE Acid 2019, 29 inch wheels, hydraulic disc brakes: LINK