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bikers with disabilities

Thirty years ago, six motorcycle enthusiasts from Stockport and Manchester made a stand for bikers with disabilities who were effectively banned from the road because no one made machines that they could ride safely.

They simply didn’t accept that bikers with disabilities could no longer ride their motorcycles, scooters, sidecar outfits, trikes or quads, and they decided to do something about it. 

They began a project to adapt a motorcycle for a rider who had had his lower left leg amputated after an accident.

Bikesure encourages bikers with disabilities

As part of Bikesure’s Ride On campaign, which aims to get people – young, old, able bodied and disabled – on the road and celebrating their freedom, we take a look at the effect the NABD has had on the fortunes of bikers with disabilities in the 30 years since the charity’s creation.

Bikers with disabilities

A trike adapted for a wheelchair user. All pictures courtesy of the NABD.

NABD: how it all began

The six friends kicked off their project by forming a charity, the National Association for Bikers with a Disability (NABD), and a fundraising party was organised. Other bikers with disabilities heard about it, got in touch, and asked if they could ride specially adapted motorcycles too.

Within 12 months, the NABD had more than 100 members and had helped three bikers with disabilities get their machines adapted to enable them to ride independently and safely.

In those early days, each adaptation had to be designed from scratch, and many engineering problems had to be mastered.

bikers with disabilities

Trike adapted for a double leg amputee.

Charity has now helped 12,000 bikers with disabilities

From this humble beginning, the NABD was soon a world leader in the field of motorcycling for people with disabilities. Today, membership has grown to more than 9,000 members and there is an ever-growing number of affiliated clubs and businesses throughout the UK. This includes us – we have a scheme offering members a discount on their insurance.

To date the NABD has helped more than 12,000 bikers with disabilities to enjoy the freedom and independence of motorcycling.

The NABD has also been instrumental in the creation of motorcyclist support groups for bikers with disabilities in Norway, Sweden, France, Japan and the USA and is regularly consulted on issues relating to disabled motorcycling by the DVLA, Department of Transport, the Driving Standards Agency, and the Highways Agency.

bikers with disabilities

Kliktronic gear changer adaptation for left leg amputee.

Grants provided by the NABD

The NABD offers grants ranging from £250 to £2,000, to help with the cost of special adaptation work to motorcycles, scooters, motorcycle/sidecar combinations and trikes. 

Where necessary the NABD can also provide grants to adapt bikes and trikes to suit the needs of pillion passengers with disabilities. 

bikers with disabilities

NABD Chairman Rick Hulse is pleased to support Bikesure’s Ride On campaign.

‘When it comes to motorcycling, a disability need not be a handicap’ 

NABD chairman Ruck Hulse said: “There are very few disabilities that cannot be catered for with the correct combination of control adaptations and/or vehicle modification. 

“From paralysis due to brachial plexus injuries to amputations, paraplegia, incomplete quadriplegia to cerebral palsy, MS and/or paralysis due to stroke – with the correct adaptations and a little ingenuity, when it comes to motorcycling, a disability need not be a handicap.”

The NABD continues to be a successful campaigner for the rights and safety of disabled bikers. Rick added: “We have also been very successful in ensuring motorcyclists with disabilities are not unfairly penalised by vehicle and/or licensing legislation. 

“The NABD negotiated the Europe-wide exemption from MSVA testing for vehicles that are specifically built for the use of disabled people. 

“In 2019 the NABD negotiated an exemption that allows people with disabilities to ride trikes and/or sidecar outfits on provisional licences. This came about as a result of an NABD report for the Driving Standards Agency.

“More recently the NABD, as very active members of the Highways England Motorcycle Safety Group, have been at the forefront of improvements to the Strategic Road Network in England to make the roads safer for motorcyclists.”

bikers with disabilities

An NABD learner loner bike.

Wide range of adaptations for bikers with disabilities

There are a range of adaptations available for bikers with disabilities including:

  • Thumb operated brake systems: allows rear brakes to be operated by hand for people with leg amputations/disabilities. Also used extensively in ‘one handed’ controls for riders with an arm amputation, injury to the brachial plexus (the network of nerves that sends signals from the spinal cord to the shoulder, arm and hand) or any other disability that limits the use of a hand.
  • Twin lever units for motorcycles and trikes.
  • Hydraulic to cable conversion kits.
  • ‘Easy clutch’ kits for riders with reduced strength or mobility in their hands.
  • Electrically operated ‘push button’ gear-changers, for riders with leg amputation/disability.
  • Specialised sidecar units and ‘full hand control’ adaptations for wheelchair users.
  • Specially built ‘full hand control’ trikes for wheelchair users and bikers with disabilities affecting their balance.
  • Remotely operated side-stand adaptations, seating/back support adaptations, modified pillion seat adaptations, throttle adaptations.
  • Ride from the wheelchair motorcycle/sidecar combination for wheelchair users who cannot transfer from a wheelchair to a motorcycle or trike.

To apply for a motorcycle adaptation grant visit the NABD website. The charity also has a learner loaner scheme that can provide bikers with disability adapted 125cc motorcycles to help them take a Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) course. 

bikers with disabilities

Clutch lever adaptation for left arm amputee.

Peace of mind cover for your adapted bikes and trikes

While the team at NABD can help and advise with your bike adaptations, the team at Bikesure will be delighted to find the right insurance cover to help protect your machine. As a specialist insurer of bikes and trikes with adaptations for the disabled, we will find you an insurance policy that will match your needs. Call 0330 123 1028 for a swift no nonsense quote or request a call back at a time that suits you. NABD members have their own dedicated Bikesure number to call: 0800 089 0340.

Ride On