Ready for Rio: Cycling, 16 facts

By Jillian Clarke | Sept. 18, 2014, 1 p.m. (ET)
Allison Jones
Allison Jones, a seven-time U.S. Paralympian in alpine skiing and cycling, won Team USA's first medal of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, a bronze in track cycling.

The Rio 2016 Paralympic Games begin in 720 days. Stay on track with these 16 facts about Paralympic cycling:

1. Paralympic history
Cycling first appeared at the New York/Stoke Mandeville 1984 Paralympic Games. There were nine countries that participated in seven medal events. A total of 20 male athletes and two female athletes competed.

2. Growing popularity
While only 22 athletes competed in cycling’s Paralympic debut, the sport has become the third largest Paralympic sport behind athletics and swimming. At the London 2012 Paralympic Games, approximately 450 cyclists competed in road or track. Some athletes compete in both types of the sport.

3. Terms to know
Cadence- Cadence refers to how many times a full pedal rotation is completed in one minute.
Velodrome- A velodrome is a banked oval track used for cycling races.
Stoker-A stoker is the cyclist who rides in the back on a tandem bicycle.

4. Classifications
Classifications for Paralympic cycling are based on the type of bicycle used as well as an athlete’s disability. Classifications include: B (tandem), H1-H4 (athletes who use a handcycle), T1-T2 (athletes who use a tricycle), and C1-C5 (athletes who use a bicycle, often with modifications). The lower the athlete’s class number, the greater the impact of their impairment on their ability to compete.

5. Riding tandem
Tandem cycling requires two cyclists on one bicycle. The bicycle is specially designed with two seats and two sets of pedals. Only the front cyclist can turn the bike. Visually impaired cyclists ride tandem.

6. Handcycle
Cyclists who have amputations or limited use of their lower body use handcycles for Paralympic cycling. Handcycles allow these athletes to use their arms to power the bicycle as opposed to their legs. Most handcycle athletes compete in a reclined position while others kneel. The first handcycling medal events appeared at the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games.

7. Tricycle
A tricycle is a bicycle with a third wheel. One wheel is located in the front of the bike while two wheels support the back. Paralympic cyclists who lack balance use tricycles for road racing.

8. London 2012
Paralympic cycling attracted 225 athletes to compete in 18 medal events for track cycling and 225 athletes to compete in 32 medal events for road cycling at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

9. Team USA
The U.S. has taken home 19 gold, 27 silver and 25 bronze medals for Paralympic cycling. This collection of 71 medals has made the U.S. one of the sport’s top-decorated countries.

10. Teams to watch
Since the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, Great Britain has swept a total of 42 medals for Paralympic cycling, with 25 of those medals being gold. Great Britain has taken first place on the medal standing board since Beijing. Team USA has seen recent success, however, winning more medals than any other nation on the 2013 and 2014 road world cup circuit.

11. Events
Paralympic cycling events include sprints, individual pursuits, a 1,000m time trial, road races and road time trials. Individual and teams events are also offered. The London 2012 Paralympic Games had the most medal events for Paralympic cycling since the sport debuted. The Games featured 10 men’s, seven women’s and one mixed events.

12. Classification by colors
Paralympic cyclists are required to wear helmets of certain colors that indicate the rider’s classification.

  • Red: Classes C5 (men and women), T2 men, H4 (men and women) and tandem men.
  • White: Classes C4 (men and women), H3 (men and women), Tandem women and T2 women
  • Blue: Classes C3 (men and women), H2 men and T1 women
  • Black: Classes H5 (men and women), C2 (men and women) and T1 men
  • Yellow: C1 (men and women) and H2 women
  • Green: Class H1 men
  • Orange: Class H1 women

13. Bike measurements
Before competing, cyclists must have their bikes measured by officials in order to make sure the bikes are within the correct size regulations. This is important because many bikes are custom made for the cyclists.

14. Cycling uniforms
Cyclists can choose to wear uniforms with shorts or long pants made of light-weight, tight-fitting material. Sleeves are either short or long and biking gloves are permitted. Tandem cyclists must wear matching uniforms. Team USA is outfitted by Zoca.

15. Where to watch track cycling in 2016
Paralympic track cycling will take place in the Rio Olympic Velodrome located in the Olympic Park in Barra. The complex will seat 5,800 spectators and will become part of Brazil’s Olympic Training Center following the conclusion of the Paralympic Games.

16. Where to watch road cycling in 2016
Paralympic road cyclists will ride in Flamengo Park located in the Copacabana region of Rio. Both the cyclists and spectators will get to enjoy incredible views of Sugarloaf Mountain and Botafogo Bay. Track cycling will take place at the Rio Olympic Velodrome in Barra.

To learn more about Paralympic cycling, visit U.S. Paralympics is the National Governing Body for Paralympic-eligible cycling in the United States while USA Cycling oversees Olympic cycling. Union Cycliste Internationale is the international governing body for both Olympic and Paralympic-eligible cycling.