Trail Guidelines

This primer is designed as a general guideline developed to aid anyone interested in designing and building “Accessible” a.k.a. “Adaptive” a.k.a “wide” trails for users with or without disabilities. The following is largely based on my opinions which will no doubt conflict with some others.

My Experience: For what it’s worth I’ve been riding off road handcycles for approximately 17 years now. I’m a T11/12 complete paraplegic and am paralyzed from the waist down due to a construction accident that occurred in the summer of 2001. I’ve had this condition for over 19 years now. For ten (10) years now I’ve been building custom off road handcycles for a living and have done so for various types of customers with a varing type of disability including but not limited to MS, paraplegia/quadriplegia/hemiplegia, CP, amputees, TBI’s and so on. So enough about me, lets talk trail building.

Adaptive offroad equipment offers people with disabilities the opportunity to enjoy natural environments that have been previously inaccessible with the use of standard mobility equipment (e.g., everyday wheelchairs). Every individual who accesses a trail is expected to do so within their abilities and use the trail at his or her own risk. The rules that apply to nondisabled hikers and mountain bikers also apply to people with disabilities who use adaptive offroad devices. The following elements allow ideal access for people who use adaptive offroad equipment.

Trail Width

  • Wide trails (≥ 36 in.) will accommodate most adaptive equipment.
  • Singletrack trails (12-35 in.) are often do-able if the region immediately off the trail is at the same elevation without major obstacles.

Cross Slope

Cross Slope and Off Camber (High Priority)

This is the biggest issue for most adaptive offroad equipment. Unlike two-wheeled bicycles, adaptive offroad equipment can easily tip over on off-camber sections of trails. 

  • Significant hazard for adaptive equipment (tipping point: ≥ 30º)
  • Rider’s balance must be considered (safe: 5º)
  • As close to level is ideal for greatest usability

Running Slope and Steepness

(Moderate Priority)

  • Most adaptive offroad equipment  can manage steep slopes (do-able: 30º, safe: ≤ 20º)
  • Steep slopes can be hazardous for adaptive offroad devices without adequate brakes or for ambulatory individuals using adaptive equipment (safe: ≤ 8º, ideal: ≤ 5º)

Turning Radius and Switchbacks

(Moderate Priority)

  • Adaptive equipment generally requires a wider turning radius. Sharp, hairpin-type switchbacks tend to be difficult, if not impassable, while sweeping, “flowy” turns can be handled by most devices.

Passing Zones

(Low Priority)

  • Due to the width of adaptive equipment, meeting or passing on the trail can be a significant event. Periodic wide spots in the trail can help with this.