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UltraBike

Dan Smith Blind Cyclist tries out the UltraBikeThe UltraBike

What is the UltraBike?

It’s actually an ultrasound ‘kit’ which has been designed so that people who are blind or visually impaired can cycle independently. The kit fixes onto the centre of the handlebars on any bicycle so it’s completely detachable and can be used on any type of bike.  The kit contains two ultrasound sensors that are positioned on the front, that point directly forwards but angled slightly outwards by 5 degrees. This is to ensure that the sensors can detect not just what’s in front of the cyclist, but what is also at either side of them, but always looking ahead.

Attached to the kit are two ‘arms’, one on either side and they contain a tactor button. These arms are positioned at either end of the handlebar and can be moved around so that the cyclist can position their thumbs on the buttons but still be able to hold onto the handlebar, steer the bike and use the brakes.

The tactor buttons will vibrate when the sensors detect the boundary of the cycle track, giving ample warning so that the cyclist can turn away from the obstacle.

How far ahead does it detect?

The sensors detect at a range of 8 metres (but this setting can be changed to whatever the specific requirement of the track is).  This range setting allows the cyclist to detect well ahead of themselves and give them time to turn into a bend without cycling too acutely into or off the side of the track and the nearer the cyclist gets to an obstacle or the boundary of the track, the level of vibration will increase.

Can it be used on a road or for going down the street?

No, the UltraBike has been designed to be used on a supervised cycle track. At the present time it’s being used by cycling clubs who have blind and visually impaired cyclists that normally ride tandem and rely on a sighted front rider to lead them, but with the UltraBike kit, the cyclist can be a totally independent rider whilst cycling safely around a cycle track.

What are the Benefits of it for Cycling Clubs?

Currently cycling clubs rely on sighted pilots to ride tandem with people who are visually impaired or blind and this restricts the number of people able to participate in cycling activities.  The UltraBike kit can be adapted for most types of bicycles, eliminating the reliance on sighted guides. 

It is an opportunity for cycling clubs to increase their membership by offering safe and supervised cycling activities that allow people who are visually impaired or blind to participate independently in, which can help to build their confidence and esteem as well as providing an invaluable opportunity to meet new people and make new friends, thus increasing the diversity of the club’s membership.

The kits can then be removed allowing sighted cyclists to use the bicycles too.

What are the Benefits of it for people who are blind?

The UltraBike kit opens up a whole new world for adults and children who are visually impaired or blind, giving them the chance, not just to participate in club cycling but to improve their health and wellbeing too.

Currently if you are visually impaired, the only option for you is to ride tandem. 

For those individuals who have never cycled before, the UltraBike kit can be applied to a tricycle so the rider does not have to worry about balancing or staying on the bicycle whilst at the same time, learning how to use the vibrational feedback on the tactors.  For a novice cyclist, this is a great start.  For those more experienced cyclists, the UltraBike kit can be applied to any two wheeler bicycle.

Where can I found out more information on the UltraBike?

The UltraBike has been featured on many websites and television programmes.  For further information on cost and how to apply for an UltraBike kit, please contact our offices – our contact details are on the opposite page or if you are a cycling club and would like to arrange an UltraBike demonstration cycling day for your members who are visually impaired, then please get in touch with us.

Have people who are blind or visually impaired tried it already?

Yes, our first cycle event was held in Bristol in July 2012 with ‘Two’s Company’ part of Life Cycle UK.  Here's what some of the Two's Company riders had to say about the UltraBike:

“It is the stuff dreams are made of. There is a lack of opportunity for blind and visually impaired people to exercise outside and this is so empowering. It is amazing that the UltraBike technology allows you to correct your course. I am loving the experience"

"It was so empowering to be able to ride on a bike without someone else piloting it. By the end I was enjoying myself so much I didn't want to get off the bike. It also gave me a tremendous sense of achievement to have done it."                          

                                 I was surprised at how quickly I felt confident. Once you put your trust in the technology it becomes very intuitive and you effectively become part of the bike. It completely fills the void. It was brilliant.”