Dwarfism prototypes

Innovation  |  Jun 12, 2020  |  Dave Bowater

At Islabikes we have a passion to remove the obstacles that stand in the way of everyone pursuing their love for cycling. For our latest project we are investigating ways to support people with restricted growth by developing a set of prototypes with appropriate features.

Our dwarfism prototypes have been hand-built in the Islabikes workshop and are being tested by Nichola Garde who has disproportionate short stature (DSS), a condition characterised by non-typical body proportions such as short limbs feet and hands.

“I have felt forgotten about since reaching adulthood and still want to pursue my love of cycling. The problems have been finding a bike that fits properly as they are designed for children who are my height but not my body structure. I often felt uncomfortable and that they were ill fitted,” says Nichola. “Also, aesthetically bikes that are made for my height are suitable for a 7 year old child and often have flowers or are in a colour that appeals to a child but don’t fit my profile of a 42 year old woman.”

Our dwarfism bikes feature 20 or 24 inch wheels and an extra low stepover to allow easy mounting with legs that may be difficult to bend. A shallow 65 degree seat angle aids better weight distribution whilst short cranks and narrow swept back bars provide comfortable pedalling and control.

“Cycling is a fantastic sport for my physique and personally I’m hoping to increase my fitness levels,” says Nichola. “As a busy working mum having the space to exercise in the outdoors will also be good for my mental health. Having a bike enables me to exercise on an equal level with my peers and family.” 

The timing could not be better. During the Covid 19 lockdown the UK government have been promoting cycling for leisure and transport. Transport secretary Grant Shapps pledged £2bn towards plans to double the number of cyclists and walkers by 2025 and demonstrates the movement towards a better infrastructure and attitudes for cyclists.

Nichola is excited to be testing the new prototypes and believes they will help support her family’s needs, too.

“I’m a married mum with two girls aged 7 and 10 and three of us have dwarfism. Cycling is an activity we love doing together. It has taken years to find the right bike and plenty of purchases which were never quite suitable and would discourage my cycling. I finally feel comfortable with this Islabike prototype and it has addressed my ergonomic needs. I also do not feel embarrassed about the look of the bike but proud to have a bike that suits my personality.”