The Batec hybrid is an electric power-assist handbike attachment for wheelchairs.
After putting it through its paces across all sorts of terrain over the last few months, this is what we make of it:
The Batec hybrid is an electric power-assist wheelchair handbike attachment that clips onto your wheelchair via a mount installed onto the wheelchair. It is operated by pedalling the hand cranks and a power setting can be selected to make pedalling easier, similar to an electric bike. There is also a throttle which can be used to get started in more difficult terrain. The front castor wheels are lifted off the ground and the one larger wheel of the attachment is used instead to create a trike. The combination of pedalling and a larger wheel makes it easier to move at speed and navigate over a variety of terrain.
The Batec range of wheelchair attachments also includes completely electric and manual versions. We opted for the hybrid (power assist) version as we were looking for something that Craig would be able to use for exercise but that would also provide some assistive power when pedalling becomes too difficult and enable us to travel further distances.
We bought our Batec Hybrid from the UK supplier, Cyclone Mobility. Prices for a brand new Batec Hybrid start at around £5,500 (about $6,900 / €6,100). This is similar to the cost of electric and power assist handbike attachments from other brands, although we would say the Batec attachments are towards the higher end of the range both in terms of cost and quality. We decided to save money by opting for an ex-demo model, the cost of used models ranges from around £1,500 to £3,500 depending on age and use. This is not a cheap piece of wheelchair equipment but you may be able to find some grants that will help you fund something like this. We were lucky enough to receive funding from the Wheelwrights' 2020 fund to help us purchase the Batec Hybrid.
There are a variety of accessories for the Batec wheelchair attachments range such as luggage racks, bags and alternative batteries and chargers. These things can enhance your experience of using a Batec however they do come at a high cost. For example, a simple bag alone costs so much that they don't even advertise the prices!
We pushed the Batec Hybrid to its limits through a variety of tests to see what it can do:
Since getting the Batec handbike attachment we've been able to successfully go for a 'walk' on the beach for the first time since Craig's been in a wheelchair. We were extremely impressed with how well the Batec Hybrid, in combination with a pair of fat wheels, performed on sand. As long as the sand was not too deep (basically anything you wouldn't struggle to walk through) the Batec just ploughed straight through it. With deeper sand, there is a risk that the wheel will sink into the sand and start spinning. The best way to get through deep sand in your wheelchair using a handbike attachment is to get up to a high speed and maintain it. With enough speed, the Batec will glide across the sand but the more you slow down the more the front wheel will start to sink. It's certainly easier to get across sand using the Batec than with your wheelchair alone.
The Batec handled gravel and loose stones well, as long as the terrain remained fairly flat. Since the Batec raises the front castors off the ground, it bumps over stones with ease, and the large front wheel maintains grip on all but very deep gravel. As soon as you encounter a hill, you will quite quickly lose traction over the front wheel. However, this performance does not extend to hills, and the front wheel of the Batec is likely to skid on moderate and steep gravel hills.
The Batec has 5 levels of electrical assistance, and the ability to turn the power off entirely. The lowest power setting is equivalent to a walking pace. Using the Batec on this setting allows you to comfortably keep up with someone who is walking, with as little or as much assistance as you need. The pedalling motion is certainly less tiring on your arms than pushing your wheelchair which enables you to cover much further distances. Another nice benefit is that you can sit in a more upright position while pedalling than you would be pushing, so it’s easier to socialise while you move. Using a Batec means breaking is just pulling a lever rather gripping your push rims to brake, this really saves your hands from the burning you can get going downhill! The large front wheel helps with navigating off-road terrain. It will bump over sticks, stones, cracks and small tree roots with ease. With the bag attachment for the Batec, you could comfortably carry supplies for your hike with no extra effort on your part. We love using the Batec Hybrid as a tool for adaptive hiking.
The Batec Hybrid comes with a powerful 900W motor. This means as long as you can maintain grip, then the Batec will get you wherever you need to go. However, because it is a front-wheel-drive attachment and most of your weight will be going through the back wheels of your wheelchair, maintaining grip is easier said than done. Unfortunately, this wheelchair attachments weakest point is its hill climbing ability. The Batec does not perform spectacularly on hills at all, even hills that other cyclists can manage fairly easily. It is likely to lose grip on a moderate to steep hill even on smooth terrain.
If you were to get a Batec wheelchair attachment, here are a few steps we recommend you consider to improve traction:
If you take all of these steps, you should be able to take on moderate hills with your Batec. Unfortunately, steep hills will always be an issue and this is just a limitation of front-wheel drive.
This is probably the highlight of the Batec Hybrid. The power assist works beautifully and it offers a great way of getting out cycling, particularly with able-bodied cyclists. Anyone who has tried handcycling on a manual handbike will know that it is very tough since your arm muscles are so much smaller than your leg muscles. The Batecs power assist makes up the difference between your arms and legs. This means you can enjoy a nice day out, go as far as you want to, get a workout and not come home with extremely achy muscles. Win-win!
When it comes to mud and grass, the performance of the Batec is very similar to when you’re on gravel. On fairly flat terrain the Batec handles mud and grass very well, but it struggles on hills. You can use the steps mentioned in the hill-climbing section to get a bit further but there are limitations to the equipment. Wet or deep mud can pose an issue for grip, but like with sand if you keep your speed up you can get through it.
Compared to a stand-alone handcycle the Batec Hybrid is compact and portable, it's small enough that it can fit inside a small car but it's still big enough to be a hassle to take it with you. You can put it in a car and you can take it with when you go somewhere but it's by no means easy or convenient to do so. Smaller wheelchair attachments such as a Freewheel or a SmartDrive are more portable and are much easier to transport than a Batec Hybrid or similar handbike attachment. At the same time if you compare it to a full handbike, which would definitely not fit inside a small car, then a Batec is much more portable and easier to transport.
One of the biggest downsides to the Batec Hybrid for us is that Craig is unable to get it in and out independently. Although it is not so heavy that one person cannot lift it alone, it is too bulky and heavy for him to be able to lift while sitting in his wheelchair. If you have a garage that you can ride it straight into and you never plan on taking it anywhere in your car this wouldn't be a problem but otherwise, this is worth considering if you wish to be independent.
A major positive to this and any other handbike attachment is that you are always in your wheelchair. There are 3 big reasons why this is great:
All in all, we're glad we got it and we would recommend this wheelchair attachment, but it does have some flaws and it's not the perfect wheelchair attachment. We would advise anyone thinking about getting a Batec Hybrid (or similar) to contact your local dealer and arrange a demo before you commit to buying one. This attachment has improved our lives and has given us a lot of freedom to go to places that we wouldn't be able to go without it.